“Let us welcome to the high table, Mrs. Anulika Dozie Onyeka, the mother of the bride,” the MC announced.
The ensuing applause brought immediate tears to Anulika’s eyes. This time, it was tears of joy.
As she gingerly walked to the high table, held up by Chibuzor, she missed Dozie all the more. It has been three years since he died, but it felt like he would come back anytime soon.
She remembered the joy on his face when they brought their first child, Chibuzor home. He had acted like a child who got a new toy, and didn’t let the baby out of his sight except he had to go to work, after which he hurried back home.
She was thankful to God that her selfishness didn’t rob her of that expression of love she saw in Dozie’s eyes each time he held their children.
When Chibuzor was three and began his toddler antics, Dozie had suggested that they get another child, this time a girl, who would be gentle so Chibuzor could stop feeling in control. It had been a joke, but they had followed up and gotten Chinenyenwa.
Anulika never knew that life could be so full with children. All her imaginations of having her own children never prepared her for the joy she got as a mother each time she was called ‘mummy’, or each time the children won an achievement, she got a special kind of fulfillment.
Dozie was right; she loved her children so much that she feared what would happen if she loved them a unit more.
Her mother-in-law had been right too, there were other ways to have children, there were diverse ways to getting blessings, as she learnt that there are a million and one sides to God’s goodness, and it doesn’t have to be as one expects.
As Chibuzor held her hand tighter so she could climb the few stairs up to the platform where the table and chairs were, she thanked God, and not for the first time, that she had agreed to adopt.
She was sure that the only reason she was still alive and living was because of her children. Losing Dozie had been a terrible blow to her, and she would have had no other reason to keep living, but for her children who still needed her.
Today was Chinenye’s wedding, and she wished Dozie was here to see how beautiful she looked, she wished he had been able to walk her down the aisle.
After ensuring that she was well seated, Chibuzor left her to continue his running around.
Allowing her mind wander back to the past, Anulika smiled.
Dozie’s joke had happened to be true; the arrival of Chinenye had made Chibuzor less difficult, and almost overnight, he had become a protective big brother, a role that he was yet to stop playing.
He made her and Dozie proud parents the day he opened his first company, and though Dozie was already battling with the diabetes which took his life, he had been all smiles.
Chinenye was the one who became a doctor. She was efficient and well respected among her peers.
It pained Anulika that she seemed to be the only one reaping the fruits of the labour she, Dozie and her in-laws had done.
When her mother-in-law died, Anulika lost a friend, mother and mentor. She had felt lost as it felt like losing her mother all over again. Not long after that, her father-in-law also died, it felt as though the family was dwindling away.
She and Dozie had fought on, focusing on the children and investing all they could.
When the children were 16 and 13 years respectively, she and Dozie had announced to them that they were adopted.
The following months had been tough, as they had to make the children believe that God knew why their birth parents rejected them, and also make them realize that they couldn’t say exactly what happened, but they can choose to think the best of the birth parents. They had to convince the children that they belonged to them, and were brought into earth specially for them, because God knew they couldn’t have children on their own.
The news was a blow to the teenage minds, but somehow, they had pulled through, coming out closer than ever.
Still thinking at the wedding reception, Anulika just gazed and smiled where she was supposed to. She missed Dozie more than ever; he was her life companion, the one who could get her always. If he were here, she would be laughing her head off at something he said. She was sure of that.
When it was time for her to dance, she allowed the tears flow, she was dancing for both of them, so she gave it her best.
“Why are you crying?” Chinenye whispered as wiped away the tears. “You miss daddy?”
The children took Dozie’s gift of perception. He had given them a lifelong course on emotional quotient, and it stuck.
They could feel her pain and that of others, which was why they were great at their jobs; they understood people.
“I am also crying because I wish he could see how beautiful you look today,” Anulika said. “He will be prouder than he would have been on your induction day. I am proud of you.”
The hug which Chnenye gave her seemed to put back some broken pieces of her heart, and she was consoled.
They held each other together for a long time with no interruptions. It was as though everyone understood what was happening, and let them be.
Just as they were about to disengage themselves, another set of arms came, enveloping them tighter.
“No one told me there was a hug going on! That’s not fair!”
“You are a guy Chibuzor, do I have to remind you?” Chinenye asked, her voice muffled against Anulika’s shoulders. “Guys don’t hug.”
“Well this guy does, especially when it came to his mother and his stubborn sister on her wedding day.”
The laughter which ensued from her children was like a soothing balm to Anulika’s heart.
“Let us not forget that we are in public,” she said to them, stifling her own laughter. “They will think we are mad. First we cried, and now we are laughing.”
They were still laughing as they disengaged, while Chinenye kept dancing for her guests, Chibuzor led his mother back to her seat.
Settling down, Anulika held Chibuzor’s hand and whispered in his ear: “You are next.”
“I know,” he replied. “I will soon bring her home.”
Nodding her head, Anulika let go of his hand.
She was not all for pestering children to get married before they were ready, but she didn’t know how much time she had left on earth, and she wanted to teach the coming generation what she learned from her mother-in-law. She wanted them to know that children were gifts from God, and He alone decided how best to give His gifts.
She wanted them to know that there were diverse ways to receiving miracles.
Turning her attention to the food placed before her, she smiled as she confirmed, to herself, that though she had no stretch marks or varicose veins to show that she had children, and though she never felt a child suck at her breasts, she had backed her children, she had changed diapers, she had watched them take their first steps, she had heard them say their first words, she had taken them to their first day of school, she had been looked up to, she had led little hearts through life. She had lived life as a mother.
She gazed on her miracles with gratitude as Chibuzor danced as he sprayed his sister with cash.
God had answered her prayers and given her her own children.
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