In the season of the cold North-easterly wind, when the leaves become weak and dry and fall to the ground, littering the market square, the path to the stream and all the compounds, the women and children of Umu-orji get creative with palm fronds, making heavy brooms to gather the leaves together and burn them. At cockcrow every morning, the sounds of the brooms along with the rustling of the leaves form a rhythm that could make one forget the bite of the cold Harmattan wind and feel something almost euphoric.
But Amalinze never felt such euphoria. In fact, he felt great grief in his heart for the gods had failed to give him a child.
Amalinze was a hunter. Not a great hunter by any standards but a hunter, nonetheless. In all his twenty years of going into the bushes in search of game, Amalinze had never, oh not once, caught an antelope. In a village where men had slain lions and had brought home leopards, he could very well be described as a failure. Yet, that was not Amalinze’s biggest woe.
What greater woe could a man face than the lack of an offspring to bear his name?
So no, Amalinze was never sad because he had no leopard skins hanging in his obi[i], or deer horns to drink special wine from, but because he had no child.
Amalinze had no child.
Yet, in the season of the cold North-easterly winds when all the leaves were weak and dry, Amalinze’s compound stayed clean.
Isn’t that just a surprise seeing that as Amalinze left for the bushes every morning, so did his wife, Ugonwanyi, to the neighbouring village to sell her husband’s bush rats? Who then cleaned Amalinze‘s compound in the season of the North-easterly wind?
And the sun would set and Amalinze would head home with his catch for the day. Perhaps he would walk home briskly like a man if the gods had only given him a child. Perhaps he wouldn’t drag his feet so much if he had children waiting to greet him at home. But he did not. So every day, Amalinze dragged his feet home and whistled his favourite song.
Every child in Umu-Orji knew Amalinze‘s favourite song. Whenever they saw him, they mumbled this song amidst muffled giggles.
Amalinze has no child, Uwa[ii]
Amalinze has no child, Uwa
Whatever would Amalinze do, Uwa
Amadioha[iii] laughs at me, Uwa
Ala[iv] laughs at me, Uwa
But whenever Ugonwanyi prepared Amalinze’s meals and left them in the pot to pluck Utazi[v] leaves at the farmland on the outskirts or whatever other endeavours the evening brought her, the cold wind would blow and his food would go cold before Amalinze dragged his feet home. Yet he never ate a cold meal. No, not once.
Who then kept warm Amalinze‘s meals in the season of the North-easterly winds?
And the grief in Amalinze‘s heart caused him to act foolishly. Perhaps, if Amalinze had a child, he would remember to cover the gourd of drinking water to keep it from drying up. Perhaps if Amalinze had a child, he would not fall asleep in drunken stupor outside in the cold and would not wake up with a runny nose the next morning. Perhaps if Amalinze had a child, he would remember to oil his skin with Ude-Aki [vi] and would not go around looking like a spirit.
Ugonwanyi ignored her husband’s foolishness, for in her heart, she had come to realize that she had married a foolish man.
But the gourd of drinking water never dried up and Amalinze‘s skin glowed with oil when his daughter, Adanma, nursed him. As his cold turned into a fever, Amalinze kept cursing the gods for his childlessness even as Adanma nursed him. For years unending, Amalinze looked at his daughter and saw not a child but a girl.
Of what use is a girl except to sweep the yard and warm meals and close the gourd of drinking water and oil his skin during the season of the cold North-easterly wind?
And in that season, Amalinze passed away in the arms of the child he did not have, and not a single tear was shed for him, for Amalinze had no child to grieve him.
About the author
Chioma Nnanna is a writer and content creator with educational qualifications in unbelievably “irrelevant” fields. Extremely artsy and a self acclaimed funny girl, Chioma is currently taking online courses in Creative Writing. She earns a living working as a content provider.
[i] Obi is a room where the men of the house rested and entertained quests in ancient Igboland (Nigeria).
[ii] Uwa is Life in Igbo Language spoken in the eastern parts of Nigeria.
[iii] Amadioha is the (god) of thunder and lightning of the Igbo people of south-eastern Nigeria
[iv] Ala a deity in the beliefs of the Igbo people of Nigeria
[v] Utazi is an African herb that is used for the bitter taste it imparts in soups and stews
[vi] Ude Aki is palm kernel oil in Igbo Language.