November 27th, 2009
I finally got around to fishing out our Christmas decorations from storage, and set them aside, so that the kids, JJ and I will put them up over the weekend. It is one of our family rituals, which we look forward to every year. In years past, I could only muster enough energy to point at what needed to go where. But this year, I have a feeling that I will be able to do more than that…hopefully! I won’t be making any attempt to climb the ladder oh (before I break it), but I think I will be able to do a bit more heavy lifting this year.
As I sat in the living room, sorting out the garlands, and sorting through Christmas lights, I got a call from my sister-in-law, Ezioma, saying she was on her way to see me. I smiled to myself. Yep, it’s around that time of year.
At exactly this time every year, roughly a month to Christmas, JJ’s older brother’s wife (my co-wife) comes to see me, for us to plan our food program for our trip to the village…who is buying and/or doing what. We have long resigned ourselves to the fact that, as long as our Mother-in-law is alive, we will remain casual bystanders in that kitchen. So instead, we opt to stock the house with foodstuff and supplies, to compensate. And so, a few weeks before the trip, Ezioma and I decide who’s doing what. To be honest, as we always end up doing the same thing every year, this visit usually ends up being a gossip session, in anticipation of our trip to the village. I love Ezioma to bits, but I hardly get to see her, as she spends most of the year in England with her kids (who are all in boarding school there). And even when she’s in the country, as she and JJ’s brother decided to live in the family house in Agbara Estate, our mutual visits are sadly few and far between.
So, about an hour after we spoke, her car drove into my compound. The minute she stepped out of her car, she had frozen to the spot in shock, the minute she saw me.
“I-h-u-n-n-a!!!” she had exclaimed “I don’t believe my eyes! Look how much weight you’ve lost!!!”
I couldn’t help the delighted squeal that escaped my lips. “Babe, close that mouth oh, before an insect flies inside!”
“Chai!!! Ihunna, this is not fair oh! How could you leave me behind like this?!”
Oh, I forgot to mention. Ezioma is also plus-sized. In fact, I think that might be one of the reasons we formed such a close bond. One too many times, we have overheard some of the villagers remarking how men in JJ’s family only love fat women…mainly because of their two orobo wives. It hasn’t mattered to them that the original wife and matriarch of the family, JJ’s Mom, is as petite as a ballerina.
“Ahn, ahn?! Aren’t you the one always singing about how you love your body? How you love being ‘big and beautiful’?” I had teased. Ezioma was always one to tease me anytime I felt sad about my weight, and never failed to try to get me to enjoy the skin I was in. Whilst I wore boring bou-bous and tunics all holiday long, to hide my flabs, my dear sister-in-law, who was even heavier than me, would squeeze herself into whatever crazy style of Ankara her tailor had designed for her. She actually made being plus sized seem fun.
But from the way she was ogling me, I guess it wasn’t fun after all.
Even when we were seated in my living room, it was all she could talk about…my weight loss.
“Ezi, I’m not even near my target oh. I still have a long way to go.”
“But you’ve lost at least 15kg, from the look of things!”
“Almost 20kg, actually” I had corrected with a sly smile.
“Ihunna, you have to show me the way.” Ezioma had pleaded. “Forget all my bravado! This weight don taya me! My doctor has ordered me to lose at least 40kg, if I want to live long enough to enjoy my children.”
Wow. Now, that’s reason enough!
So, I had shared with her my original meal plan from Dr. Nkechi, with the promise to send her as many healthy recipes as I could find. As for exercise, she said she would get her husband to buy her the equipment she needs, so that she could convert one of their spare rooms to a mini-gym. But, of course!
As she left, she asked if I would still be baking a cake for Christmas, as I usually do, considering my new weight loss mission. It’s actually something that’s been on my mind for a while, and I recently found the perfect solution…a recipe for a great fruit cake I can try. So I assured her I would most definitely still keep up with the holiday tradition this year.
I will be making a Tuscan Panforte this year, a sweet spice and nut cake, using such ingredients as blanched, toasted nuts, almonds and hazelnuts, candied citrus peel (which I will make myself, from good ol’ orange peel), chestnuts (chopped), mixed dried fruit (like dates, plums and figs), cinnamon, coriander, grated nutmeg, white pepper, honey, and of course flour and sugar.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!