Day 11: Grumpy Old Lady

“12 Days of Christmas”: Day 11/12 – Grumpy Old Lady

Dear Diary,

December 23, 2023.

Today, I want to talk about my latest escapade – joining the cathedral choir.

I joined the choir at the cathedral, knowing fully well that I didn’t understand any word of this foreign language, but the idea sounded fun to me. Why, do I do things like these, you ask? Well, just for the sheer fun of it. I had mentioned it to Ana (an older friend), who, in turn, told her Aunt, and voila, I became a member.

The first day I joined, everyone was staring at me like I was some celestial being as I walked into the cathedral and moved straight to the altar where the choristers stood. But the gaze continued. I turned out to be quite the spectacle. So, I strutted my stuff. I couldn’t help but revel in the attention. I quickly mentally calculated my stance – Toyo, are you well-dressed? Check! Shoes? Double-check! Drop-dead gorgeous? Triple check!

But hold up, drama alert! Amidst the appreciative glances, a wild grumpy old lady appeared, monitoring me with a scornful glare. It was almost comical. So, I thought if they want a show, I’ll give them the whole darn circus! I am the lone black girl in a sea of colours, and honestly, that’s what made it all the more fabulous. A dash of diversity! Despite being off-key and deaf to the foreign lyrics, I felt the warm embrace of Christ’s spirit here. I was like, wow! y’all are so damn courageous; you don’t mind an off-tune Portuguese-deaf girl in your midst, Bravo! Or so I thought.

What marked my debut so memorable was that it was Mother’s Day in this city (seriously, how many times a year is it celebrated, again?) and I was surrounded by a sea of grey and sparkling new grey hairs; I knew I was the youngest. I only have one grey hair and I lost it in a combing frenzy.

At the end of the mass, the priest had wished everyone Mother’s Day, and Carla, who acts as my translator, had interpreted the word to me. I was so happy with the warm welcome – so I wished everyone a happy Mother’s Day (as the choir is 98% women) with a hug and kiss like we normally do here. When I got to the front of ‘Grumpy Old Lady,’ she not only shunned me but unleashed a look from the depths of hell. A rejection so profound even Satan would’ve blinked in disbelief.

But I excused her actions. It is not every day that everyone is thrilled about hugging a stranger, let alone a black girl who seemingly materialized out of thin air to join the choir.

Then on another day, I got to the cathedral on time, and I only met three choristers in the church waiting for the arrival of others plus a lot of tourists. And I had no choice but to greet the Grumpy Old Lady. I greeted her the way I would greet royalty, only to be met with the worst behaviour. She perfected her cold stare of ‘I won’t take cognizance of your presence,’ and folded her arms as she puffed her shoulders like she owned the place while turning away from me 360 degrees for every tourist to witness this disdainful performance. That’s when I declared, “Ah, Queen Mother, you didn’t tell me it was going to be like this! I don’t have anywhere else to go. I’ve come to stay. So, this is your season to be stressed.”

As the weeks passed, unable to shake off the uncomfortable encounter, I consulted my choir friend, who spilled the tea—”Grumpy Old Lady is a universal problem. She’s mean to everyone, and she only speaks to one person.” My friend halted me in my tracks as I was overthinking the issue stating emphatically that Toyo, you aren’t the problem. She told me, I had nothing to be worried about and as a matter of course, I should stop greeting her that it meant nothing. I felt somewhat relieved but I couldn’t let it slide. You can’t treat me like a non-entity and get away with it. Challenge accepted!

All my friend said, sounded to me as a go-ahead for me to do what I would have done on a normal day. So, my mission was set: make her deal with me until we all became tolerant. Strategic moves followed.

Having attended the choir for a few weeks, even if I didn’t understand the language, I knew a few things like standing arrangements to rehearse and sitting arrangements in the reserved pew for choristers. I started to go very early for rehearsals and unapologetically stood in her spot. The choirmaster initially didn’t see anything wrong as I didn’t understand the language and pretended anything I did was out of sheer innocence.

I mean who would want to shout on a GenZ singing amid all these Grandmas? I was to be pampered so that I would keep showing up. But, Grumpy Old Lady liked her spot, but she didn’t want to talk to me, so she complained to the choirmaster, who asked her to tell me to move. I waited for her to do as instructed, but she didn’t. The choir master looked at me, I innocently looked away as if I was confused, but stood my sacred ground. He laughed and continued conducting. After all, it is not like me or grumpy old woman were disrupting anything.

Then I stylishly took her seat so that she could return my greetings or even ask me to get up. Instead, she completely left the row for me. I became a front-line singer even though I was deaf to musical notes and the language. She began to sit directly behind me. When she hit the high notes, I would unbalance her voice, so that she would stop singing midway and she did. Singing became difficult so she began to alternate as a lector, but still sat behind me. As soon as she arrives, I will technically do some chitchat or ask a question from the chant books from anyone beside her. In the process, as I turn multiple times, I will make sure I become clumsy so that my big book can hit or scratch her skin. She was constantly infuriated.

Then one day she approached me like a glorious unicorn horse hoping I would yield the seat if she stood before me like the Tower of Gold of Spain, but all I did like my favourite GenZ compatriot was to tilt my feet a bit so she could move into the row – oh she completely stormed out of church with no one to beg her. That was the day the choirmaster and others playfully chatted that no one has achieved that in over a decade. I pretended as if I was deaf and my friend started laughing Olu, you are full of wicked mischief.

After about two months of her storming out, she returned to the choir stand and as she approached us, I greeted her – she answered me. I said, finally, great. The following Sunday, she stood behind me for rehearsals, I greeted her – and she answered me. Aha, progress! Was it that difficult? Grumpy Old Lady, was it? Then on a third Sunday, I decided to test her again, as she approached the pew, I greeted her before she could even find a seat, she responded, and I yielded her seat to her.

I have been away for a while, but I am going to the choir again tomorrow where the real test awaits Grumpy Old Lady—tomorrow, I’ll wish her a Merry Christmas. Will she answer? If not, her seat is mine, and I won’t yield until either she departs from this world, or I leave this country. Place your bets, Diary.

Luck be my mischievous companion!

Yours in surprise, humour, and sweet vengeance,


Grumpy Old Lady

For other episodes in this 12 Days of Christmas series see:

Day 1/12: Spit-proof Grace at:

2/12: My Mum – the unbeatable champion of all time at:   

3/12: Were you a truth-teller as a child at:   

4/12: Can you pray? at:   

5/12: My ode to fear at:   

6/12: Mary’s breakup line to St. Joseph at:

7/12: Tower of Babel at:

8/12 – The Non-Whisperer at: 

9/12 – Balcony People at:

And 10/12 – What would you do? at:

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