The group my mother joined called themselves ‘The Salvation of The Seven-Towns-Bound-By-One-Blood.’
I’m not sure I knew what it was they were salvaging; my mother said they weren’t salvagers but savers. Either way, it made no sense to me. What exactly did they want to save or salvage of the Seven Towns? What I did know and was sure of was that I hated that group. I hated all the times my mother dragged me to their many meetings where people were constantly putting hands on my head, mumbling or in some cases, shouting incomprehensible chants. When they weren’t shouting on people’s heads, they were going around the Seven Towns, beating their metal drums fashioned out of metal discarded by ọku, the head metal worker, ( they claimed wooden drums were of the devil) denouncing everything and anything.
If you wore beads in your hair, it was of the devil.
If you wore them on your waist, it was of the devil.
If you painted designs on your skin with uli, it was of the devil.
All the rituals and preparations preceding the Week of the Remembrance were of the devil. Every established precept and principle of the Seven Towns were of the devil; even the name – Seven-Towns-Bound-By-One-Blood – was of the devil!
“Who is this devil, they speak of, Nnem, and why is everything of him?” I inquired of my mother on one of the mornings when she was getting us ready to go to one of their many dreaded meetings.
My mother muttered something under her breath that sounded like ‘etish’ and ‘delvish’.
I didn’t ask again.
Not because her face had closed up tight like my father’s fist when he gets angry but because I didn’t really care to know, if my own mother wasn’t willing to tell me.
From the day my mother joined that group till my seventh year, I wasn’t allowed to go out unaccompanied. Even when I wanted to go out and play with Udoka, Afam and my fellow age-graders, my mother will insist that Ekejiuba, the errand boy accompany me.
“Uwam, leave this child alone to run free like her mates; nothing will happen to her.”
My mother pursed her lips at my father’s admonishings and made no reply. She never made any reply when it came to the issue of my ‘safety’. What she was afraid of, only she knew. As for harm befalling children, in any of the Seven Towns, it was almost unheard of. Falls from trees, scraped knees and elbows, soldier ant bites and bee stings? Yes, but harm from another human? Very, very, rare.