We were driving through the main road away from Area 2 when my mother exclaimed that I hadn’t talked to my grandmother since I got back. I let out a tiny wail and made a face. I didn’t like talking to her. Not that I didn’t want to, even though I didn’t know her so well I loved her. It was just… Awkward. Despite my parents meager and half assed attempts to teach me itsekiri, I never learnt. I say half assed because once every few months for years before I turned 16, my mother would remark quite determinedly and with a very ardent look on her face that we would start to speak only in itsekiri. The first few hours after her declaration, we were dedicated and unrelenting — asking eagerly how you say this and that in itsekiri. We would ask for insults, and overtime, my brother and I would quip as we left the room “Mofe shun.” (I need to take a shit.)
However, as those few hours passed we would forget our mission and ourselves and well, speak English. This went on till I was 15. Then, every time my mom would make her bold declaration, we would remind her of our past failures and we wouldn’t bother.
In addition, my pidgin English is limited to the few instances where I get very excited, listen to a Nigerian song, or am talking to someone who regularly speaks it — like when I’m pricing food in the market. Apart from that, nothing. It comes out on it’s own without my control – kind of like vomit. So, knowing I wouldn’t be able to use any of these, talking to my grandma who spoke exclusively in pidgin and itsekiri (a quality I find beautiful), was a pain for me.
I looked at my mom all panicky as we graduated from the itsekiri greetings that I knew— ewowuro and Edabo and doh to the more advanced (for me at least) everyday language.
She asked where my brother was and with there urging of my mom I muttered out a useless he no dey – with my American/ Nigerian/whatever the hell it was accent that I got schooling in an American/Nigerian/ international/whatever the hell it was, school. I out a pouty lip as I passed over the phone to my mother after my grandmother called her name.
As we walked out of the car I told my mom sadly “I don’t know how to talk to her.”
She replied simply “when I was trying to teach you itsekiri you wouldn’t learn” to which I put my hand on my hip and looked at her my face straight as a ruler.
She just smiled and walked away saying nothing.