Yesterday, I saw a glimpse of the beauty that still exists in our world. So today, I woke up with a smile… knowing that outside of Aunty Ìrètí’s screams of pain, Augusta’s tears, and my ‘broken’ heart, love still exists… and it lives right in our compound… in the Oyéwọ̀s’ flat.
The Oyéwọ̀s are the ever-smiling elderly couple that lives in our compound… everyone calls them Daddy and Mummy… and so do I. Every evening, as I return from work, I see them seated outside their flat… laughing at and with each other. I often wonder why they always seem so happy… I often wish for their brand of happiness… and wondered what they would say if I asked to sit with them.
But yesterday was different, I greeted them as usual as I walked past them, and this time, Mummy Oyéwọ̀ called for me to come closer
“Are you okay, my dear?”
she asked. Her question surprised me, but I responded that I was fine. She nodded and smiled at me, then she asked if I wouldn’t mind sitting and talking with them. I laughed and told her I would love to… I thought maybe some of their happiness would at least rub off on me.
So, I went into my room, change my work clothes, and returned to sit as she had asked. For a while… I sat and simply listened to their playful banters, and laughter… they reminded me of Mama and Papa back in the village, and how they will play and laugh at each another … I made a mental note to visit home soon…
“Do you know the sunflower?” Mummy Oyéwọ̀ suddenly asked, calling my attention back to the present.
“Yes, I do…it’s the yellow flower all over that path that leads to the market”
She nodded and asked what I think about them… I told her they were nice looking flowers… that I’ve never given them much thought but they are pretty in their own way.
She laughed as if I had just cracked a joke… and then she looked to her husband and said
“I was one of the sunflowers in our Village, and yet my Ayọ̀wọlé chose me” Daddy Oyéwọ̀ chuckled at her words and said “I don’t know about this Sunflower business o, but when I met her, I knew she was the one”
Although I was still confused about the ‘Sunflower’ analogy, I knew this was the beginning of a love story and I wanted to hear it… so I faced Mummy and asked that she tell me more about their story.
“Oh my dear, everyone loves a love story, don’t they? It’s a good thing I always enjoy telling ours”
she started kindly.
“You see this man here, Ayọ̀wọlé… he is the son of our Village Chief and a very handsome man too. The first time I saw him, he was riding his bicycle past our house and he caught my attention…”
Laughing, Daddy cut in and said
“You see I didn’t have to do much to catch her attention… I was just riding and minding my business but I was so handsome that she immediately asked her brother who I was”
Mummy Oyewo rolled her eyes and shoved him lightly… I laughed at this and asked Mummy why she didn’t even recognize the Chief’s son. She explained that she had just moved back home at the time, that she had been living with her Father’s Sister in the next village.
I nodded my understanding and asked her to continue.
“That day, my brother told me who he was and that was the last time I saw him. Until the Village Masquerade ceremony. He was not alone though, he came with Ọlábísí, and I immediately thought, well there goes my chance”
“But why” I asked.
She smiled and said
“You see, while I was a sunflower, Ọlábísí was a rose… you know one of those girls with the perfect face and the perfect waist line… and I didn’t think I could compete with that…in fact, I didn’t want to”
My thought must have shown on my face, for she immediately explained
“No, I wasn’t intimidated o, but I was experienced enough to know that men usually choose the ‘roses” and Ọlábísí was the fairest of them all.”
I nodded at the truth of her words and motioned for her to continue
“That day, I didn’t speak to him but somehow we both ended up in the same group for the annual Christmas play. I had gone into the Town hall with my friends and didn’t even know he was there….he tapped me on my shoulder and asked ‘Are you for us or against us’… I didn’t understand the question o but I smiled and told him I was definitely for them”
“Àbí, why would I be against this Prince charming?” she concluded with a wink at her husband.
I turned to Daddy to ask what his question meant but before I could, he raised his hands in surrender and said he himself is still yet to figure out why he asked her that.
“I saw a girl with a pretty smile and that was the first thing that came to my mind… Well, look at her now, that line did wonders… She lit up like a Christmas tree… and that very day, we became friends”
“And then he became my betrothed two months after” Mummy added.
“Two months? Wasn’t that too fast?” I asked.
They both laughed and explained that things were different in their days… that in a village as theirs, everyone knew everyone and children from respectable homes must always define their relationship.
“But how did he propose?” I asked Mummy excitedly.
She chuckled and answered
“Propose kíni? All this proposal business you children do these days does not exist in our days o. You see, as friends, he had already started calling me his wife and after two months, he came to see my Father”
She paused and sighed as if remembering the day, then she continued
“It was already midday when he showed up at our house and went in straight to speak to my Father. They were both in our parlour for a little while and when they came out, my Father looked at me, and gave me his nod of approval. I know Ayọ̀wọlé came to ask for my hand that day but after 50 years of marriage, 6 children and 14 grandchildren, my husband still won’t tell me exactly what he said to my Father.”
Shaking his head, and sighing in mock frustration, Daddy looked at me and said
“Don’t mind her o, I’ve told her every time she asks that I only asked her Father if I could marry her but she wants me to tell her everything word for word”
I laughed at this and sat back just watching them both.
“I really admire you” I began
“You have a friendship that is so obvious and relaxing, and that’s what I want… this kind of love…this kind of friendship… and a feeling of safety. But well, I’m not sure I’m very lucky in love, at least, I haven’t been”
Mummy looked at me and calmly, she said,
“Love is everywhere, all around you. So maybe it hasn’t stopped at your door, but believe me, it will. Don’t settle! You just wait my dear… And don’t look for a perfect man, just find one who is perfect for you. Look at Ayọ̀wọlé, I hate his snoring, yet if I don’t hear his snoring, I worry if he’s alright… that’s love right there! It’s complicated yet so simple”
Her words hit me at my core… and I told her so. I also thanked them for the most beautiful evening I’ve had since I left my childhood home…and as I stood to go to my room in the darkness of the night, I remembered there was one more thing I had to know… so I asked
“Daddy, why did you choose the Sunflower over the Rose?”
And as if he had answered the question before, he said
“Roses are flashy and beautiful, and everyone loves them for their beauty and fragrance even though they have thorns. Sunflowers are also beautiful but not as loved and popular as the Roses; you hardly see them in gardens because they spread so easily and can become invasive. But they are unique and just like there is just one Sun, yet it shines and touches everyone, so is the sunflower. When you get one and plant it, it spreads and invades your home, bringing with it its sunny bright nature. That’s exactly what my wife did. I came across her, and she changed my world”
I nodded, thanked them again and wished them a good night.