A Family Portrait in Three Weddings

I did not attend my father’s wedding. Because it was a year since he had left my mother. Because he didn’t invite me. I don’t know if I would have gone.

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1965

I know my grandparents’ wedding only from pictures. One picture actually. It sits in my grandmother’s sitting room in the village in Bulindi. Everything looks Pinterestesque. The brown-brick church behind her and her new husband. The too-stiff ties. The elegant mini-dresses. Delicate handbags. There is a lot of seriousness about the whole affair and people look more caught up in the mechanics of the ceremony than the love story.

My grandparents are surrounded by people who look happy. Parents. Grandparents. Cousins. Siblings. Aunts. Uncles. Maybe clan members. Everyone is there. Framed, in the middle of my grandmother’s sitting room.

My grandmother looks stern, almost apprehensive.  It’s hard to tell whether she is not yet convinced that she is someone’s wife. Or she’s confused about it. Or she could already feel him slipping away. Now that he had his prize.

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2005

On the day of my father’s wedding, my mother’s closest friends came to be with her. When she needed some moments to herself, they kept following her to the bedroom. Cousins came in—from my father’s side of the family. We made chicken pilau. The extra hot one we all loved. The one that took hours to prepare.  We were cheerful. Loud. Anything to drown out the thoughts.

The day before he had called her. Warned her. Her pictures had been given to Security at both the church and reception. She better not try anything. He continued to threaten her even when she told him he was on loudspeaker and his kids could hear.

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2019

It’s not a surprise that my mother makes my wedding about her. Having cohabited for most of her adulthood, she’s itching. She dictates the venue. The food. The music (we refuse). Even my suit.

It’s not surprising that she decides who will come and who won’t. The right people, the right mood. I know that she’s happy for me but I want to see it written on her face. Affirmation. I want to know she’s not doing what she feels is expected of her. Playing a role. I want to catch her off-guard. To know what she’s truly thinking. Does she really not mind him?


Tim Agaba Baroraho is a writer and human rights lawyer. He is a 2018 alumnus of the Purple Hibiscus Trust Creative Writing Workshop by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In these times we live in, he is finding radical vulnerability a most crucial strategy. He’s crazy about scented candles, making contact with aliens and long walks.

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