I sat over my bunk bed and watched my legs dangling over the edges. “Mummy,” I began, “Why are my legs so small?”
Mummy paused in her action and looked at me quizzically as if wondering where I thought up that one this time.
“Olami,” she said dropping the tray of beans she carried and came to sit by me. “Your legs are small because you are still very much a small girl. How old are you? Eight. Definitely your legs should be small,” she finished as she tickled my ribs playfully. I giggled at her words and began to laugh when she tickled harder.
“Stop, Mummy, stop!” I cried out in-between peals of laughter. I still had one more question to ask. “Why is Oluchi’s feet big then and she’s eight like me?” I prodded further.
Mummy cast a long suffering look at the ceiling and sighed. “Oluchi’s feet are big because she has a big stature and you have a small stature.”
“But Mummy why…?” I began but mummy stood up suddenly and exclaimed.
“Joor, Olami ,don’t kill me with your questions, I didn’t kill my mother na!” And picked up her beans tray and left the room.
I sat down for a while and stared at my feet hard, wondering why everyone called me ‘Smallie’. Did that mean that if I grow bigger I would be called be called ‘Biggie’? And why does Oluchi say it mockingly? Does it mean that being small is bad?
But if I wasn’t small, I wouldn’t be able to fit in my school clothes anymore and the small space the driver gave me in the school bus would be too small for me to sit then. Lastly mummy would no longer call me her little baby anymore, she wouldn’t allow me to snuggle up to her and daddy in their big bed whenever I have nightmares.
“I like being small then!” I declared triumphantly as I raised up my fist in the air. I felt proud of myself for having reached that conclusion but I knew I couldn’t bother mummy with it, she would shout at me.
She always did that when she was stressed, angry with dad or if I had bothered her too much. Only when dad called her ‘Iya Dudu’ would she smile and exclaim that he should stop calling her that. Even though secretly I think she likes the name. I don’t think I’ll ever understand adults though. One moment they are fighting, the next they are holding each other and smiling, sometimes they make all this kissy kissy noises that freaks me out. Mohammed told all of us in class that adults call it ‘making out’. I’ve never actually seen mum and dad doing it though.
The next morning at morning devotion, immediately after greeting dad and mum, I faced dad and asked. “Daddy?”
“Yes my darling,” Dad replied with a fond smile.
“Who named me girl?” I had never seen such a speed by which the smile disappeared from Daddy’s face.
He opened his mouth to speak, closed it, opened it again, then finally closed it, and turned his pleading eyes to Mummy for help.
“Olami,” Mummy said stifling laughter. “What kind of heavy question are you asking your dad this early Sunday morning?”
“But Mummy, I want to know who named me girl,” I insisted.
“The first man did,” Mummy said.
“Who’s the first man and where did he come from?” I demanded.
“Baby girl, we are going to church already, when you get to church ask your Sunday School teacher, I’m sure she’ll give you the answers you need.”