“This is not a surprise at all this is a coup!” That was the exclamation of my Mum last Saturday, 27th March 2021. And I have a good feeling about it…want to know what transpired? Follow me.
The journey to her surprise birthday started a month ago with a phone call to my Uncle and Aunt to intimate them of the plans of I and my siblings to hold a surprise family get together for her. Her birthday was actually 23rd March which happens to be a weekday and I know neither of us her siblings would be able to make it from our different base stations.
That phone call snowballed into several phone calls and WhatsApp messages to cousins and other family members to let them in on the plan and the need to maintain silence on the matter. You are smiling right?
So got several family members to do a short video shout out for her, both home and abroad and send to me, while I got a video editor to put it all together into a short video presentation for her. Genius, right?
On her birthday itself on the 23rd, gave her a call early in the morning to pray and wish her happy birthday, and when I called later in the day, heard there were several guests in the house to celebrate with her and rejoice with her attaining that golden age. Of course, the way she wanted it, “I will just prepare a chicken stew for myself, call in my Pastor to pray and be grateful to God from the comfort of my home”. And so was it or so she thought.
My Aunt called me she was enroute Ibadan already and she had told my Mum she had a wedding in Ibadan that weekend, so she had sent her supposed luggage ahead for the wedding earlier in the week. Meanwhile my Mum had told her not to come to Ibadan due to the state of insecurity along the route she would take. So, when my mum called her, she simply told her she was in the market, whereas she was on the express heading to Ibadan.
On getting to our neighborhood, she called my Mum to send her daughter staying with her, Esther to come help her with her bags. And that’s where the story starts getting interesting. She thought my Aunt was at garage in Ijebu Ode and was expecting Esther to come meet her or meet her at the Bus terminal. My Aunt had to stress, “I am in your neighborhood down the street, just send the girl to come help me with my bags”.
I left Lagos with my Eldest Brother around 1pm and of course encountered the traffic exiting Lagos only to get into a hellish one approaching Ibadan. Someone got to Lagos 1AM because he was stucked in that traffic just by Guru Maharaja on the expressway. As God would have it, some drivers decided to remove the dividers place on the road by those re-constructing the expressing, RCC guys really lack the proactive acumen in controlling traffic on a weekend. So, as I was saying, they removed the divider right beside our vehicle…a combined effort of several drivers and we were the third car to escape that hellish traffic through that leeway on Friday.
Meanwhile, I was tracking my Aunt and younger Brother on developments and hence coordinated our movements as they were together with my Mum on a fictitious shopping by my Aunt for supposed wedding. So, I called her with a bogus tale that I was en-route Oshogbo with my Boss but got delayed in traffic and we decided to pass the night in Ibadan, so I decided to come see her and wish her happy birthday rather than staying in a Hotel. Perfect coincidence, right?
Let’s fast forward to the D-day.
I had told her the previous night I would be leaving 7am so she needs to get dressed so I could take a belated birthday picture with her along with my Aunt and cousin. 7am, as usual with her, she had taken her bath, and was seated, waiting for me. Meanwhile I went out with my Brother, to plan how the surprise would work out as friends and family were already arriving and we were waiting for the Saxophonist to arrive. 30 mins after, she was getting pretty impatient with the delay in taking the pictures and getting on the road. (I think I got that streak from her, being delayed pointlessly can really get me riled up) and gave her the line of expecting someone to deliver a package for me and I would be enroute.
7:45AM, I repositioned her car, and my Aunt informed her that it seems something was leaking in her car hence the reason I moved it. She was initially wondering, and I just sauntered in and informed her that something is leaking in her car and she needs to check it up. Up she jumps from her chair, to come out to check. And stepping out, she stepped out to the sound of a saxophonist, cake! Her surprised look.
And all of a sudden, she saw close friends in the compound and was wondering, was it coincidental or planned all along…everyone was just laughing, singing and dancing with her. She was really surprised. And people shared testimonies about her and how she had impacted them and family. Will come back to this shortly.
So, I bid her goodbye as my supposed boss was waiting for me and his driver and we need to run. Gave her a hug and a peck as I normally do when I am about to leave her after visiting her. And she bid me goodbye and safe trip. Every other person in that room knew I was coming back except her alone. Wicked right? 😉
So drove to pick my Big Bro in his Hotel. Now my big Bro doubles as my Brother and also the head of the family in my Father’s stead. So, you can see it’s really a big fish coming to surprise her. So, we drove home, she called to ask if I was enroute Oshogbo and I answered in the affirmative and chuckled to myself, what a surprise would await this young old sweet sixteen.
So, we drove in, and she was wondering who was driving in, and here was I by the door and I saw the surprised look of, “am I seeing double?” And I stepped aside and her was the big boss himself Kwame falling prostrate on the floor to greet my mum. Surprise turned to shock and to amazement all in seconds as she got on her feet to give him a hug and exclaim, “this is more than a surprise this is a coup!”
In all the videos sent by everyone and the oral testimonies giving my people there, here are the lessons that stand out for me in the whole plot:
- A large accommodating heart overlooks error. My eldest Cousin, Bro Sanya’s earliest memories of her was coming to spend holidays with us in Ibadan along with our other cousins and family members and they always feel welcome each time they came around. And almost everyone had this same story about her including her own siblings.
- A token of kindness goes a long way. I have heard testimonies, when she retired 10 years ago, shared by her subordinates that she encouraged them to save, plan their finances and build their home wherein they are all staying. Not only that, but she also has a genuine compassion about the welfare of those within her sphere, asking about their welfare, encouraging and praying for them. Mr. and Mrs. Bolaji were our neighbors turned family, Aunt Pauline Guobadia and her family, subordinate at work but turned big Sister and family and so many more in that category.
- Introduce your child to God early: Jadesola, my cousin shared a testimony of how my mum’s morning prayer admonitions shaped her relationship with God till date and this was also corroborated by her Father. (They were both in different locations when they sent in their videos), Pastor. Femi Atoki and family and so much more of the children that comes to her can testify including we her biological children.
- Be disciplined, deliberate and fair. If there is one thing, I know my mum for, she does not waver when it comes to discipline. Every child that meets her knows and everyone around her knows. She does not take lightly to shoddiness and acts of indiscipline. It riles her up. And she is always fair in her assessment and judgment of issues. I am rest assured if you report me to my Mum, or I report a person to her, she won’t act on that single piece of information, she will find a way to piece together the information and deliver a fair assessment. It endeared her to her subordinates while she was in service and also to all her adopted children and family.
- Choose friends who will stick with you through it all. I saw my Mum’s close friend that I had not seen in over 20 years. And for the first time, I saw my mother being made jest of by someone her peer and she as well. You need to see both of them ‘yabbing’ each other like secondary school kids and everyone roaring with laughter at their antics. But you know what, they connected deeply. She said something, “Your mum won’t come to my house to visit me, she would complain about her legs and driving…but I don’t mind coming, I understand her situation and she is my sister”.
- Celebrate while still alive: I am glad we were able to pull this off for her. It’s a great joy to see her flushed with happiness as she was celebrated by everyone from far and wide! Let’s celebrate our Parents while still alive and make them feel valued, not when they are dead and gone. Nothing is more pleasant at that age to see elderly parents been with pride when they see people around them, rejoicing and sharing their day with them.
There are many lessons to be learnt from her and from the surprise birthday get together we did for her. In the words of Maya Angelou,
I can keep writing on, but there must be a pause…but we would continue to celebrate her. Oh, the joy in her face and voice as she saw all of us popping in to surprise her and rejoice with her. It is not about cars, houses, money what have you, it is in the joy of having people share in your joy, show you love and recount the good things God had used you to do in their lives and family. In the words of Sophia Loren,
“Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits our Father gave us.” Sheri L Dew, 1953.