September 18, 2014 by Kambili M.A. Chimalu
My younger brother (our last born) reached the age of majority today, so he is old enough to be considered an adult — at least in the eyes of the law.
The thing is, I don’t see an adult. I see my younger brother who I used to give piggyback rides to school and back.
I remember when he was born. We were already four — two boys and two girls (in that order), so we were taking bets to see which gender would be put in the majority. In those days, women wanted the sex of their babies to be a surprise, so there was no scan to determine his gender. As we waited for his arrival, we took bets and argued about what sex he would turn out to be.
I swore up and down that he would be a girl. My brothers scoffed at me and arrogantly proclaimed that he would be a boy.
On the day he was born, my mother picked up her bag, said she was going to the hospital, and admonished us not to tell anyone where she was going. It did not cross my mind that he was ready to arrive because my mother went to the hospital regularly for ante-natal check-ups, so there was nothing unusual about her going to the hospital that day. A little while later, my playtime was interrupted with news that my baby brother had arrived.
I was mad that my brothers had won the bet. The boys had become the majority.
When he came home, I watched his tiny body. I was frightened by the sight of blood from his circumcised penis.
“What happened to him?” I shrieked.
“He is alright.” My mother calmly told me. “The doctor took care of him.”
As he grew older and started nursery school, my younger sister and I were tasked with taking him to school and bringing him back. My younger brother did not like to walk, so we would give him piggyback rides to school. I would take him to school and my sister would bring him back, but a little while later, we switched. That was when I almost lost him.
One day, I was so engrossed in playing with the other kids that I forgot to pick him up.
“Where is he?” My younger sister asked.
“Chineke mei! Chineke mei!” was all I screamed as I ran faster than I had ever run in my entire life to go pick him up. Even Usain Bolt couldn’t have matched my speed.
When I reached the school, everywhere was empty. His class? Empty. The playground? Empty. Other classes? Empty. The back of the school? Empty.
My life flashed before my eyes as I visualized how my mother was going to chop me to bits – slowly. I cried all the way home, hoping that he somehow managed to find his way home.
“He is not home yet. Mom is going to kill you” was my sister’s greeting as I sobbed out an explanation.
As my sobs turned to wails of anguish, my siblings immediately brought him out from where they had been hiding him.
An older child, a couple of streets away from us, had brought him home. I was ecstatic. When my emotions had calmed, I wanted to know how my brother made it home.
“Did he give you a piggyback ride from your school all the way home?” I asked.
“No” He said. “I walked.”
What? My brother could walk? Who knew. This averted tragedy turned into a moment of secret joy for me because I resolved that my brother would utilize his “Leg-edez Benz” from then onwards.
Anytime I went to pick him up from school, he would reach for my back, but I always smiled innocently at him and employed my new method of trickery:
“Brother dear, my back is hurting me and I am in so much pain that I cannot back you today, but if you walk to that three-storey building over there, I will carry you the rest of the way home.”
We would get to the three-storey building and he would reach for my back again.
“Brother, you see that orange tree over there. It is not that far. If you can make it there, I will carry you the rest of the way home.”
We would repeat this pattern until he had finally had enough and burst into tears. At that time, I would gladly carry him as the journey was almost over.
Even then, I still did not make the ride easy. I would tilt my head backwards and bump it into his. He would whine, ask me to stop, and retaliate by bumping his head against mine.
There was no stopping me. I guess I finally made riding on my back so uncomfortable that my little brother decided that he would rather use his “Legedez Benz” than suffer through a bumpy ride on my back.
As I reflect on his younger days, I am made aware of the kind of man I want him to be.
I want him to be happy.
I want him to respect women.
I want him to respect men, children, different opinions, and the world in general.
I want him to transcend the expectations our society has for men and women.
I want him to ignore society’s rigid definition of gender roles.
But above all, I want him to be human.
Happy birthday baby brother.