Monday, February 28, 2011

Growing Up Naija

I don’t come from a rich home. As children, we never really got what we wanted but we always had what we needed. My father was doctor but was never very lucky in his profession. There were never enough patients coming through and too many left without paying their bills. Yet my siblings and I were still lucky and more privileged than most. We didn’t have to bathe outdoors like our many counterparts that we passed by on our way to school; covered in suds, and quickly scooping up water from a bucket with their hands or a colorful plastic cup. We never had to join the long water lines, jerry can in hand ready to collect the tap water flowing out of a neighborhood pump. My father said that he never wanted to see his children balancing containers of water on their heads or pushing them in wheelbarrows yet I still envy the skill it takes to do such.

My tender-hearted father and I.

Yes, we were fortunate. But there were days when I didn’t have lunch in school, were I would enviously eye my classmates as their parents brought food for them. My stomach would rumble and complain so much that a fallen biscuit would be snatched up quickly and discreetly by my eager hands. There were days when my siblings and I couldn’t wait for our birthdays because it meant that crates of mineral (soda) would be bought and my sister and I would make the last bottle of Pepsi last but pouring it into a cup and sipping it up from teaspoons. There were nights when I would be unable to sleep because NEPA( Electricity company) had taken the light once more and I was determined to hunt down every last mosquito that had escaped the wisps of the burning mosquito coil.
I was never jealous of my better off friends, living in their duplex homes with their glass dining tables, extravagant parlors decorated with thick curtains and detailed embroidery.  My father’s bungalow will always be huge to me. Patchy and old but everything had a glow to it. Our couches had huge rips in it where our cats had scratched, our wall unit filled with little figurines and crystal glasses of a lifestyle once lived groaned and sagged with age, our once white lace curtains usually washed once a year were light brown due to the harmattan dust blown in through the mosquito netting. The kitchen floor left the soles of bare feet black and weevils were always in our rice, ants always floating in our palm oil and eager cockroaches left eggs in our refrigerator and occasionally fell to their doom in the freezer.  The kerosene stove which left all our pots blackened was next to the gas stove which was usually used for special occasions.

My sister dancing with a family friend. Wall unit behind.

My father again, lace curtains behind.

But this was my home. I would spend hours laying on those couches watching television, accompanied every now and then by a huddle of sleepy kittens or an attention deprived cat as animals were never denied in my childhood. The old wall unit held treasures that I played with; little china sets, a doll made out of corn husk, an Aladdin lamp, a collectable London guard doll that always left its case, adventures were held there. The lace curtains had detailed patterns to them and could transform to white fluffs when washed. The kitchen was a constant. My father and I would hold cooking sessions there, he would create his special cabbage stew and I would be the first to present him with breakfast which he rarely ate. He would joke that the ants in our palm oil served as extra protein, the rice weevils could easily be picked out and I ignored deceased roaches as I scooped the frost from the freezer which my friend Chioma and threw it at one another imagining that we were in a snowball fight like the ones we had seen on T.V and read in books. Little did I know that years later I would call from the States and tell her that snow was very much like the frost we had played with in my home. We hadn’t missed out on much.

Me back in early 05.

(I’ll talk about Aba another time)



    I can relate SO MUCH you cant even imagine

  2. I'm so glad you can relate dear! Thank you!

  3. i am absolutely taken by your beauty and spirit.such an insight, so incredibly written....
    stay wonderful!

  4. This is soo weird. i just feel like it is ME who wrote this post like from another person or something ! i relate sooo much to this its FREAKY. you are sooooooooooooooooo cool. i know i'm blabbing and shit,but forreal,do you know how cool you are? well you are cool. did i say you are cool? okay. just checking. follow my bloggg ! :D
    p.s : i think you might be my new mentor or somethingg.i might be obsessed with you.