© Folakemi Emem-Akpan
After four boys, I was tired, fed-up, sick of maleness. It screamed at me from every corner of our home; toy trucks, smelly boots, and discarded car projects. All of me ached for a baby with long dark hair, curly eyelashes, and pink gowns.
She was a surprise.
The scan prepared our minds for another boy, and we carefully chose his name: Nathan. As usual, I bought blue clothes and didn’t bother to read any baby books. I had done this four times, and was fed up with the sameness of it all.
“It’s a baby girl.” The midwife told me when I pushed her into the world, and as the new baby wailed in the background. When she put the little baby in my arms, my eyes filled up with uncontrollable tears.
Her cry was sort of like why did you disturb my beauty sleep? And I had not heard anything ever so beautiful in my life. I counted her toes and fingers carefully, checked her genitals again when we were alone (to be sure), and finally gave in to the tears.
My husband couldn’t help smiling, and when my mum came in that afternoon, her face was dressed in a huge smile. For the past eleven years, she’d nurtured the dreams of a little granddaughter with pigtails helping her with the dinner, or breakfast…or anything.
I shushed her before she could make a sound. “She’s sleeping.”
Gazing in wonder at the baby, my mother asked me a question to which I didn’t have an immediate answer. “What would you name her?”
“Nathan.” The name was out of my mouth before I could think about it, and then we dissolved into laughter and woke the baby. Her cry of indignation sounded like music to my ears.
“Melody.” I finally said, for her voice stirred something deep in my heart, struck a chord that hadn’t ever been struck before then, left me breathless with hope.
“We’ll call her Melody. William won’t have a problem with that.”
And so Melody came into our lives.
From the very first day, she was different. I wanted to attribute it to her being female but the truth is that she was just different. After crying vigorously (which she did often), only music could calm her down. I must have learned a hundred new songs in the first month of her life, and I sang and sang and sang until I was out of breath.
As she grew older, she didn’t enjoy playing rough with her brothers, but would be all smiles when they approached her with their mouth organs (which they were quite proficient at).
“You know, Melody is not a bad name at all.” William observed one night after we had exhausted ourselves playing pretend band with her.
William closed his eyes, opened them, then stared straight at me. It was time for some deep talk, I could tell, and I wasn’t disappointed.
“God has a purpose for her, you know?”
“Of course, William. I have ever doubted that.”
“A purpose for you naming her Melody.”
“I know that now.”
She laughed through her toddler years, grumbled through her adolescent years, sped through her teenage, and finally settled into her comfortable twenties. We changed houses several times. We gained and lost friends.
Our lives took a different direction from what we had planned when one of Melody’s brothers succumbed to cancer and passed on. But through it all, music stayed with us.
With Melody leading the way and enveloping us with the sweet fragrance of worship songs when we were downcast, reggae when we felt funky, and R&B no matter the season or mood, we made it through. Somehow, we never gave in to hopelessness.
Today, Melody runs an orphanage and sings to keep the troublesome children calm. And her husband says that when she sings, he catches a glimpse of heaven.