A Dairy Of A Northern Single Mother

A Dairy Of A Northern Single Mother
 

Chapter One

 
Welcome to the maiden edition of my diary. Before I share my day to day activities with you, we need to get familiar. My name is Ittihaj Abdul, no I am Ittihaj Mahmud. Confused? Abdul is the name of my former husband and all my certificates bear his name. Looking back now I am regretting how I changed my maiden name to his name; after all Islam gave me the liberty to use my maiden name as a married woman, but Abdul convinced me to change to his name:  Now, here I was trying to get a court affidavit and space in a national paper, just to revert to my true identity. 
I married Abdul when I was just 19, during my first year in the university where I was reading Business Administration. He just started working after his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme. We were truly in love. Abdul was loving and romantic. He spoilt me and treated me like a queen. Before I was through with my NYSC programme, I had my third child, Ibrahim. Before him there was a five-year-old Khadijat; Imran was three then. I could not ask for more; everything was going smoothly for us. 
A year later I wanted to take up an appointment, but Abdul could not hear of it. The intervention of our parents did not make a difference to Abdul. I accepted my fate and lived a life of a full time housewife. I tried to be a good wife and mother, could not explain what really happened. Abdul changed and started maltreating me and our children. He referred to me as fat uncle-woman. I could not remember how many times I stayed awake all night to cry and soak my pillow with tears.
To my surprise I found that Abdul had another woman, but the most painful aspect of it was how he maltreated us without any reason, after all he could still marry another wife and live with us peacefully. Few months later, he got married to his sweetheart, and my children and I saw hell, but I was patient, hoping and praying that things would change for the better. 
At last Abdul issued me with a divorce letter, which he pronounced three times. I could not imagine how I survived the shock. He asked me to go with the children (to their hearing), saying they were all mine. I packed to my parents' house. I must tell you that my parents all died, five years after my marriage with Abdul. 
Now, we were in a single room in my father's house, with our loads scattered everywhere. This was in contrast with where we were used to living. Our house, or Abdul's house, was a five-bedroom duplex. I tried to hide my tears for the sake of my children as I allowed theirs to flow freely while thinking of what to do. There and then I took a decision.
As early as possible the following day, after making my children comfortable, I left them under the care of my sisters-in-law. Armed with my most precious possession, I headed straight to the market to sell my gold jewelry, given to me by my mother as a wedding gift. Thirteen years after it was still looking the same. I came back from the market with N300, 000.
 
With N300 000 in my bag, I met an agent, who was earlier introduced to me by my friend Aisha, whom I now had the freedom to communicate with as against when I was with Abdul.  Aisha was my school mate in secondary school and before I got married, we shared a lot together but Abdul’s possessiveness made us part ways partially.  Aisha is married but fully employed which was why Abdul never wanted us to be close since he believed that she might influence my decisions.
I finally got a neat two-bedroom flat in an area, which is moderately habitable. I seized the opportunity when the agent stepped out to talk to one of the tenants, to allow tears roll down my cheeks. The thought of what my children’s reaction would be about their new home left a large lump in my throat. This was in total contrast with our well-built house. But did I say our house? No, it should be for Abdul and his new wife. But I was taking consolation in the fact that it was better than where we were given in my father’s house.
After all the negotiations, I paid N120 000 for the annual rate. I opened an account with N100 000. Now with what I had left in my bag I went ahead to tell my brothers and uncle that I rented a flat which I intended moving into. The reactions were instant. They found the decision horrific. They could not understand why I rented a house as they related my decision to western lifestyle.
I came down on my knees and with tears in my eyes, my uncle granted the permission. There were so many warnings, preaching and appeals. I was told to always remember whose child I was. I sent a text to Abdul informing him I was coming over to pick up my belongings. I did not wait for the reply which I knew would not come.
My kids were excited about the new house but I was not going to take them there immediately because of my fear that they would be disappointed. I reasoned that if I gave it a face lift, it would cushion the effect on them.
I hired a van, went to Abdul’s house and opened my former room.  My belongings were intact, just the way I left them. Looking around the room, tears again trickled down my cheeks.  As I was wiping my tears Abdul’s wife came in smiling. I ignored her and continued packing my things. She said so many things to provoke me but I refused to talk. As I called the driver of the van to help bring out my bed and other heavy things, Hajara stopped him that she would not allow a man into her house. The man was kind enough to stay by the door while I passed the load bit by bit to him. God answered my prayer by not allowing Abdul return home till we got through with the packing. I heard Hajara’s insults trailing me but my surprise knew no bound because this was someone who had every thing yet lacked mercy for poor defeated me.
 
The driver helped me to arrange things as they should be. I paid him above his charges, he left showering prayers on me. I was so tired that I sat looking at our little sitting room, refusing the urge to compare it with the former one, when I heard a knock on the door. Who could that be?  I did not know anyone here and no one knew this place, I opened the door and saw four people standing there. I was greatly surprised.
I stood by the door looking at three men and a woman beaming smiles at me. I could not place any of the faces anywhere. My palms were already wet with sweat, a sign of uneasiness. I usually had this uneasiness when I felt boxed to a corner. Their continued smiles did nothing to ease the tension in me. But like a flash, it dawned on me that these people were greeting me. “Amin wa'alaikumus salaam.” I answered with a shaky voice.
“Hajia, we mean no harm. We're your neighbours and we're here to welcome you,” one of them said. I could not control the laughter that was swelling inside me as I realised how foolish I must have reacted. I laughed in relief of the tension that has begotten me while they watched me in amazement. Their faces suggested what they thought of me – a crazy fellow. After I had a fill of my laughter, I apologised for my naughtiness as I made way for them to come in, still wiping away the tears on my eyes. As they found their seats, I sat down rubbing my palms together to get it dried. 
“I am really sorry, please excuse my manners. I just can’t explain what happened,” I said as they all nodded in acceptance. One of them, Yunus, introduced the rest as he pointed at the direction of the flat of the person introduced.  He made a good speech of the welcome address. He had a good sense of humour from the way he introduced Chioma who he said was beautiful and single, but still slippery as men were yet to get hold of her. He also said Aminu whose flat was directly opposite mine was staying with his wife but travelled to her home-town for delivery, adding that they were praying she would have a set of twins just like the wife of Mr Alade a banker whose wife was a nurse with a two-year-old set of twins. 
After the introduction, Yunus demanded to know why I burst into laughter after showing my fear on seeing them at first. I got off my seat to show respect, smiling I introduced myself and the children in absentia and thanked them for their kind visit. Yunus who seemed very adamant reminded me of their curiosity about my laughter. Chioma came to my rescue by telling him that I would not answer the question. We all laughed it off and they left. I picked my bag immediately to go bring my children. This house promised to be a fun place, I said to myself. I had to say bye to each of my neighbours at their doorsteps to reciprocate their kind gesture towards me. Yunus was the last person I knocked at his door. He came out smiling in a boyish manner; I avoided his eyes while telling him that I was going to pick my kids at my parents’ house. To my surprise, he offered to go with me with his car; I declined the offer and rushed out of the gate, ignoring his words of persuasion. 
While in the cab, I reviewed all that happened between I and my neighbours, but could not come up with a specific answer on why I laughed that way or why I allowed my fears become so visible on sighting them at my doorstep. I felt a lump in my throat and said to myself, ‘you aren't alright and needed to do something quick.’ Now, I feel so hopeless and unsecured in the life of a single parent I was going to face. With tears running down my chin, I called Aisha and in between sobs, I told her I needed her. She tried to pacify me but when it did not work, she promised to come to my new place after work as the agent already gave her my address. 
I ended the call and dropped the phone in my bag; only then did I hear the taxi driver consoling me. Immediately, I counseled myself to be mindful of the places I let my emotion to get the better of me. I thanked him and on reaching my parents’ house, I asked him to wait for me to go get my children. A few minutes later, I came out with the remaining luggage, and the children, followed by some of my relatives who saw us off to the cab with the promise to visit us soon. As the car zoomed off, they waved at us. Yes, waving us to the life of uncertainty. My children were so excited about the new house. My only prayer was for them to like it.
 
My heart was pounding in my head as we approached the house. They came out from the taxi and wanted to rush in, but I cautioned them of disturbing other tenants. I paid the taxi driver, and we made our way to my apartment. I opened the door quietly and went in while they followed. My reason of not wanting the neighbours to welcome my children now was the fact I did not want to share their reaction with anyone. I closed the door behind me and stood by the corner to watch their disenchanted faces. They looked round. Imran was the first to ask if the apartment was the boys’ quarters, while Ibrahim wanted me to show him his swing.  Khadijah said she would never allow her friends to visit her there. I slipped to the floor, covered my face and gave way to the tears that had been welling in my eyes. My body shook with the sound of my cry; the children ran to me with their hands wrapped around me. We cried inconsolably. I didn’t know when Aisha came in, but her voice made us raise our wet eyes. 
Aisha went to the children and helped them to their feet while wiping their tears with her veil. She pulled them to the three seater sofa she placed Ibrahim on her laps and was sandwiched between Khadijah and Imran. She rocked Ibrahim while her two hands were busy patting Khadijah and Imran. It seemed they were now calm. After a minute or two, she stood up carrying Ibrahim and picked the shopping bags which she had brought with her. She emptied them on the old centre carpet and the kids just could not hide their excitement. Curiosity dragged me to their position, and I was taken aback by what I saw – varieties of chocolates, candies, toys, make-up kit, under-wears and lots of other items. I watched how Aisha, in a few minutes turned the distressed mood of my children to that of celebration. I felt odd, I did not know how to join, and she refused to make it easy for me by her attitude; it was as if I did not exist. She then walked pass me to have a look at the other rooms followed by the children. 
After a while, she came out leaving the children in one of the rooms as they chatted happily while sorting out their things. She looked fixedly at me and heaved a sigh. “Cry-cry baby, now we've some issues to deal with and the earlier you keep your eyes dried the better for you,” she said sternly. Her statements only encouraged the tears in my eyes to flow the more. She dashed to the children’s room and said something to Khadija before coming back to me. She held my hand, almost dragging me until I found myself sitting at the back of her car that she parked outside the gate. She joined me at the back seat. When I looked at her, her eyes were hard on me. I could not understand why. I called Aisha as a friend to share my pains, but here she was adding to my agony by bullying me. When she cleared her throat to speak, she reminded me of my late mother and I broke down completely. Today, I realised I missed mum, so much.
Aisha watched as I cried like a baby then all of a sudden, she hugged me tightly and started crying too. At first, I felt encouraged and cried some more but when I saw the way Aisha was dissipating so much energy, I kept mute and disengaged from her embrace as she went down on her knees in that little space at the back of her car. She allowed her face to fall on the seat away from me. She cried with so much pain that I was beginning to think there was something else to the whole drama than my own agony. Now, I was the comforter, I lifted her from her position to sit up. Her big eye balls were bulging and reddish, her face swollen with tears. I tried to clean the tears by wiping it with my palms but it kept dripping on her chest. I shook her but Aisha was uncontrollable, I was confused and really hurt to see her in that state. My plea to make her stop fell on deaf ears.
 
 
Now, I was seized with anger and could not control my frustration. ‘How dare you Aisha? Why're you crying like that? Is this problem yours or mine? Are you here to add to my pains or what? What kind of friend are you? How dare you, you came here to…….”
“Stop right there!” She interrupted me with so much pain in her voice that startled me. “You're the one to answer the question, not the other way round. How dare you, you think everyone should start mourning because a human being like you doesn't want you? How dare you Ittihaj, feed these little, sweet, and beautiful souls with the belief that they are unwanted, unloved, and hopeless? How dare you my friend, tie your happiness and that of your kids to a creature like you instead of Allah? How dare you  conclude that you've come to the end of the road just because Abdul divorced you?” All these questions were uttered amidst tears and faint voice.
Aisha opened my mind to reality; what she said was very right. Yes, I thought my life had come to an end; I had no hope for myself and my kids. I equally knew that I was making my children feel hopeless and unloved. Their confidence was crushed but I was helpless. What would I have done if not to grieve? If only Abdul had sent only me out of his house, I might understand and manage my pains. The big blow was leaving the children for me, which was beyond my comprehension because he used to love them so much that sometimes I would warn him against spoiling them.
“I think my thoughts are under control now. Let us think of the next line of action please."  Aisha’s voice brought me back to reality. I nodded my head gently. “Crying over spilt milk would never solve the problem. For the sake of these kids, be strong, give them hope and lots of love. Your experience should be a driving force towards greatness. Allah has a purpose for this, so don’t fail yourself.”
“How do I begin Aisha?” I asked hopelessly.
“Now bring out your C.V, and then we would go searching for job. Call Abdul so that he can make money available for the children’s schools and welfare.”
“Never, as far as I am concerned, Abdul and his wealth are gone. I will sweat to give my children the welfare and love they need to last them a life time.”
“Good, I love your resolve but you should know that it's not going to be easy at all. It is going to be one hell of a journey but always maintain your cool and weather the storm.”
“I know Aisha, I am so scared.” She hugged me for a long period but this time, no tears from any of us. When we disengaged, she made me promise not to ever cry or complain about Abdul in the presence of the kids again. We came out of the car and moved towards the house. I felt a wave of confidence to conquer the world. ‘Ittihaj, welcome back to the world.’ I said to myself, smiling. 
 
 
“I know Aisha, I am so scared.” She hugged me for a long period but this time, no tears from any of us. When we disengaged, she made me promise not to ever cry or complain about Abdul in the presence of the kids again. We came out of the car and moved towards the house. I felt a wave of confidence to conquer the world. ‘Ittihaj, welcome back to the world.’ I said to myself, smiling. 
We went into the sitting room with beaming smiles and joined my children, who were still admiring and fiddling with the assorted gifts Aisha brought for them. I sat in between them, chatting and asking questions happily on the gifts they were admiring.  I suddenly realised there was silence in the room; I looked up and found my children looking at me strangely while Aisha, who was standing over us with hands akimbo was smiling at me mischievously.  I was at a lost until Ibrahim said in his tiny voice that I was looking happy as if accusing me. Instantly I felt guilty and just when I was about to go into my shell, my eyes, and that of Aisha met, she shook her head, winked at me and I immediately got the message. I quickly turned to Ibrahim and lifted him to my lap giving him a peck on his soft cheek. Khadija and Imran were looking at me suspiciously, probably waiting to see another round of tears from me but the smiles made them motionless.
 “Why are you looking as if you are seeing me for the first time?” I asked the children still smiling.
“Mummy, I cannot understand, why you are looking this way?” Khadija queried.
“Which way?” I asked pleasantly.
“Is daddy coming back?” Imran seemed eager to know, but I shook my head without betraying any emotion. Khadija did not understand why I was not crying since their father was not coming back.  Now, I understood what Aisha was talking about better. I conditioned my children to believe that it was only through their father that happiness could come. I even believed that my world started and ended with Abdul. I was too dependent on him emotionally, psychologically and financially that I forgot how to even take care of my own emotion.  It was so bad to a point that I did not even have any other close friend except Aisha, who though stayed away from me, never, abandoned me. My relatives whispered around that I hardly get involved with their affairs as I wife always tied to Abdul’s Babanriga. Aisha’s voice brought me back to reality and I pleaded with her to sit. I wanted her to give me some emotional support in inculcating this new perspective into my children’s life. She sat at the other end of the mattress as if telling me she could only act as a moderator.
“My babies and my love.” I allowed these words to sink before proceeding. Abdul was the only person who usually called them with pet names, not me. On hearing this from me all of them looked at me at once, Khadija dropped the new underwear she was admiring and focused her attention on me. “Daddy may never come back to us again, but we will survive and also be happy people.”
Maybe I started on a wrong note because their reaction was instant, they all started crying at once as if I announced his death. At this moment, I felt angry towards Abdul, I felt hatred against him growing within me, I did not know I made a big fist with my hand, biting my lower lip until I heard Aisha clearing her throat. I looked at her and forced a smile. I gathered my children in my arms rocking them gently while assuring them that everything would be alright, promising them love and care. I told them that Allah who has the best of love was always going to be there for us.
I wiped their tears one after the other and talked to them on the need for us to rely on Allah for our love and needs. I made them promise that they would never cry again but rather pray to Allah for all their needs. My kids now seemed to relax and happy having been freed from always shedding tears. Aisha nodded approvingly and I left them alone to finish sorting out their things, while I saw my friend off.
As she sat in her car with my CV on her lap trying to drive away, I asked her to tell me how I would convince them about the new school which is lowly compared to the former one they were attending. Aisha assured me that with what just transpired between us, it would be easy for me to convince them on anything, as long as I give them hope.
 
 
After putting the house in order with the help of my children, we sat in the sitting room in front of my 21-inch television watching children’s programme which was running on a local channel. I tried to draw their attention to it, but they seemed not to be interested. Khadija and Imran watched without complaints but Ibrahim wanted me to change it to Cartoon Network.   Surprisingly, Khadija moved to his side, hugged him and explained to him gently that the TV could not be tuned to the channel he was asking for because Mummy did not have money for that yet. She admonished him to ask Allah in his prayers to provide for mummy to buy everything he needed.  He nodded understandingly as my eyes met that of Khadija, I winked at her in appreciation.
I then asked each of them to go, and ease themselves in the toilet and perform ablution in readiness to say their prayers. After performing our raka'a, on that same mat we all sat murmuring our desires to our lord. My attention was focused on Ibrahim, my baby was seriously concentrating on his prayers, stretching his little palms, looking attentively up and murmuring that I began to wonder about what he was asking Allah to do. Whatever it was that this seven-year old innocent mind was longing for I asked Allah to grant his wish. Khadija and I went into the kitchen and started preparing dinner.  I prepared their favourite dish which was fried rice and plantain. For now the little corner that served as a pantry had some foodstuff that could last us a few days. I did not want to start bothering myself on how to cope with feeding my children well for now. They all enjoyed the food and seemed rather more relaxed now.
Now that I was sure my neighbours were home, I took my children to each of the neighbours and introduced them one after the other. They were all nice to the kids. Yunus’s case was different, he convinced the children to come into his sitting room, and I had no option than to follow them into the house.  I sat there looking at how he was all over the kids; his sitting room was tastefully furnished. It was a good sight to behold and the feel was nice too. He brought out ice cream from the freezer and served the kids. Instantly, he switched the television to Cartoon Network and Ibrahim started jumping happily. I wanted us to return to our apartment but the children were enjoying the treat from Yunus. I sat there very uncomfortable, thinking of what next to do. This was one of my dilemmas, relying on other people for my decision. Abdul always took charge and made decisions when it had to do with the kids. God knows that I found it difficult to stamp my feet on issues because I was always careful about hurting others. At the moment, I wanted my children to leave this minute, but I lacked the courage to say it for fear of hurting Yunus, who was lost in the midst of the kids as I watched them laugh their hearts out.
My palms were wet; I closed my eyes thinking of what to do in this situation. I felt out of place because I refused to join them. I felt Yunus was being unfair by giving my children such treats without asking for my permission, which would have prepared my mind.  The truth was that I had never been in the presence of any adult male alone or with the kids, who wss not related to me in my entire life. Abdul was the only man I freely shared my feelings and thoughts with. Now I was like a stranger in the midst of Yunus and my kids, who were all acting as if I did not exist. When I could not bear it any longer I shouted on top of my voice, and they all turned their attention to me in surprise.
 
 
To my surprise, Khadija instantly dropped her ice cream on the table, came close to me and held me tightly as if she were my mother. Ibrahim followed suit and held my hands, even as Imran held my legs together and placed his head on my laps. I could not look into Yunus’s eyes because I felt highly embarrassed by my attitude towards him and the kids. He stood at a distance looking at us. I was rooted to the seat; I could not figure out how to lead my kids out, almost immediately, Yunus spoke in an emotion-filled voice. “If you want to talk, I am all ears and if you need any kind of help as long as it is within my power, I am here for you please.” That was all the courage I needed to move out of his flat.
Why did he think he had the solution to my problem? Was it not a man like him I trusted all my life, loved and gave beautiful kids, yet, he threw me out with these little angels? I led my children out of his flat without looking at him or uttering a word in response. I rushed into my flat, locked the door and sat down with my kids gazing quietly at me from the opposite direction.  
“Alright my lovely children, I'm sorry for what I did back there in uncle Yunus’s house.”
“Mummy, it's alright.’ Khadija responded.
“But Mummy uncle is a nice person, why are you angry with him?” Imran asked innocently. I moved close to them as they made room for me; I sat in between them placing Imran on my legs. “You see, I did not say uncle is not good, but I don't want him to be bothered. I want you to understand that I'm here for you, no matter what, I wouldn't allow anyone to hurt you again.”
 “Is he going to hurt us? Ibrahim asked puzzled.  His question made me realise that I was instilling distrust in my children against Yunus. On a second thought, I hissed silently and did not regret saying it. If their father was capable of hurting them, how could I trust a complete stranger to make them happy? Their happiness is solely my responsibility. 
“Mummy your phone is ringing,” Khadija said as she drew me out of my thoughts. I quickly answered the call; it was Aisha telling me to prepare for an interview the following day. I jumped happily, showering praises to Allah after the call. My children inquired to know why I was celebrating, and I told them the good news, which to me was something better to celebrate. 
Now, the moment seemed right to break the news of the change of school to them, since I could not afford the fees of their present school. I gave them a promise that when I start working and save some money, I would take them to the best school around. They all rushed to me and hugged me. Suddenly, tears started rolling down my cheeks; I quickly wiped it off, so that my kids would not notice it.
I instructed them to get ready for prayers, telling them to pray about all our needs, even as they all agreed to do so.  
 

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Comments
Aisha Muhammad Jibril - Oct 6, 2020, 6:13 PM - Add Reply

Thank you so for this beautiful story, I hope she get the job.

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