It is not often you come across a guy who has a whole lot of great things to say about his mother in law, but I beg to differ as I am one of the few.
Many years ago when I was courting my wife I visited her house on Lagos Island in the Popo Aguda Quarters, (Brazilian Quarters) she wasn’t home but her mother asked me to wait that she will soon be back.
In retrospect, I still wonder what she saw in me at that time, that I was always welcomed to sit with her and just have great conversations on the front porch of their Brazilian style house while her husband was just in the living room behind us paying us no mind.
On this particular day after getting off the bus and taking the walk under the hot Lagos sun from City hall bus stop to #37 Oil Mill street, I met Mrs. as she is so fondly called, sitting on her front porch and after the usual pleasantries she asks one of the kids to get me a chair and some chilled water.
As we picked our topic for the day she also said she was just about to make some of her famous Delta state native soups that require very hard to find spices and vegetables and she was still trying to decide what would accompany the soup, yam flour or pounded yam? hmmm…
I said “whichever is fastest and most convenient” she decides on pounded yam and proceeds to start the preparation, all the while checking to see if her daughter was back and if I were okay seating on the porch. A little while later I could perceive the wonderful aroma of different spices, stock and smoked fish all sizzling and mingling together and sending my bowels through a tsunami of growls anticipating the taste in real time.
I could also hear the thunderous sound of the pestle bashing the yams in the mortar and being an Ekiti man I was already rejoicing in my mind just imagining the mussels of pounded yam and sumptuous pieces of assorted meat and fish that will be paired in this meal fit for a king.
Alas, the time came and I was called in by one the kids to come into the dining area, as I walked by the living room I could see Mr. Gansy (Her husband/Yinka’s Dad) as we secretly called him dissecting a mound on his plate paying me no mind whatsoever.
I took my seat at the table and proceeded to deal with the meal, just as I was about to send the first soup covered mussel into my watering mouth, Mrs. walks in from the kitchen with a calm but direct demeanor and said in Yoruba; and I recal verbatim “I rarely pound yam for visitors, but you carry a heavy weight on my hands”.
For what seemed like an eternity I didn’t know if to proceed or drop the fork in my hand. When I came to I replied “I will not forget this day”, because I already knew what I wanted and why I was waiting this long and getting offered pounded yam anyway.
I enjoyed that meal and many more after that day and had even many more conversations with Mrs. Virginia Egogo Gansallo. She never mince words with me and corrected me with tough love whenever I erred and with time I came to realize that she treated everyone young or old the same way.
Years after Yinka and I were married and we had our little issues here and there, she never took sides but made sure to let us understand that as long as we let peace prevail by being on the same page, making decisions together by always communicating mutually and most importantly putting God first then we can withstand any storm.
She is always the first to call to wish everyone well on birthdays complete with her very own rendition of the Happy Birthday song and also every other week just to check on you.
There were times where I messed up, rather than chastise me she sat me down and talked some sense into me like any loving mother should and there were times she even took my side over Yinka.
We would sit and talk about anything from current affairs to life in general, we also talked about deep spiritual issues and her insights were always very much enlightening. She talked about spiritual boldness, being prayerful and always standing in the gap for your family.
Mrs. always talks about creating memories and building a legacy by always being prepared in life and death.
I pray that the Almighty will grant her years of great health that she may enjoy the fruits of her labor and always have the cause to celebrate and be celebrated.
To all mothers out there and mothers in waiting we celebrate you today and always.
Several years ago, on a typical ‘Good Friday’ celebration, in the comfort of my Parent’s baroque yellow & white Brazilian-quarter-bungalow, tucked away within the safe haven of Catholic Mission neighborhood, I would have gladly woken up to . . .
Clattering of deep oriental dishes arranged by color and floral patterns! Already carefully washed and wiped dried! I bet, with strict instructions from my Mom on how She’s managed to inherit and preserved them without any cracks!
Wooden gift baskets with folded napkins with individual family name tags, waiting on the dining table! In fact, I remember certain selected names over the years and smiles as I look forward to the delivery of the delicacy!
Wooden Raspado for coconuts (waiting to be cracked and scraped) The hardest part of cracking and scraping the juice from the coconut, I always managed to escape this part!
Black beans slow cooked over-time, over-night, large skillet pots, charcoal fire. Chopped onions, tomatoes & alligator peppers stewed with bay leaf.
Seasoned fresh red snapper fish, peppered cray fish, deep-fried shrimp, large blue crabs cleaned & marinated, now in relationship with each other!
Aroma of sautéed and stir-fried peppered snail directing traffic and confusion between Campbell & Broad street!
Tilapia fish, so settled and humbled in their new abode; grated garlic and ginger sauce!
Assorted seasonings like cloves and fresh thyme hanging around like foreign neighbors!
Oh no! IT IS FREJON DAY!
With all that’s going on around the world, I absolutely, almost forgot all those fun years until a childhood friend and my next door neighbor then (now lives in The UK) sent me a text reminding me of how my Mom would constantly send “Those Frejon Baskets” to their family every Good Friday, and how much they’d loved it! #ThanksAngie
Oh wow! Brought back….Good Old Memories!
Even though it was a cultural recipe passed down from my Paternal-Grandmother (The Coker’s- The DaSilva’s -The Gansallo’s) to my Mother.
Our family Frejon was usually made in large bulk and distributed out as gifts to family & friends every Good Friday!
The packaging is usually more exciting for me! The selection of dishes to use, how well the bean puree is carefully poured inside the deep oriental dish, separating the dish for the fish stew, peppered fish or separate side dish for Garri (cassava flakes) to sprinkle or side dish of peppered snail garnished with bayleaf.
As a child then, I usually just looked forward to the token (money) I get from delivery the frejon! In fact, as I got older, I became wiser and selective on which family house to drop off the ‘Frejon basket, so my tip was bigger! Lol!
So. . .
Nothing excites a child more than seeing family members travel from far and wide just to gather on the ‘Island’ with Uncle Kayode (My late Dad) to eat Frejon, experience the great Easter Brazilian Fanti carnival! …’every April!
Nothing beats the memories of how much emphasis my mom made on the importance and value of the measurement of the beans pudding, the clove, the texture of the coconut milk when mixed to smoothness while cooking it in the paste! The aroma of grated ginger, garlic and other spices over seafood splashing and dancing in a sizzling frenzy in a big frying pan!
Fast Forward. . . Today! My Kids, The Generation Z! They don’t really care about the sizzling ginger or garlic over sautéed fish! Or why I have to feed the nation with black beans cooked so-long when I can easily pick up black-eyed beans from Taco Bell! Phew! ‘They don’t get it, right?
Amid social distancing and all that’s going on, Good Friday, hmmm.
I shall be ordering Bob Evans ‘Fish & Chips’ to celebrate with my Family – I don’t think these kids care so much about the texture of sautéed ginger snails and frejon! Maybe my grandkids…
‘I hope my Mom and my late Grandmas will understand!
Yours in HOPE,
Frejon (From Feijão, which is the Portuguese word for beans) is a coconut milk and bean soup which is eaten especially during Holy Week by a selection of Christians, mostly Catholics, across the world. Countries where Frejon is popular include Brazil and Nigeria (especially among Yoruba who returned to Nigeria from Brazil at the abolition of the slave trade, and settled in what is known as the “Brazilian Quarters” in Lagos Island), and also Sierra Leone on Good Friday, or for functions such as weddings. Because dairy foods and flesh meat (beef, pork, goat) are strictly forbidden on Good Friday, this dish is a suitable accompaniment to non-dairy foods such as fried fish and peppered snail.
Arthur Kayode Gansallo – Land Surveyor – Jan 8th 1933 – Feb. 24th 2018 (85 years old).
‘The departure of life eclipses everything’. When a death is good, the room is filled with peace, and all the pain, that went before it is forgotten. Where there was mystery and anxiety, there is knowledge, where there is fear and doubt, there is love. And when asked how to move on afterwards, I whispered, ‘I just want to DO IT (life) again with you, Papa-mi’. ‘Narratives of my Father’ – Yinka.
With Loving memories, this is how I want to remember my beloved father, Arthur Kayode Gansallo. To others, He was known as Daddy, AK Gansallo or Brother Surveyor, but to me, I have always called him “Papa-mi” ‘which made our relationship very personal and special. Sometimes even indicating affection that’s cautiously guarded with youthful zeal implying “mine only”.
While growing up, I have always been reminded of my resemblance to his late mother, Madam Emily Gansallo (nee Coker) fondly known as ‘Mama Upstairs‘ (I guess the fondness emerged from that maternal-reflection I carried with me while around him).
She usually sat at one of the bow-windows on the top floor of her glamorously decorated baroque Brazilian architectural influenced parlor; with exuberant and individualistic styled doorways, brightly painted facades and chunky concrete columns, flight of polished wooden steps with brightly colored panels and delicate floral plaster motifs of the Brazilian artisans!
Gansallo Family House – Lagos Island.
Yeah, my late grandmother was always strategically located in such a way that she had a bird’s-eye view of both Tokunboh and Oshodi streets, at this perch she was able to view the comings and goings and ready to call out anyone who’s out of order….I grew up learning those boundaries too from my father.
Where do I start? All through my life, He’s always been my shield, especially where I usually seek shelter when I am in trouble due to my smart mouth or need to escape some sibling scolding or from my mom’s non-stop-nagging about why I needed to step up my game and claim the 1st position in class!
I usually run to hide in his home-office, where the entrance marks no-allowance to violence and the red sea for the offended-ones chasing after me! He always protected me from altered hot slaps, or sibling-beatups, listened with an open mind to my talk about life, my dreams and my future plans, and gave re-directions without being overbearing.
From my 1st primary school best literature award, his glowing face with his Polaroid camera, proud as ever! Even encouraging me to buy more books at CMS bookshop to read as we drove home from school that day and thereafter enrolling me at Teacher Pat(of St. Mary’s Private-afterschool) lesson for mathematics clinic! I remember him forbearingly tutoring me for common entrance exam and patiently waiting to pick me up at St. Gregory’s college after the long yearly 5k-Corpus Christi procession!
From the set of French curves he gave me when I informed him I was taking Technical Drawing in school and aiming to be an Architect trailing after him; to Alliance Français French school when I changed my mind and wanted to study foreign language instead, He encouraged me all through, emotionally and financially.
My 10th birthday party, where He officially became the DJ and MC, even though He practically played his own favorite music (FELA) all through, we still had a blast;
Oh, my 1st day away from home at FGGC Sagamu, the panic attack once we crossed the toll gate and the long dreary drive in his car as He continuously encouraged me about the unknown, Apparently, He had labelled all my belongings, boldly scripted in his fine cartographic hand writing ‘A.O. Gansallo’ (Anthonia Olayinka Gansallo) even on my school sandals, my red checked house wear and school bag legible enough for other students to be amused or read from afar.
He never missed any visiting days or our usual stop over at Uncle Ladipo’s (his brother) at All Saints school Ikorodu to review my report card and make plans for summer school! Phew!
I remember my 1st visit to a fancy restaurant, at Eko Hotel when I was just 9 with him, my 1st table etiquette training and tableware placement. Our religious visits to CFAO Moloney supermarket to buy chocolates, biscuits and of course Benson & Hedges and thereafter our painful visits to the dentist together.
Our weekend drive to Museum Kitchen, to listen to high life music with a sip of fresh sour palmwine! or to Bar Beach to watch the sun set or to see Grand Uncle Akin Coker at his beach house on Elf Estate, off Lekki road in the early 80’s (which was formerly Maroko swamp). Or our visit to the stadium to watch Abiola Babes and Iwuanyanwu Nationale soccer match at Onikan!
I got to learn a lot about land acquisition, families with landed properties and sometimes history behind land allocation, all mostly within Ibeju Lekki & Eti Osa Local govt. as I was usually in his company during some site visits and very inquisitive about his passion for his job, drawing up maps and calculating numbers nonstop!
My 1st & 2nd graduation from college and His advice to keep on aiming higher, not to stop there, to be all I can be, as a daughter, a wife, a mother and a woman who stands out in her generation.
One funny thing is that, He actually knew and remembered all my girlfriends by name, and would approach them when they come to visit and usually engaged them in ‘girly’ conversation, even decoding our secrets codes over the telephone! They usually call him, Mr. Ganzy of which He usually smiles at and could sit with them for hours talking about his favorite movies – especially Gremlins!
My wedding day. (Dad & I) – Aug. 14th 1997.
I can never forget the big smile of accomplishment and joy on his face on my wedding day, 20 years ago, as He proudly walked me down the aisle, clutching the marriage certificate afterwards close to his heart and looking at me with that fondness I grew up knowing.
I thank God that I can proudly say today that I have been so blessed to have him as my Father and friend, ‘would do it again and never could have traded him for anyone! I am who I am today because of the devotion and love of my parents, more especially my father’s undying love and His belief in me.
Last time we spoke, just after his 85th birthday in January, He muttered under heavy breaths…
“Yinkus baby! I am still here, even though all my friends are gone, I am counting down to your next graduation commencement” and I had joked with him saying
“Ah, Mr. Ganzy, you are still very young, I will be back home soon, to complete that Autism clinic project we’ve always talked about”….we both laughed over that as He hung up the telephone.
Feb. 2018 Commencement.
And those were his last words to me.
He was a fantastic man. He was a great father, loving husband, caring brother, nurturing grandfather and dear friend to many people. To me he was more than just my father; he was my friend and my hero.
I always admired my father and had a great deal of respect for him. I pray the everlasting love and peace of God dwell with him in his new abode.
Eternal Rest, Grant Him O Lord!
Your loving daughter!
Yinkus Baby (as He fondly calls me).
There comes a time in our life when we should start thinking about what we will leave behind after we die.
Well, not everyone enjoys talking about it anyway, but we should! Like, Y-e-s-t-e-r-d-a-y! Because we will all pass away someday.
What will be our legacy? How will our lifestyles be recorded into the annals of history?
Are we aware that this is a deep healing and gratifying moment that could also beAdvertisement our only chance and opportunity to pay it forward or celebrate life by creating a setting for others to follow?
So, do you remember how you felt when you lost someone close to you? You witnessed dreams and aspirations snatched away coldly leaving behind dark visions of despair and uncertainty about the future!
Did your life take an unexpected turn when people you love are diagnosed with a terminal illness? The big question we battle in our minds over time as we witness their pain and struggle with recovering and treatment is…’Will-They-Ever-Make-It?
Or will theydisgrace death and defeat the grave? No matter what, our lives and their new journey would never be the same again.
Aha! Because an irreplaceable vacuum has been deposited in our hearts.
The fairytale life we had always dreamed of for them is no longer possible. Is it okay to question God at those very hurting period we witness with them? Or be like Job and continually keep seeking His face in the middle of it all? Is there still hope after all? #EmpathyLeadsToHope
I still clearly remember the night when my parents went out for an event….
It was Christmas of 1980, my dad wanted to impress his guests that night and had driven them all to watch Bobby Benson’s High-Life band play at the lavishly furnished ball room of Eko Hotel at Victoria Island Lagos.
Jubilant! Excited! my cousins and I (who had come visiting from Port Harcourt and UK) danced around our Christmas tree in the adult parlor as we waved goodbye to our parents, flashing our hand-held sparkler fire works! And as my dad’s car zoomed off the street, we were left with traces of rays from the street lights that eventually nudged us back inside.
But, my parents never came back that night or the next day!
Nothing prepared me for the tons of relatives who stomped into our house for the next couple of months!
There was constant whispering, cleaning or attending to unfamiliar faces who had pressed the loud doorbell that always made our dogs, Jolie and Julie mad and bark uncontrollably!
The warm-natured relatives from my mother’s village in Delta State had hired a commercial station wagon named “Eni Afe” (the one we love) to transport them and their bags full of African pear and Garden egg directly from Oshimili Local government to my door step on Lagos-Island!
Oh by-the-way! Did I mention that they were always humming a moody native song and slapping their heads or their hips! Pointing to the sky as if blaming God for not being on time to the rescue! Or were they blaming the automobile company for the accident? I could barely pick their language, but was always able to identify the word “moto” as they begin to use their wrist to wipe away invisible tears.
And every time I would glare at them in fear and confusion wondering where they kept my parents!!
“Ah, I-s-i-o-m-a ’Nne m” (meaning My-good-head daughter or good-luck-girl-child) they would exclaim and carry me off into a non-auditioned Igbo dance and bury my head in their humongous Saturday Night-talcum-saturated bosom, like I needed to be smothered because I was missing motherly affection! Oh well, at that time, I guess I was anyway…Phew! #ILoveMyMothersPeople
And on the other side, my father’s Lagos-Brazilian quarters family members would all stroll in, in their meticulous apparel, puffing and huffing about how Uncle Kay (my dad) just won’t stop smoking, drinking and driving! their high stiletto competing with their pitchy British accent as they search in their patent fancy bags for a glass-beaded rosary that will be used to sanctify the house or search for their fancy hand fan even as the ceiling fan was in full motion!
I watched as they try to escape the cold nose caressing from our dogs! Their house helps or driver sneaks up behind them carrying home-baked bread and fruit baskets brought from Tom Jones area, covered with beautifully embroidered napkins.
Oh! There you are Yinkus baby! Everything is fine oh? We must book a mass for the family! Let’s thank Saint Christopher and Our Lady of good counsel! Or ‘has anyone gone to Catholic Mission to report this to the Arch Bishop? I will have my driver come get you for the weekend to play with your cousins at Ikoyi club” And then a big hug consumed with choking concentrated overdose of vintage Hermes perfume!
Thank goodness for older and notorious cousins who were very crafty in stealing top-classified family information! Last I know…they saw my Dad’s car somersault several times and crash into the edge of the reef at Bar beach!
All 4 of them (My dad, mom, late Uncle Siji and Dr. Alagoa) lost consciousness and were rescued by a nearby white garment church congregation having a vigil at the same time on the beach!
Okay…so they made it out of Eko Hotel and crashed into Bar beach on their way back home. Severely injured with the car written off! Both on admission and physical therapy for several months as I was left in denial about their disappearance until they returned home, not the same as they left in December, but alive.
At that moment and such tender age, nothing could have soothed or comforted me enough! For all I care, I could have been an orphan-in-waiting until they eventually came back home with bruises and scars so pronounced, even our dogs wept for them! Literally.
Today, as you are reading this…In homes and hospitals and confinement across the world, friends and family will soon gather around to usher in the New Year, beautifully decorated tables filled with warm, scrumptious food and gifts to give. Blinking lighted trees with trimmed gold ribbons!
It is Christmas!!
However, this day will be nothing like holidays of the past for many people.
Broken hearted families who’ve lost loved ones will struggle to keep hope alive, Friends with terminal or life threatening illness will have to struggle to catch a glimpse of what a painless season without medication or treatment would be, Lonely but committed soldiers covered in the dust of battle will patrol foreign borders, fighting for what they believe in, while their families back home long for word of their safety.
The homeless will make their way to the nearest soup kitchen, hoping for a warm meal and a smiling face as so many celebrate this day of abundance.
For some, an empty place at the table will be a painful reminder of the loved one lost or a failed relationship.
A worried husband and dad will sit at the head of the table, wondering how he is going to tell his family that he just lost his job.
A wife, struggling with emotional turmoil of an unfulfilled marriage, a beautiful young lady, wondering if the joy of the season is worth celebrating due to rejection and loneliness.
A family with a child on the spectrum still waiting for a miracle. The list of wounded hearts and unmet needs is brutal.
So, tell me, how do you create or find time to rebuild after you lose someone to death, ailment or disagreement? In all my 6 years of surviving thatcancer, I have continuously struggled with the changes that’s taken over my body, my mind and my perception about life and people. I had to crave the urge to keep hoping for a fruitful life; medication, treatment and all by creating time for people in need!
For others, it is still denial of what they can’t understand and are still refusing to accept. That there could be hope because God says so, that we could still find joy and happiness even while going through that phase in life.
How do you intend to help someone going through all these the few days remaining in 2016? Would we rather patronize the needy by dropping by a shelter to suit your conscience? Send text messages or gifts when really your voice of encouragement is what they need? Label them as unfit or dying when really only God can dictate that journey! Hmm.
What gives us hope today? Even with friends and loved ones dying or shutting down around us, how do we comfort them?
You see, when we convince ourselves that life will be better when we have more money, when we find the right mate, when we get the kids raised or build the right house. We tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our spouse gets his or her act together, when we buy a nicer car, when we get that promotion, when we are able to go on our dream vacation or when we retire.
We keep trying to find joy, contentment and peace in lifeless places and useless things. When really, we just need to be more thankful for being alive and seek the real meaning behind the lights on the Christmas trees, it’s not about the ornaments or the beautiful wrapped up gifts! Or the beautiful glittering ribbons.
It is about building HOPE for tomorrow! and why we need to celebrate life more…especially with those going through tough time this season.
And because I witnessed my parents come out alive of that ghastly car accident at Bar-beach that had the next day newspaper headlines as “Miracle on the Beach” I certainly have no choice but to keep trusting and hoping in God even as my own strength and flesh falter sometimes!
Because I-have-been-there-with-you, on both sides…I know the feeling of a blurry future when sickness knocks or when a loved one is lost or when we lose a pregnancy/baby…the vacuum is so uncomfortably evident and can never be filled!
I am hoping someone reading this will allow their heart to beat again after a loss.
Let’s spread the love of Christmas by bringing HOPE to someone really in need of affection today and comfort the weak at heart more.
To all those we lost in 2016. Let’s be rest assured that the peace the birth of Christ brings this season is surely abiding with them.
Yours in HOPE! As I share David Gokey’s ‘Tell Your Heart To Beat Again’