1988 , “Ulo Nna” on Hospital Road, Aba, (old) Imo State was notorious for nostalgia and action .
Amidst all that trading action in Aba, sat our family (city) home.
There was never a dull moment on those streets of this bustling traders’ town in the eastern region of Nigeria.
Aba’s warm tropical breeze was stifled with the fumes from the engine exhausts of automobiles crowding the roads of this commercial city’s hustle and bustles.
Aba Ngwa! Is NOT a city for “mugus”(fools)
You have to be very “sharp” to inhabit this land and the children of Aba seem to be packed full of street smarts, straight from their mothers’ wombs.
My grandfather “Nna” was one of the first settlers from our village into Aba township, therefore he had choice property in the heart of the city’s trading posts- on Hospital road.
The house had been passed down to our father from our paternal grandfather Stephen , who moved from the rural village to this trading town Aba ,after becoming one of the first converts to Christianity , in order to pursue and expand his business.
The property on Hospital was really a “watering hole” for our family and so many others. The fronts of the yard were trading stores while the back of the building served as residence for our family and numerous relatives. There were several apartments but all shared a common “ yard” so everyone could easily be in everyone else’ business 😂
Relatives and family friends lived there until they were able to transition successfully to their own homes.
Hospital road had a buzz to it, with trading shops cramped next to eachother. There was always music blaring from record stores, cars honking in traffic and loud jocular conversations amongst traders.
Everyone seemed to always be in huge hurry in this West African town.
The businesses were housed in “ sheds” which comprised of wooden stalls with brilliant artisans making incredible innovative goods for sale , automotive parts traders, import and export sheds, talented tailors creating traditional clothing while others were expert “okirika” traders **
There were always SO many varieties at the markets! A day spent at the local Ariaria market never disappointed, showcasing human interactions depicting life lessons in courage, resilience,humor , love and rivalry.
My Older brother would entertain for hours with these Ariaria market stories.
Most Aba roads were heavily crowded and there was a distinct smell of commercialism or maybe it was just those fumes from the over used , poorly constructed and maintained gutter drainage systems…eww!
Traders lined every street corners, forcefully hassling passersby to purchase this or that from them . Everywhere you looked some one was selling something!
Only very few areas in Aba attempted to prioritize residential plots. We felt lucky to have cousins in those suburbs. The irony is that we each likely fantasized about trading living spaces with one another, at times. The quiet of the suburbs with its’ loneliness and less mosquitoes, competed against the excitement of those crowded trading streets of Aba.
Living in these commercialized areas meant close interactions with loud mouthed traders. It was not unusual for traders to audaciously comment on outfit choices of passersby, at times cat calling the pretty women or detesting others inappropriately dressed asking them ,who exactly allowed them out of their gates that morning .
Some of these unsolicited comments were harsh and could cut deep into ones self esteem, while others were so complimentary that your ego swelled bigger than an ishi aki**
My sister and I are seven and nine year olds with neatly braided tight cornrows on our hair. Our younger brother, a boisterous five year old who was obsessed with the newest Mike Tyson haircut style would beg our mother to allow him to get same at the barber shop.
Our father had a never exhausting fountain of energy and fun stored within him. Dad always found a way to literally infuse FUN into even the most mundane activities. It was no surprise that he would offer us a JOYRIDE in his old red fiat convertible which we all fondly called “ THE SPORTS CAR” .
Sports car was only driven on special occasions.
We especially enjoyed the ride when we were all piled high ,rooftop down, standing room only , as many cousins and siblings as could possibly pack into the small convertible.
Then it was showtime….let the fun and joyous screams commence!
We took the joyrides at dusk when the blazing warmth of the sun was gone , and took with it all those loud mouthed traders whose shops were now closed for the day’s hustle. The crowded streets became empty and creepily quiet.
Dad would thrill us with the car ride revving up his engine every once in a while, our hair tossing in the wind, specs of sand from the tarred road peppered our laughing faces as we held onto for our dear sweet life.
On some occasions, Dad gave permission for our driver DeePee to ride us around. Dee Pee drove EVEN faster😅
Life seemed so carefree back then as if it contained no real problems.
Now as I reminisce on these sweet carefree memories, I am forced to appreciate the imminent passage of time.
I am grateful to have had joyrides in the red sports car, for that patriarchal home on hospital road with its hustling neighborhood that help toughen my skin and has in turn made me more resilient.
However, you know what I’m MOST appreciative of ?…..my FAMILY – close and distant relatives whose lives have enriched my life and have contributed tremendously to these BELOVED memories 💕
Which sweet memories of your childhood do you have to share?
As always, thank you for reading my blog and of course I welcome your comments and any shared experiences .
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** okirika ( used clothing mostly from European countries for sale)
**ishi aki ( a large African fruit)