Thursday, June 08, 2006


Appreciate Your House Girl

I remember reading on ONADA'S blog about housegirls. It didn't hit me then to write this entry, but yesterday I had an epiphany that promted this. For the past three days, I've walked in to my room to an unmade bed, books and clothes strewn all over the place, still living out of my suitcases and then it hit me. A eureka moment that explains it all. I need a housegirl back in my life. I've just realized that cannot survive without aone or someone assigned to taking care of me, wait on me and someone to command and boss around and someone to do the dirty job called chores. Basically I honestly need some one to pick up after me, even if it is my junior sisters. I noticed I tend to do that with my uncle's kids, making them pick, but that's different because that's mostly their mess. No way I'll be taking responsibility for their mess, uh uh.

It is strange how after 9 years of living with out a house girl and practically being a "house girl" myself at some point (no shame in admiting know there's no way you can live with a relative without being relegated to changing diapers, doing dishes or babysitting) that I'm still useless when it comes to taking care of my self. I don't know now whether it was a good thing to have house girls growing up or if it has bene detrimental to my development, and it wasn't like I was raised with a silver spoon or came close to being spoilt. In fact, I didn't even get wooden or plastic spoon sef, I got FIVE FINGERS and a few knuckles. But thinking about the fact that I never got a chance to do things on my own and for myself much of my life before I turned 17. Someone had to even wake me up and if not for the embarrassment and shame of puberty I would not have started washing my you know what. I had to learn how to wash my school uniform when we got this very mean housegirl whose story I will tell you later.

So back to my epiphany. I remember my mom, uncles and aunts nagging me to do this and to do that but I was always out playing some sport, fishing the gutter for tadpoles to experiment on, reading some shakespeare or mills and boon or sleeping because I was too tired from walking home because I decided to hang back at school with my friends. Gosh was it so uncool the way my mom always showed up at the gate in her ugly brown peugeot. I always had to lie that I had extension class. They would always say you can't take the house girl with you to your husband's house or to university blah blah blah. I guess they were right...DUH!!!

My dad's step sister and neice were our first experience of pampering. Then came CHIBUEZE. She must have been like 8 when her father brought her to our house in Lagos. I was just 4 then and my mom was about to have my sister Onyi. Chibueze was suppose dto go to night school, but let me not lie, for some reason that didn't happen. But let's just say she was home schooled because she learnt to read, write and do math just as well as we did. I don't remember how I felt about her coming but I remember staying with her and giving her my dolls to play with and helping her to wash (right) because she cried for the first two weeks. Then I didn't understand why coming from the village of Ohozara, she wouldn't be happy to be in Lagos where there was electricity, a real bed and 3 square meals. Now I understand.

Chibueze was the best big sister I never had. In my house the words 'house girl', 'maid', 'slave', 'omo-odo', 'ohu' were banned and non existen t in our vocabulary. I learnt that the hard way when I told my Uncle DCD from Sokoto that Chibueze was not my sister but a housegirl. KAI!!!! HE FLOGGED THE WORD OUT OF ME THAT DAY. I had to grow up weaving lies upon lies that Chibueze was my 'adopted' sister. I also had to weave a lie when my 'adopted' brother stopped coming to school. My dad had officially adopted my cousin as his son after his dad died, but trust sigbo women to twist the story that my mom was stealing the widow's son. Hmh let me not even start on the meetings that were called over this matter. Anyways that is how I lost my 'big-brother'. Sometimes thinking about that really hurts because I have big brother envy. Chibueze was also the kindest and most nuturing. She and my baby sister Nnenne were inseparable. Nnenne was just a strange baby, whenever she cried she wouldn't want her mother to carry her, she wanted Chibueze. When ever my mom and Chibueze were going to the market, Nnenne would be rolling on the ground for Chibueze and would run to Chibueze whenever she returned. Wierd baby Nnenne was. My love for Chibueze was not that deep. I loved her like a sister and all but in fact we were always bickering. My eyes opened quickly when I realized that Chibueze was always bossing me around. I started trying to assert my position as 'Oga Pikin' instead I got punished for being rude or talking back to an 'elder'. Can you imagine. Chibueze did everything besides eat and sleep for me. Unfortunately that ended when I became taller than her (she was rather short). My mother bought me my very own jerry-can to follow Chibuze and 'other house girls' to fetch water and it was RED too. Meeeeennnnnn... that ish was so not cool. We had the nicest land lady but her mean ass house girls were always turning off the water to the tenants. As in after hustling and attempting to climb social ladder in school, with all the bloody peer pressure, I lost every control at home because my mother had this brilliant idea to 'train' me. The worst part of it was that there was this FINE King's College Boy that lived on the next street. I had to come up with a plan to only fetch water at nightfall. Thinking about it, may be hanging out with all those house girls is where some of my razness came from.

The day Chibueze left, it was as if somebody died. Her father showed up with her Uncle and took her off to go get married to some old man. Sad story, she was only 17 and my parents tried to stop them by offering them money. This was in 1992 and since then we don't know what became of her. We were all sad and distraught that we didn't have dinner that night. Nnenne cried and cried and cried, by this time Chibuike, Onyi and Nnenne were the only ones calling her 'Aunty Chibueze'. That was Uncle DCD's and his bulala at work. Me I was trying to do big girl so I didn't cry, Ijust boned up and went to the bathroom and started washing the clothes in the tub. When I saw those I was like DAMN this is going to be a rough few weeks. I knew we were definitely going to get another housegirl because with the 5 of us and a mother who was not a housewife, someone had to be the home manager. We ende dup with two and that begins the story of AUgustina.

Augustina was my mother's cousin twice or thrise removed. This girl was yellow, freckled and butch (she also had nice hair.. why do house girls have better hair than me). Augustina was a mean ass biatch and a poser too. I guess I met my match. Where I could walk all over Chibueze, Augustina was not having that. She knew she was comingin to do a job and that is how she started. She set her own rules and was the boss. She would only was my parents, Onyenachi and Nnenne's clothes. EVery other person would have to pay or bribe her. Trade by batter. Many a lunch and pocket monied went to Augustina so that I coudl afford the luxury of clean clothes and socks. The girl was also a fighter. None of those randy mechanics could intimidate her, neither coudl a gang of house girls... and they were always ganging up on her because they said hse was very mean and wicked. One day the land lady's house girls turned the water off and Augustina went and turned it on. While she was fethcing water they four of them came to harrass her and stepped to her. Augustina beat the four of them that night all by her self. She tore their clothes and busted some noses. When the land lady heard that she brought the girls to our house and made them apologise to Augustina and my mom and then she stripped the girls naked, flogged them with pepper laced kobokos (whips) and told them to frog jumo round teh compound. We were just laughing hard in our house. Don't Mess with Augustina Chiatuogu (God of no fear) Chiaka. Then Patricia joined and basically the house girl thing was a bust. They were basically our cousins living with us because I gave up and started doing tnigs for my self. Except for cleaning up and cooking. And there in lies my problem.

For the past two weeks I have only been eating mcdonalds, baked beans and microwave dinner. My room is like a cuckoo's nest. The cooking and cleaning thing don't jive for me. Been there done that and it aint fun. I'ld rather be waited upon. I am not sure what role my parents have to play in this. They did not set out to have me turn out this way. All my uncles and auntys who lived with us share in the blame. They spoiled us with love and care, which is a good thing, and I am refering mostly to the ones from my mothers side. The ones on my dad's side were ok but some of them had issues they needed to deal with. My Uncle Sam was always there to bathe us, pick out our clothes, IRON and dress us could Uncle Sam iron. He was such a pleasant fellow, singing songs and reciting the periodic table. He got a bit annoying as I ecame a teenger, as in dude allow someone to get some space. Then there was his brother Uncle Gody who was always teaching us how to draw and paint, carpentry, how to make catapults, bows and arrows, kites and telling us scary folktales whenever NEPA struck. We were always looking forward to his visits. Then there was Aunty P who was always buying us some fancy pastry or the other.
It is either laziness or some hormonal imbalance caused by PMT that is causing this... OK IT'S RELALY JUST LAZINESS. But is would be nice to have and afford a maid or a house keeper or better yet a lovingly, compassioante and aconsidrate 'NUBIAN KING' whose purpose is to satisfy his NUBIAN SERENGETI QUEEN'S every need and be at her beck and call ready to wait upon me hand, foot and stomach. AHHHH we must dream o... where exists a Naija man who fits that description. We need Mungo Park to go on another expedition to find that. Right Sistuhs?
Anyways the subtitle of this is appreciate your house girls so if you get a chance do something nice for them when you do see them again. I wonder how I could have gone through my youth without their dedication. Sure many of them didn't have a choice and gave up their family and freedom for economic reasons, but that's life. The supply and demand effect. The need us and some of us need them even more.


Tutsy said... i never hear where house girl dey boss oga pikin around Certainly not in my house, my mother is definately not having that. But i feel u on that havin' a housegirl hence making u lazy theory...i was actually thinking that about a month ago. I grew up with an housegirl waiting on me all my life, and readjusting now that i am adult is a real hassle. To an extent i think my mother made me a lazy person, i mean till this day i can count how many times my mom cooked any meal in our house....and forget the cooking and cleaning she ain't getting her acrylics messed She's always had help even b4 i was born, i don't think that woman can survive without an house help.

Anonymous said...

Have not had that luxury for the past 10 years. But i totally feel you on that. Oh the days. Ours were very wicked, but i no be oga pikin for nothing oh!

Ps i will try and email you that website. no promises, but i will try

Freesias said...

I completely agree with you. I was having a very similar conversation with my cousin last week. I love cooking and will cook every day for hours but cleaning can just be a chore with no obvious reward (i.e. food). Some days, I wish I could call someone to just come clear it all up and do the laundry while they are at it,:-)