“We came to you 2 weeks ago to inform you of a beautiful flower our son had seen in your garden, that we wanted to take away. Indeed, we wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t agreed, but we just want to be sure, and confirm that you are not imposing this choice on her. So we pose this question to our beautiful flower. Will you take our son to be your husband?”
All eyes in the room turned to look at me, waiting for a response to the question. Some were annoyed at the question. Why invite us for a marriage ceremony if she had not accepted to get married in the first place? My eyes darted around the room, which was filled with family members and close friends. Everyone was present, from my Grandma Attaa whose age I could not make a reference to, as no one knew the exact date on which she was born, to 2-year-old cousin Akos, whose continuous stay in the village meant that she could possibly end up as the third wife of an old chief. Where were all these family members when I was signing the certificate for my first marriage? The elaborate one which took place in a church. The one which lasted less than six months. I chuckled to myself as I thought of my first marriage and how it collapsed. Well, that was an old chapter of my life which had ended. Today was a new day and I had been given the chance to have a fresh start, with the right processes followed as custom demanded.
I felt beads of sweat form on my forehead as I sensed a thousand eyes bore into my skull, searching for my brain, in an attempt to read what my answer would be. Some of those eyes were begging me to answer quickly so we could move on to the festivities. I began to wonder if there was enough wine for everyone present. The pace of my heartbeat quickened, till my eyes landed on Uncle Kwesi. Not that he was the Jesus of our time, to turn water into wine in case we run out of stock. No, his polygamous life proved otherwise, with his three wives that were so characteristic of Ghanaian marriages. However, his presence here signified that his stock of palm wine in the village had diminished by 15 gourds. That would certainly be enough for everyone in the room. I closed my eyes and hoped that my husband to be would not marry any other woman beside me. No, that was not possible. Extensive investigations had been made into his family background. He did not have any incurable or contagious diseases, criminal background or violent behavior. Most importantly, there was no history of polygamous marriages in his family.
I could not believe I overlooked background investigations in my first marriage. That proved to be my undoing. How could I have forgotten the story my grandmother told me when I was young. It was a story that had been passed on from generation to generation. I was lucky to have lived in the village in my formative years and had ‘by the fireside’ moments. As my eyes continued its journey around the room, searching for familiar faces, that evening came to mind. I remembered like it was just yesterday, with my cousins and siblings, half naked around the fire that crackled rhythmically in the moonlight.
My grandmother could spin the most beautiful stories and this is how the story went. “In the small village of Ketewose, lived a good and wise chief called Ananse.” This start caught everyone’s attention because Ananse was known to be a trickster who was disliked by most people. We all turned to look at each other wondering which form today’s story was going to take. Well, except my younger brother Annan, who had dozed off. I nudged him in the side, prompting him to wake up before he met the wrath of our grandmother who did not like it when we slept during story time. This action proved costly as I missed the mosquito which was buzzing in my ears. I ended up slapping myself which earned me a stern look from Grandma Attaa, which had ‘you are warned’ written all over it. I hang my head in shame as I listened to the rest of the story.
“This story is not completely about Ananse, but about the marriage of his daughter, Anansewa. Anansewa was a very beautiful girl who had many suitors from her village. However, she rejected them all, claiming that no one in the village was deserving of the beauty she possessed. One day, a very handsome man came to the village, seeking her hand in marriage. Nothing was known about this complete stranger, but amazingly he was able to sweep Anansewa off her feet and convinced her to marry him. Kweku Ananse was very skeptical about this, but Anansewa had made up her mind and her decision was final. The ceremony that signified this union lasted seven days and seven nights. After all the festivities, Anansewa packed her belongings and moved with her husband to her new home. Unknown to them, Ananse asked his son, Ntikuma, to follow them, and keep an eye on his sister.
After a week’s journey, they finally got to their destination. Out of the blue, this handsome young man turned into a lion. He had heard of how proud Anansewa was and how she turned away all her suitors and so wanted to teach her a lesson. At this point, there was nothing Anansewa could do. She tried running away, but could not outrun the king of the jungle. The lion pounced on her and devoured her whole. Ntikuma looked on sadly, but could do nothing to save his sister. He returned to the village in tears to tell the story to the village folk who were greatly shaken by what had befallen Ananse’s beautiful daughter. The great King Ananse grieved for months, and out of his sadness, he passed a decree that before anyone in the village got married, an extensive background check would have to be done by both families, lest any of his subjects had to endure what his daughter suffered.”
I looked directly at my father now. I knew he was praying that I would not blow the opportunity of a second shot at marriage. It was rare for a woman who had already been married once to get married again. “Yes, I accept him”. This was met with rapturous cheers and applause from all present. They knew what this signified. An invitation to be present at a naming ceremony a year or so from now. Who could blame them?
By Ayeley Commodore-Mensah. #360WritersChallenge Participant