Merry Christmas to you all. I hope you are having a lovely weekend; my previous bella naija post is here. As, the year is drawing to an end, I wish you all a joyful vacation and peace. I have a new post for you today, so enjoy and please leave your comments below. Thank you!
A CHRISTMAS TALE
Going for vigil mass yesterday and singing “O come all ye faithful” along with the choir made me realize how much I had grown over the years and how Christmas celebration had changed for me. After mass, I began to reminisce about how I used to spend Christmas when I was younger. Back then, we would go to our home town (village) for about two weeks. We did not have a choice as my father always threatened to lock up ‘his’ house and take the key. So grudgingly, my siblings and I would pack our bags for the trip. Our reluctance to travel was not because we did not like the village but because we did not see the point of leaving our lives and friends and going away for so long to see people that we barely knew. The more we tried to explain our reasoning, the more my father resisted. To him, that was even a better reason to go – so that we would get to know our long-lost relatives even more! And so every year, we had the same arguments and ended up travelling to the village.
The first day of arrival usually involved having visitors, coming around to welcome you back home. They basically asked all of us the same questions in our local language – how are you? How have you been? How is your family (which they could already see by themselves)? How are your brothers? How are your sisters? (As if these were not part of the term ‘family’); to which we always replied “good, thank you.” The next day would involve cleaning up the house and cooking as well as more visitors; some of whom had already visited the day before. Of course, they would resume the usual questions while we struggled to get some work done. By Christmas day, we would be tired from all the cooking, cleaning and guest entertainment such that my siblings and I would fall asleep in church. Sometimes, we would sneak to my grand-uncle’s house which was a few blocks away from the church to take a nap and return back to the church before my parents noticed. Thankfully, the Christmas service was always very long because of annual church harvest and so we always made it back on time. After church, we would even so many visitors follow us back home directly and so, we used to spend our time serving meals whilst my father would tell his friends how happy we were to be back home. And we, the children, always had to smile and nod when he made such statements to the guests.
On Boxing Day was when we were allowed to go out. My father would wake us up early in the morning to have breakfast and go out to greet our relatives and practically, the entire village. His exact words would be “go out and do not come back until evening. Visit everyone and feel free to pluck fruits. Everybody here shares…there’s no place like home!” Ironically, we were almost never allowed to go out for more than a couple of hours in the city so my siblings and I wished that we had such freedom in the city. We had to obey orders as once again my father would threaten to lock the village house if we did not leave immediately after meals. And so we were forced to go and watched the inter-villages soccer competitions, masquerade performances and some traditional dance. We stopped occasionally at trusted relatives’ houses for lunch, dinner or some snacks along the way but when it came to fruits, any tree of interest that we saw, we would ask for permission from whomever was present in the compound and then pluck some to eat.
It was during one of these fruit picking that we came across a nice Udara (Agbalumo) tree one year. My cousins and I had wandered into a compound that housed the tree, so rich with ripened fruits. We were surprised at our luck at finding such a fortune as more often than not, this particular tree type would be lacking its fruits because the other villagers would have plucked them before we got there. We did not hesitate to ask the boy standing by the gate if we could have some and began to help ourselves immediately after he said yes. It was on our way out, chatting excitedly, our hands and pockets filled with the fruit, that we that we heard a woman’s voice screaming. We turned around to find an old woman running after us and asking us to stop. My first instinct was to run but I held back as I knew my cousins would not. The woman came to us and started talking so fast in Ibo that I could barely understand what she was saying. One of my cousins, Ezi, whispered to me; basically, the woman was saying that she wanted her fruit back. We were surprised as we had never been asked to return any food before but sadly and slowly we emptied our hands and pockets. She also inspected us to be sure that we had dropped all of them before she let us go.
All our initial excitement was turned into disappointment and we recounted our experience to one of our uncles. We described where her compound was and he laughed and told us that she never allowed anyone take anything from her house and that she did not have any friends. It was then that we understood why her tree was still filled up with fruits; we thought about how stingy she was! Just before we went back to bed, Ezi took me aside and showed me an udara fruit.
“Where did you get it from?!” I almost screamed.
“Shh! From that woman’s tree. I hid it”
“Where? But she searched us…”
“Do you want or not?!” Ezi snapped impatiently.
I did not have time to think; I quickly agreed and I must say that was the best tasting udara I have ever had in my life. I was thankful to Ezi for our escapade and we vowed to keep our secret for the rest of our stay in the village.
So it was adventures like this and many others that usually made my travel memorable as well the huge collection of interesting novels in my uncle’s library including ‘the pacesetters’. Now I am grown, I miss such adventures and the other incentives I used to receive during this festive period such as new Christmas clothes, shoes and even new hair! So as I sat in church this year, while I was thankful for the year so far, and also for the years gone by, I secretly wished that I was wearing a new Christmas dress with new matching shoes.
*udara - chrysophyllum albidum
Thank you for reading and following my blog and bella naija stories all year. Have a happy Christmas holiday and catch lots of fun. Best wishes always!