I have tried varied ways; stern tone, joking tone, cajoling tone, displeased tone, lengthy explanations, everything but a can-can routine to explain to my girls that I hate being pressured to spend money. I like to be informed when things are running out, not when they are gone. I hate being told ‘Maman, there’s no fish’ ‘Maman, the boys don’t have any milk’ I really, truly hate that. I believe strongly, and have shared this belief with them, that only two professions afford a person the luxury of such an uncharted life and random spending; drug dealing and thievery. I have assured them also that they will be the first to know when I take up either trade. I will however insist that they ply it with me.
Still absolutely nothing got through. Week after week I would have my cheery mood dashed or a testy one aggravated by one or other of them, small voiced and sheepish-looking, telling me that there was no gas, no pork, no onion, no formula. It is never things you can do without till tomorrow either, like say oats or vinegar. No, it is always immediately pressing. It also always requires me slotting in a route I had not intended to use. No matter which way I was going, they manage to find something I buy in the opposite direction to demand. I buy diapers at the Mall and formula in Mammobi. If I were headed for instance to Legon, it could never be diapers that are we are in sore need of, it would have to be formula. Lord but it annoys me! I asked them once in the most patient of voices, ‘do your eyes roll upwards as you mix milk?’ ‘no Maman’ said Christina. ‘No Maman’ said Veronica. ‘So how is it’, I asked, ‘that you always seem surprised to be scraping the bottom of the tin?” I got a lot of foolish giggles but not a single coherent answer.
My life might have rolled along down this irksome path indefinitely had I not found a splendid cure. One morning as I was approached with yet another outstretched ‘we’ve ran out’ palm, I announced that it was the last time I was picking the tab on their irresponsibility. Thenceforth we would plan our every purchase; either with my money or theirs. If they told me something was going short, we had planned with my money; I would pay. If they let empty cans hit the bin before I was told, we had planned with their money; they would pay.
Not two weeks later I’m sitting behind my PC, enjoying the voyeuristic pleasures of Facebook, when Christina comes up to me. She bears the glad tidings that Vini has run out of milk. ‘Well then’, I say, ‘we must buy some and since you tell me after its finished and before my admission that I have indeed set up my own little cocaine academy ore become Mansa the Dread Highway Robber, you must have had this on your budget.’ I made each of them cough up GHc7.50 and we bought the milk. I then thanked them profusely for feeding my son, purely to rub it in. How they sulked! They spent several days with a weight in their gait and a glower, all of which was water down my back. I was not at all daunted. When I received the next shopping list, it came with the notice ‘Maman, we’ve just opened Vini’s last tin but one.’ I smiled to myself. As we say here, otwiaala!
Some time last year I bought a set of twelve glasses. They lasted about two months. Kofi bought us a new set, also twelve. They lasted three months or something like that. One evening, looking at the last two glasses we now possessed I grumbled crossly about wastage, and a conspiracy to embarrass me when I have guests. It was my fault, Kofi told me, because there was no punishment for such carelessness. Why exert yourself to avoid it when all you need do is utter an apology afterwards. It needn’t even be sincere. I saw his point.
We had read about Bisphenol A leaching into warm milk from plastic bottles and had promptly switched Dovie to glass. In the pre-Vini preparations, Kofi had had to buy some more since the girls had not left unshattered even one for Dovie to pass down. ‘They cost 4 cedis each’ I told the girls, ‘you break it you bought it.’ That first month they broke three. When I paid them I presented their bills. ‘You owe me eight cedis for bottles and you owe me four.’ I didn’t deduct my due at source. I gave them their total earnings, then made them hand over my bottle money themselves. They were very amused. They thought I was just making a point until I pocketed the money and walked off. The crestfallen look on their faces was too delicious to describe and its memory even now entertains me. I heard one ask the other if I was really going to keep it. I didn’t catch the answer, I didn’t need to. Of this I am certain; smirking hasn’t been this much fun in years.
We use a set of eight I bought at the Mall currently. They are very large and I love them. Kofi has infected me with a hatred for ‘drinking out of thimbles’. The more like a cauldron a glass is, the fonder we are of it. These ones hold about a half litre each and are therefore greatly loved. A watered down coke on ice- twist of lemon if possible (it adds even more to the look than it does the flavour) - has never looked colder or more able to quench thirst, I assure you. It has been four months and I haven’t lost a single one yet. Our elders say advice does not change people, only trials do. It appears also that the only thing that dries slippery hands is bills.