When I was a child, I thought as a child, I spoke as a child and I reasoned as a child. But now am old, I would therefore write about my childhood-a little of it. I would speak about five people who carved my idea about humanity. They fascinated my thoughts, deepened my reasoning and took my mind on an unending journey. Its sad to say, that all these people are dead-the last of them dying in 2014 at 103 years on this earth, so well, you can call it a tribute. I call it tickling my past. Let me begin with the first person. Before I continue however, you should know that all five of them lived within a 100 metre distance. Our houses were not too scattered and not too properly arranged either.
The first one was a female. Everyone called her Auntie Nyamewor. She operated a chop bar at her house. I was quite scared of her. She had a voice so deep and hoarse you may mistake it for that of a man. She always wore a frown. Wait; let me try remembering if I ever saw her laugh or smile……am sorry I can’t remember her do that. For me, she has never ever laughed. ‘’Not for a second would this woman laugh’’, my twelve year old mind would tell me. From the days when I was just a toddler to my teenage years, I never saw her lips stretch out wide. Her house was quite big, about half the length of ours. As the matriarch, she had uncountable grandchildren. I wondered if she knew the names of them all. Her sons and daughters just had babies like a flowing tap, and really, I felt a bit dizzy when I visited her chop bar as you could hear cries and laughter from every corner of the house. But there was one grandchild I can remember.
Her name was Kooko. I remember Kooko not because of anything but because of how Auntie Nyamewor would scream her name so hard, you can hear it two hundred metres away. And trust me,that’s not an exaggeration. Everyone at my house would also shout Kooko’s name in chorus, ”Koooooooko eeeeee”. Kooko was like her default ring tone. Her dear granddaughter would do any work asked of her by her granny, with a scowl as well. Auntie Nyamewor’s chop bar wasn’t as big as the ones we have now. I remember her big mortar. It was fitted to the ground in a shallow hole designed for it. Now before I tell you how she served her customers, let me first describe exactly how I remember her body. She had two tribal marks cut horizontally on both sides of her cheeks. She had quite loose cheeks……which always looked like oil was oozing out of them. She had some beard. Well, maybe am exaggerating a bit but there was some one or two or three hairs jutting from her chin. She was fat, really big. I figured that if Auntie Nyamewor ever sat behind the mortar in the morning, she only stood up in the night when the fufu was finished. Because her thighs (please I certainly wasn’t admiring an old woman’s thighs. Am just describing) was huge. One could have weighed more than my two ‘chicken’ thighs put together. They flapped when she shook a bit…fatty acids and glycerol! And I saw her feet…huge as well, never with a slipper on. And that her frown, as though she didn’t want to serve you the fufu she was selling. She held a small pestle, as if it were a mere pen in her hand,and with it she smoothened the fufu for the customers. I remember entered her chop bar, put down my bowl and told her how much I wanted to buy. I also requested that I be given some garden egg if some was available. When I said that,she “sized” me from top to bottom. She actually did give me the garden egg. I felt victorious,but I thought too fast. After fetching the soup into my bowl,she fetched some of it from my bowl again and put it back into her pot! ah! Auntie Nyamewor! Ooo hmm. I took my food,gave her the money and walked angrily out!….but her food was nice though..lol
Ok, the second childhood hero;he was affectionately called Bro Lincoln. He looked a giant to me at that time, very fair and a bit chubby. He walked with a slight limp. At our house in those days,he owned something only a few people had….a VHS! Now you guys may not appreciate that huge “pia m’onkor” machine but it was the ‘in’ thing back then. He had a whole cabinet of movie cassettes and we used to either stand and watch through the window or try to be a good boy all day,bath well at night,and receive a front row floor his room. I remember one Ghanaian movie he showed to us;Candidates for Hell. Wow..I remember that movie like it was just yesterday. Do you know why? Because Bro Lincoln was in that movie! Can you believe that? I was awed by this man. Someone I saw almost every other day,in a whole movie? I saw him as some sort of god. And besides,it was the part he played in the movie that was more intriguing to me. In a scene,he had a uniform on,and was ordering some subordinates to search someone. Eeiii,this man wasn’t a small man oo. My little brained worked overtime to come to terms with the whole thing. When I saw him in the movie,I turned around to look at him. He looked back at me,smiling. Smh. And this man,he ate fufu with a spoon. I mean,is this guy cool or what? It was baffling how he would wrap the spoon around the fufu and all that. He had dexterity! I only realised later on,that he did that because he was left handed.
Now Papa, my third childhood hero was 103 years when he died. Truly,he looked seventy! It was later when I saw his children I realised this man was truly old. His daughter was a banku seller and I must say I was a stakeholder in that banku. The kind of banku that bites the back of your tongue when you put it in your mouth,abi you know thay type huh?…t’was absolute quality. Anyway,I had great respect for this man. I saluted him anytime we met,and he,would stand still,clench his left hand like a soldier and touch his forehead with his right. I saw some golf sticks in his storeroom-you see the kinda guy he was in his heyday? He usually wore some golf shoes am sure were like forty years old. He enforced discipline in his house and that’s what I like about him most.
Ok, so my fourth hero. We all called her Auntie Ama. She was also very old at the time of her death. I just loved the way she used to converse with me. She marveled me with her independence despite her age. I sat by her and watched her feeble,very wrinkled hands wash her old clothes. She made her clothes herself. And she even had a business. Yeah,she sold kokonte powder. She would dig the measuring cup into the powder and meticulously fetch for her customers. And with her wobbly hand, she would pour it out. Then fetch a little bit more to make her customer happy. “You see I have given you more than you bought?”, she would add. She also used to sew black board dusters and sell it in front of her house. She would tell me long unending stories of her life. Auntie Ama used a walking stick to aid her walk because of how old her legs had gotten. I was intrigued about her independence. She cooked for herself and when she was bored,she would sit and sing a tune that I can remember till today. I heard a rumour about Auntie Ama that I can’t substantiate…..bring your ears closer lemme whisper it to you…I hear she wore fake teeth. eeiii kokonsa!
Now the last but not least hero of mine was my own grandmother. We called her Atwaami,as in ‘Atswei’s mother’. What I remember most about her was the look she would give you when you were doing something wrong. Charlie,it wasnt easy. The eyes alone could tell you everything. She had a signature move…slapping people with both hands at the same time. I am glad I never got to experience that move. I would still be having nightmares of it if I was at the end of it. I loved this woman. She feted me with stuff no one has ever given me. She would buy crabs,very big ones. And we would cook them. I still remember how she skilfully pick the crabs with a laddle,then into the big pot of water. Then she would place a heavy stone on the lid,so that the crabs wont escape when they are being cooked. The sounds the crabs made at their point of death is very fresh in my mind as I type this article. Then when they are cooked,we would grind pepper with kenkey eat it wholeheartedly. I havent had that opportunity to eat those crabs since she went to be with the Lord. But wait,I don’t mean those flat crabs oo,I mean the huge ones with the haunched shells. Yeah those ones….delicious! Everything about this woman was great. The mportormportor,o and many other things. She was a disciplinarian but very loving too. I remember her sitting outside,her spectacles on and either reading her Ga Bible or the Presbyterian hymn book. I miss her.
Yeah,so those are my heroes…me nkorti aa, spiderman, hulk, superman and captain America. Eyi, captain Sudan! Those aint heroes. They are characters. But these people,they are the real heroes. My childhood heroes.
By Jonathan Mensah @July,2015