Family · Life · Love · Personal story · Poetry/Poems · Writing

Ude-Aku…The tale of the wrinkled hands

Grandma dancing on the occasion of my traditional/customary marriage.
Grandma dancing on the occasion of my traditional/customary marriage.

I held your frail wrinkled hands in mine,
They were much smaller!
Now! You were old!
The skin of your hands had waxed, waned and tautened over decades;
Toughened by ages of farming and weeding, from lifting innumerable hot clay pots from the burning firewood, from bathing babies; lots and lots of babies.

I caressed them lightly; noting the veins that stood out more prominently; noting the traditionally placed tattoos and the story behind the tattoos;
Beautiful age worn hands that had nourished,
Beautiful wrinkled bejeweled fingers that lightly applied ”Ude-Aku” on my scalp whilst shaping my unruly hair into a bouffant style.

Those fingers were my preferred hair stylist because, you did not pull it tight like Mama Nkechi used to do whilst making the periwinkle hair-do for me.
Beautiful hands that left my little bum smarting from a well-deserved smack after a misbehaviour.

I beheld your face with my eyes. Your beautiful dark skinned face;
I looked! Looking and looking at every lovely lined feature of your face.
Knowing that it might probably be the last time that my eyes would behold your skin.
Your eyes had seen the Civil war, your eyes had looked life in the face, it was a map of times past, etched with love and pain, with joy and laughter, with fear and worry, with seeing things that I can barely imagine…
Your lovely wrinkled face, etched with very fine lines and tiny spots that had stolen in and taken bold space,
Your crown of whitened hair held in a little bun
Everything had grown smaller!
Your skin had shrunk and your capacious bosom which used to cradle my hair, had bowed to the caprices of gravity
You had aged!
I saw it coming! I knew that it would happen!
But I wasn’t prepared!
The pain still cut me deep!
I wasn’t prepared to stop looking at your age-wizened face!
And when you left, you left with the name!
Grandma, nobody ever calls me Nnedim or Ngozika again!
They were your special bequests to me.
You left with your skin all shriveled by death
And you took the lovely smell of Okwuma and Ude-Aku!

Β© Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha

Quick Glossary For Words in Native Igbo:

Nkechi:Β  A native Igbo name shortened from Nkechinyere which means “The one that God gave.”

Ngozikaego: A native Igbo name which means ”Blessings are far better than money” derivatives of the names are Ngozi, Ngozika, Kaego, Ego

Nnedim: meaning ”My husbands mother” this infers to the belief in reincarnation and grandma believed that I was her mother-in-law reincarnated..

Okwuma: Native ointment made from Shea Butter.

Ude-Aku: Local body cream made from oil extracted from roasted palm kernels.

In fulfillment of Writing 201 – Poetry Day 3: Skin. Prose Poem. InternalΒ Rhyme.

Some of the hairstyles back then.
Some of the hairstyles back then.
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62 thoughts on “Ude-Aku…The tale of the wrinkled hands

  1. She was a lovely woman; and you remember her fondly. Great tribute to her. Jacky, please, I have nominated you for the interview challenge. I hope you like it. But if your hands are too full I will understand. It’s a lovely challenge. Have a great day.

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  2. Ude-Akwu, we call “muyanga”…your words bring tears to my eyes (but men don’t cry, right) remembering the past with my gramma, and my mum. You know, those people so strong who time shrivels and takes away from our sight. Well written!!

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    1. Thank you so much Nyonglema for your visit and precious words. Yes indeed, time does steal away a lot from all of us and sometimes leaves one with the memories of times past. Enjoy a lovely day πŸ™‚ and it’s okay for a man to cry silently πŸ˜‰

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    1. Dalu/Thanks my darling. I guess it comes out that way because I am pulling it out of deep inside where it has been banked. She raised me along with my parents. She was a constant presence in my life until age and the journey back to God. I really do appreciate your words.

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  3. This is beautiful “And you took the lovely smell of Okwuma and Ude-Aku!” its a lovely portrait of your grandmamma you have painted…Love the way back when hairstyles too

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  4. Oh how I love this! And the photos at the end…..this is such a beautiful tribute. So thankful for Writing 201 introducing me to you and for this poem. Yes, the wizened skin of our grandparents’ generation….and I’ve always thought in terms of wise when I see that word in this context. They wear a map of their journey in the lines on their face, the blue veins in their hands like the hills they’ve crossed over. Love this piece!

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  5. Grandmas what would we do without them! They tenderly care for our parents and watch them grow. When it is time to rest after the children have left the nest they receive us grand children into their palms hardened by long past labor. The circle of tender care continues. Those hair styles hen…makes me chuckle…times and seasons!

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    1. Those hair-dos where something else :):) They are indeed a blessing to the family. Just see your mother and your daughter. You can see the contentment in your mothers eyes. Let us pray that we live long enough to love and enjoy our grandchildren too πŸ™‚

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  6. Your grandmother sounded a wonderful lady. It is so sad when we suddenly realise that our loved ones are not going to be around forever. That was a beautiful tribute to her Jacqui.
    y the way, those hairstyles look pretty elaborate, she must have been pretty dexterous to have produced some of those!

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    1. I think back then doing such stuff was pretty easy for them because they basically did everything for themselves. I even learnt how to do a few myself. Indeed, Edwina, she was a wonderful, loving bundle of humanity. I really miss her and her wise ways. Thank you so much for your words πŸ™‚

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  7. Reading this I’m reminded of my own grandma who raised me and my brothers. Those days are long gone and your fondness of your own grandma resonates so well with me. This is absolutely beautiful!

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I love it when you decorate my heart with your words..

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