Her name became “FOLAJOKE”.
“Folajoke” is the daintiest and the prettiest woman I know.
I remember thinking how lucky I was, to have and to know this woman as my Aunt.
First of her siblings, she was nothing like the others. Whereas her younger sisters and brothers were formidable and lanky, she was petite and cute. She was round in the hips and was intensely warm. Her smile was genuine and her gaze was ‘super’ super soft. When she looked at you, she had a semi-permanent smirk on her face that could switch from worry to a quick jab to a belly of laughter to concern in flashes of seconds.
Folajoke was beautiful and kind. She had a familial kindred spirit that attracted strays whether they be family, extended family members, babies or animals (Yes, she had a little animal farm growing in her backyard).
She had grace and a personable aura whenever you were around her. Her general ambience was comforting; with her you felt like you were in a content and safe zone.
That was ‘MAMMY’ or “Mammy Ipaja” as we called her in our Ondo-accented English.
She was born in the early 1960’s to an affluent father and an adolescent mother. She was one baby girl everyone was expecting and she was appositely dotted on; even her very name gave proper definition to how catered and cultured her upbringing was.
Folajoke literally means “All the wealth we have in this home shall be used to cater to her every whim”. It is indeed a beautiful name with a significant meaning. It’s true they say “Your name precedes you’ because my aunt lived up to her name.
From her dotting father to an adoring husband, my aunt lived every woman’s dream, albeit with some life challenges that only served to make her stronger. She understood her responsibilities, and internalized her role as a provider, a nurturer and an influencer to the world around her, past her immediate family to her community at large.
I remember looking forward to spending summer holidays at her house. Her home was an epitome for “Familyhood’. We ate vegetables grown fresh in her backyard. We gathered around the dining table to plated meals whether it be breakfast, lunch or dinner, and if an unexpected guest showed up (and they always do) an extra plate and seat materialized.
We had fruits like oranges, tangerines, guavas, pineapples, soursop, pawpaw, coconuts and banana all planted and grown in her backyard for mid-day snacks. We played ‘House’ as kids through her cultivated garden in the evenings and enjoyed early dinner from crops like corn, yam, plantain and legumes from her mini- farm in same compound. She would grow seeds of beautiful plants and tenderly monitor her garden both indoors and outdoors.
Every Saturday morning was a pleasure to wake up to at ‘Big Mammy’s house. Her kitchen opened with fresh pap (yellow, brown or white) and ‘akara’ (Friend bean balls) or ‘moi-moi’ (Beans porridge steamed in empty little milk cans), all blended, sieved and prepared from scratch.
Her dining table, centre-table and mantle pieces all had beautiful vases filled with fresh flowers chopped from her garden and a collage of family pictures. The tall windows in the living room would have been pulled open, and curtains drawn back to let in the stream of early Saturday sunshine.
My aunt was a living pleasure. She was such an impressionist; who could imitate any person male or female. She was humorous and comical, cracking joke after joke with her husband and/or her mother or mother-in-law. She always had a little listening party as we enjoyed the cool evening breeze on the porch while we waited for electricity to be turned on.
She was ALL the kind of woman I wanted to be.
Professionally, she was a Radiologist. She would resume at the Hospital in her sparkling white lab coat, complete with pure white pants and a head full of beautiful grey perms. Her weekend appointments at her saloon wasn’t complete without her regular soft perms adorning her pretty face and well-manicured nails and toes.
She had paraphernalia from every country in the world and in partnership with her husband, built an extensive library and encyclopaedia on every subject known to Man, you had no excuse not to be knowledgeable.
She was a collector of beautiful birthstones. Ruby was one of her favourite pieces and she had a wardrobe full of fashion-forward items to serve as major throwback designs should fashion labels run out of ideas.
Her home oozed so much love, warmth, reception, beautiful childhood memories and images.
Mammy was a breath of fresh morning air. She was the definition of the Proverbs 31 Woman, the one who modelled the supportive and trusting wife; the one who was the fierce provider and protector for those she cared about. She was wise to the ways of the world but truly lived by the Wisdom of God.
Later in life, she would follow her dreams to open a crèche, a maternity clinic and a day care centre. She was pristine in her care for babies and their mothers. She was as nurtural as she was maternal. You had no choice but to leave your babies in her care; this singular fact gave her dreams wings to grow into a flourishing Nursery and primary School many years after her death.
Mammy was that rare breed of virtuous woman whose price was far above rubies and her children rise up to call her BLESSED; her husband also and he ‘praiseth’ her. Proverbs. 31:10, 28
They say it takes a village to raise a child. I am indeed one lucky girl to be raised by an army of strong, fierce, beautiful aunties and a grandmother who instilled in me virtues that remind me to be the woman I’d like to be every day.
ALS lost the battle. My aunt transcended to glory in June 2009.
It’s funny to see people mess about with the “Ice Bucket Challenge” that went viral a couple of years ago not necessarily understanding the concept of the disease that birth this challenge.
ALS or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis also called Lou Gehrig’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. When these motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, people lose the ability to speak, walk, move, eat or breathe.
Currently there is no cure for ALS and no effective treatment to halt or reverse the progression of the disease, but there are organizations that make the burden of living with ALS bearable.
And so on this day, I choose to celebrate the birth of this lady who was as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside.
On this day, I celebrate the birth and life Folajoke.
To the memories of those we have loved and lost!
Love and light… Read this Post 7/11