It was purposely a family reunion but for the first time ever as a video chat. It seemed to be the only way to continue the annual, 'Display your food' family holiday tradition. A family tradition that was practised very well in the days of my great-grandfather, Mr Daniels himself, but not any more. Obviously, I was going to display fufu and groundnut soup. A local delicacy in Ghana that mum thought me to prepare several years ago when I was a kid.
Travelling to Venezuela and many other delightful experiences didn't make me forget the preparation of that special food. It was Dad's favourite until he passed on. It was one thing to visit Ghana every year during August. It was summer and the only time for us to come together as a family. It was the Daniels family holiday. No planes transiting from Venezuela to Ghana due to the virus. Part of me wanted to be in Ghana to see my mother but the other part wanted to stay in Venezuela to avoid the clashes that always occurred during such family occasions. I wondered if it could even occur online. Ties that bind, mum usually said but was this one.
I switched on my PC at exactly 1 o'clock. The video chat was at two in the afternoon but I wanted to be there earlier. The IT guru, Jenny Lamptey, my sister-in-law, was in charge of our coming together virtually. The video chat was actually in the hands of my grandfather, Akwesi. The login code had been boasted several times by Jenny on our WhatsApp platform that I'd grown to know it off-head throughout these few weeks. When I logged in, she was already there. Seated like a statue in her butterfly glasses and blue blouse. She had cropped her hair as low as mine with earrings the size of my fist.
''Hello Davis,'' she called out loud. She was the only person on so far.
''Hey, Jenny. How's Morris?'' I asked about my nephew. My brother was obviously working online by now and I knew he'd eventually join later.
''Morris is fine. He's with David. They're preparing the family dish.'' Now that was weird. David was not the kitchen type. Maybe being a father had changed him a bit. He was my twin and I knew him just as much as I knew myself. David and Davis. The brother who was twenty minutes older than me. He literally didn't want me to come but I was determined to come into this world.
''David in the kitchen!'' I smiled. Jenny’s looks verified that she could tell how surprised I was. Just then another face popped up. It was Yasmine Cudjoe. A no-go zone. Jenny’s face turned brick red as she tried to force a smile. Last year the exchange of words between David and Yasmine was quite hot. Yasmine insulted Jenny for not being able to give birth after the birth of Morris five year’s ago and David didn’t take it lightly at all. When I saw that smile on his face as he walked towards Yasmine, I knew there was trouble. He was reflecting my emotions and I knew what that face meant. Yasmine was my cousin. The second daughter of Uncle Akwaboah. My father’s younger brother.
‘’Hello Jenny.’’ she began with that smile that expressed more than she meant. She had this side-cropped hair and the other side dyed white. Her black and white crop top revealed her navel. Type of clothing that wasn’t right for a mother of three but then I remembered that she’s still single.
‘’Hello. Excuse me.’’ Jenny replied sharply and turned off the camera. She muted the microphone as well. That was the best option for her but the worst for me.
‘’Is that you, Davis,’’ she looked at me drawing the camera closer, ‘’Your room in Venezuela is as cheap as any room here in Ghana. Are the people there poor?’’
Just then five more family members joined giving me a reasonable amount of time to get my camera off and also go mute. Everyone would want to say hello but it wasn’t just anyone I wanted to reply to especially Yasmine who had already started to criticise my room.
I was one of the few members of the family that lived outside the country for work. I wasn’t planning to move to Ghana permanently either. If there was one thing I had learnt, it was the fact that life never gets easier but instead, we get stronger. I knew there were more critics than praises in our family. I needed to look better and also move out of bed.
I changed into my pink designer clothing from Ghana. I wore that for David’s wedding. He decided to try on the pink wave for his wedding and it was awesome. We were the men-in-pink association. When I returned, about fifty family members had already joined and it was ten minutes to time. I could hear the ‘hellos’ and the ‘how are you’ coming in from every direction. They were starting to bore me already.
The familiar voices and faces and the new ones as well. David and Jenny were sitting in the garden and Morris could be seen playing his football from behind them. Very soon Grandpa Akwesi joined wearing his kente. Sitting by him was that face I’ve known since my infancy. It was my mother as fashionable as always. Her natural cared-for hair was in a ponytail. Her dark lips portrayed a light shade of pink lip-gloss. Her white straight dress was of pure quality not to speak of the deep blue petite-coat she had on. She always looked ten years younger and I was waiting for that day I’d find a woman just like her. Caring and comforting as well.
‘’Please mute your microphones, the event is about to begin.’’ I read out Jenny’s text loud enough. They were already mute and I just had to turn the camera on.
I felt so bad for making such a decision. No one muted their microphones but instead, about twenty people spoke at once.
‘’It’s Davis.’’ I heard croaked voices collide over the video chat session. Jenny had to mute everyone herself and I sat maintaining an unbalanced smile.
‘’Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, descendants of the Daniels family. Today in history marks our annual ‘Display your food’ family holiday tradition and due to the pandemic, some elders of the family and I concluded to have this family tradition virtual this time around. My name…’’
‘’We know your name. There are better statements you can make than to tell us your name.’’ his very own brother, Drake interrupted. This interruption came earlier than expected and eventually the insults followed.
‘’Thanks, Drake but I function better…’’ my mother held unto her father’s arms and he stopped. These half-brothers surely never got along well. The name Daniels was given to them by their father who was white. A Canadian to be precise. Grandpa Akwesi usually said that both David and I took after him. Before then, the tradition had already begun. The white couple came together to have Drake and Akwesi was the result of Mr Daniels and a Ghanaian lady.
‘’Uncle D. There’s a long journey ahead of us. I don’t think we’ll like to keep others waiting.’’ my mum interrupted with her usual smile.
‘’As I was saying before being interrupted for no reason…’’
‘’Hey! Would you stop with that already? My father interrupted you for a good reason.’’
‘’We didn’t need to hear your local name once again.’’ the viper, Meghan Daniels Pinion, continued fearlessly. The blond woman in the brown ugly looking glasses. She looked stricter than the usual in her fur-brown office suit. Sitting next to her was the silent Madagascan pot-bellied man she had for a husband. He looked as if he had sworn never to speak a word when his wife was on the floor.
‘’Local? A rural idiot speaking of local.’’ Yasmine said under her breath to everyone’s hearing.
‘’Hey yourself. Don’t you dare say anything against my daughter?’’ Uncle Akwaboah bulged in.
‘’Can this continue peacefully,’’ David said pleadingly. The tension could be felt but everyone was quiet waiting for that last straw that would break the camel’s back.
Jenny sent another text. ‘’The opening prayer is going to be given by Mrs Khady Cudjoe Boadi.’’ now I knew no one could spark an argument after Khady’s prayer. She was the daughter of Uncle Akwaboah and also Yasmine’s younger sister. She studied and had a scholarship in Russia. Her mother’s originating country. She returned to her father in success as she helped to extend his business and six months ago, she got married to Belarus Boadi. A well-known professor.
My thoughts suddenly came to a halt after ‘Amen’ was said in unison as if planned.
‘’That was an uplifting prayer from my dear Khady.’’ Grandpa Akwesi said and Khady nodded her head respectfully. She was surely the only angel from my father’s side and I could say that with fact.
‘’If we were together, there would be many games before the main event itself but unfortunately, the elder ones aren’t interested in playing virtual games.’’ Akwesi grinned.
‘’What were you expecting, that we’d all dress up ‘My Talking Angela’ and find out who made the trendiest combination.’’ I laughed lightly at Sara Pinion’s comment. She was that free-spirited daughter of Meghan. The opposite of her mother but there were some traits she couldn’t leave behind like her mother’s arrogance. Twenty-one, lying in bed in her apartment at Kyrgyzstan with an Asian man hovering to and fro behind her with a towel around his waist.
‘’Or maybe we’ll make a contest to find out the number of women who have slept with Asian dudes before.’’ Jennifer Lopez, Aunt Jejune’s daughter said. Jennifer and Sara were haters of each other but born on the same day by cousins. Two family members the same age that ended up dating the same guy by coincidence. Up to date, the issue hasn’t been settled even though the man is now married.
‘’Instead, we should find the lady who has been used and dumped by several men.’’ Sara sat upright tightening the piece of cloth around her.
‘’No instead let’s find out the only woman in this family who has slept with a man from each continent and very soon all the countries in the world!’’ Sara ratted something out in Chinese sharply. Obviously an insult. Jennifer insulted in Twi which I understood perfectly.
‘’I don’t have time to listen to your insults, you used…’’
‘’That’s my daughter!’’ Jejune screamed.
‘’And that’s mine too!’’ Meghan continued.
‘’I don’t have time to quarrel with a woman who forces her husband to be shut all day…’’
‘’Do you even have one?’’ Meghan asked immediately. Jejune laughed.
‘’I’ll prefer to be alone than to have a slave for a husband,’’ Jejune screamed.
‘’That’s my father, you bitch!’’ Sara screamed on top of her voice to Aunt Jejune. Bitch didn’t seem like the appropriate word. It surely was going to spark something. The next scream surely echoed in my head.
‘’How dare you refer to my daughter as a bitch. You twenty-first-century prostitute.’’ Grandpa Akwesi screamed too.
‘’I’m not going to spare you, A. She’s my granddaughter.’’ Drake said. I laughed inwardly at how everyone defended their family members. Something the Daniels did with passion.
‘’And let the insults begin!’’ Yasmine screamed out loud to my amusement and indeed the insults began. Drake and his family members insulting Akwesi and his members. I was quiet just listening to family members joining their heads together. The loudest voice was that of the Vipers.
‘’And as for you, the silent woman that killed her husband pretending to be the best. We’ll come for you very soon.’’ Meghan screamed out loud. I wouldn’t have reacted if I didn’t know who she was referring to. Everyone suddenly went quiet. It was one thing to insult anyone who came her way but it was another for her to insult a responsible woman who had done nothing but to sit silently and look at their foolish antics.
‘’Hey, you!’’ David began. He laughed and I laughed as well. Meghan didn’t seem to quit.
‘’You stone-headed woman insulting a wonderful woman I call mother. The next time you try to insult my mother, use all your left-over make-up to hide that brick you have for a face.’’ to me it seemed as if everyone had muted their microphones but their looks were petrified. No one had ever dared insult the viper that way but David was ready for anything.
‘’How dare you?” she questioned.
‘’How dare yourself.’’
‘’Didn’t Alicia kill her husband. She killed him after having twins with him. You silly twins. Listen to you, you tried to kill your younger brother at birth.’’ a tear dropped down my mother’s eyes and so did mine.
‘’A stone that married a pot and gave birth to a bitch.’’
‘’At least we are a full family unlike yours.’’
''Stop! Meghan Daniels Pinion. For once in your life, shut up during this family time. What did my mother say against you? All you do whenever you open that mouth of yours is to create confusion. We're here to perform our annual tradition as a family. If you're here and you think that you can't be online without insulting a soul, then it's time for you to leave this video chat,'' I paused. Meghan looked stupid and I couldn't help but maintain a thin-lipped smile.
Her insult to my mum came back to mind, ‘’I can see there is none. For that reason, this annual family ‘Display your food’ tradition continues in peace and harmony. It starts with my display.’’ I walked briskly to the kitchen and showed everyone my fufu and groundnut soup.
No one could comment and I liked that fact. I had a twin who supported me for the first time. He displayed his food next beaming with smiles. After five people had displayed their food, my words had sunk deep into everyone’s head. For sure there was not going to be any online conflict or anything of that sort if we met in person. Meghan was still seated the same way I last saw her. That Aunt of mine was the least of my concerns. It was the first ‘Display your Food’ family holiday tradition to have ended earlier and the first that didn’t end with a fight as always.