The Beaded Necklace.

Koku received the last-minute phone invitation from one of her sisters. She had a lot of them, sisters, because her parents made children together and made children with other partners before and after their marriage. They gave her many sisters and a few brothers. And because she was tired of explaining the abundance of siblings in her life stories and how they connected, she opted to call them simply sisters or brothers, not half-siblings. She only met most of them in her adulthood and went through the usual stages of searching for common ground after the initial introduction. She had more connection to some than others, and she figured that was normal sibling dynamics.

The phone call was from one of the sisters closest to her, Side, inviting her to a wedding. The wedding of her niece Fifi, who was a good two years older than her. Fifi’s mother, Jula, being the eldest of all the sisters and way older than Side who had called.

“There are just so many sisters!” she thought to herself.

There was an entangled rope of siblings and relations, she was right in the deep of it. So many different people, each intertwined to the other, through the other, with different dilutes of the same blood. Old, new and renewed relations. She had to relate to them all, in so many different levels… just thinking of it heated her brain.

Still she sat there after the phone call and wondered why and how to attend the wedding. She had clear instruction to not show up in her preferred trousers which meant looking for a fussy dress.

What was the reason for her to attend? Well, she did like Fifi, her niece, who she had bonded with when they shared a room for a few nights during a family visit. She wondered if marriage was a first choice for Fifi. They were only two years apart and she, Koku herself, was still trying to complete her degree. How does one attend a niece’s wedding as a single aunt in her twenties even though her niece is slightly older than her? Why didn’t the bride’s mother or the bride herself send an invitation?

As she sat doubting and questioning, her grandmother’s voice echoed in her memory;

“…because this is our family, no matter how unconventional, scattered or strange it is…”

She rolled her eyes at the mental picture of her grandmother, went out to rent a sparkly fussy dress, bought a glittering present, packed her bag, grabbed her passport and squeezed her student budget into a bus ticket to another country. 

The wedding was a fussy, blown up affair that included the extended family members, their friends and friends of their friends. Plus, it happened in the church, so all the church members and church friends were there too. It was a principle in the family that same gender relatives were closer in relation. For instance, her being female meant the daughter of her sister is her daughter. Her mother’s sister is not an aunt but rather a second mother, making her children brothers and sisters and not cousins. That distinction therefore identified her as the mother of the bride, and she found herself right at the front of the church next to her sisters Jula and Side. Three mothers to the bride!

The bride walked in, a vision of lace and sash. Looking beautiful and somehow lost in all the makeup and frills. Koku watched her niece, or daughter if you may, walk up to the isle and take her vows holding on to her soon to be husband’s hand. In a shaking voice, Fifi recited her vows. Then her voice cracked as she sobbed through her words. Something pulled on Koku’s chest at that instant, something so deep and natural. A hand reached from across and offered her a tissue making her realize that she was crying, she took it and turned to find her two sisters also crying into their tissues. Their eyes met in a trio of tearful eyes and she finally understood…

She will later wonder what made Fifi sob through her vows. She wondered if it was out of fear of the new and unknown journey. It could have been a love, uncertainty or the typical emotions shown by brides on their wedding days. It could have been anything! No one knows for sure… but Koku was so sure of the chest-pull that had shocked her. Her sister was also so sure that she would be in tears that she had passed the tissue without having to look or confirm. At that moment they had all been sure of something that connected them deep down. She could picture all the scattered members of her family sitting there on that day and they all would have felt it. Especially her grandmother, who would have been on the front row in her favorite kitenge outfit and beaded necklace… oh! she understood then, her family was never a tangled web of threads… it was just like a beaded necklace.