buttons and zips

buttons and zips

He looked outside the window, restless and apprehensive. He couldn’t wait to get to his destination, he couldn’t wait to see the look of shock of his mother’s face.He wondered if it would be shock, disbelief, amazement, pride or a cocktail mix of all those emotions. Benjamin’s mother, an industrious tailor was a woman who worked day and night to feed her children. Her husband had passed when the kids were little and she turned her hobby into her meal ticket, having been a housewife with no work experience prior to his death. Her hobby had turned into a thriving business, enough to feed her family, provide housing with a little extra to save for the future. Life didn’t seem so bleak after all.

One day, Ben was home from college due to a union workers strike in his university, with his sister at boarding school, rounding up her last high school year, his mother was alone at home most nights. He wasn’t happy with the fact that his mother had refused to have a social life. He had taken it up with her once and she had smiled and told him,

“My son, I work so hard that when I get home all I want to do is to sleep and rest my mind” Seeing that this wasn’t comforting to her son, she would tease him and say,

“Why don’t you hurry up and finish college, find a job and settle down so that the sounds of a new-born will keep me up and warm these walls”, she said pointing her outspread hands towards the walls of her house. Ben had smiled and decided to end the conversation, his mother was very good at changing topics.

This day, Ben went into the kitchen, washed his hands and opened the refrigerator to check for what was available for him to cook for his mother. He could see that she had peppers in the freezer, goat meat, fish, and some plantain. He decided to make his mother’s favourite meal, stewed peppered plantain stuffed in fish. He checked his wrist watch, it was 2pm, his mother always got back at 7pm, he nodded in approval to himself, it was time to start cooking.

He was done in two and a half hours, he had even cooked some white rice and it was just 4 :30pm. He took off his apron and decided there was no need waiting for her to come home before seeing her. He decided to walk to her workshop which was just across the street. As Benjamin walked to his mother’s workshop, he remembered how as a kid he would ride on the back of his fathers okada to this same workshop, which had been his father’s. His mother had turned it into her workshop after his father’s death, she always had a way of bringing out positives from negative. Ben got to the front of his mother’s workshop and there was his father’s okada by the side of the entrance, all shiny, in a little corner. He shook his head lightly sideways, in a bid to shake off any bit of sadness finding its way into his heart. This day made it sixteen years since his father’s passing. He passed by his mother’s workers who greeted him one at a time as he walked to his mother’s station,

“Young master, you are welcome! how is college?” some would say, “Adama is a big girl now o! you should come see her!” those were from women who wanted him to marry their daughters, each would put her daughter’s name in the phrase, so it would vary from, “Bimpe is in unifacity now o!” unifacity meaning university!. Ben would smile at the ladies and wave his hands in acknowledgement of their greetings. When he finally got to his mother’s station, he saw her talking with three ladies, they looked like they were delivering bad news. He wondered what was going on. His mother had seen him, smiled and signalled to him that they were wrapping up their conversation. Shortly after they left, Ben and his mother went home. She was quiet all through and Ben decided that when they got home, he would ask her what the meeting had been about.

His mother had been so excited to find out that he had cooked. She sat down and ate her meal with joy and gratitude. After eating, she sat in the living room with Ben right beside her.

“Benjamin my son” She started, “I received not so good news at work today” Ben stared at his mother, looking for answers on her face before she spat the words out and there were none. At times like this his mother spoke like she was selecting her words. On normal regular days, he would hasten her to get to the point but today, he decided to allow her to take her time. Acknowledging her bad day he said, “Mama, I’m sorry to hear that your day wasnt so good. Please tell me what happened so that I can share the worry. His mother smiled, that was her son talking, the ever considerate and loving man she had raised.

“Thank you my son. You know that as a tailor, one of our accessories is buttons and zips. We have a distributor that supplies all the tailors in our region and my workshop is a top small business customer. We have had a healthy relationship but unfortunately, the business owner sold his business to a bigger company and now the representatives came to tell me today that to continue with the business relationship, we need to have a minimum balance of # 500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira)” with them. As his mother said that, his heart sank and she continued,

“I don’t have one hundred thousand naira, talk less of Five……..” His mother went on, analyzing how her business would collapse without having a supplier for an essential tool for her trade. Ben consoled and assured his mother that he would look for a solution to the problem and urged her to go to bed. He made her a warm cup of Milo and walked her to her room. That night, as he laid on his bed, Ben thought about his mother, her business and his academics. He was in his final year in the university, his last lecture before the strike had been a lecture on entrepreneurship. His lecturer had invited a successful business man from the city to talk to them about how he had turned his father’s newspaper company into a multi million naira comic book company. Ben slept off with ideas in his mind, in his dream, he was trapped in a room filled with buttons and zips.

The next day, he asked his mother where the zips and buttons usually came from and she had answered, “Cotonou”. Ben had taken a trip to Cotonou the next day and all the way he had found favour, with the chartered bus filled with buttons and zips, he was on his way home bursting with joy and excitement. He kept looking through the window anxious to get home and narrate the whole experience to his mother. Ben could see a brighter future for him, his mother and his family….. as he looked out the window, the grass seemed greener ……

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