Tuesday, 1 January 2013

It's Christmas Again!


It's Christmas again. I remember when I was seven. Mama used to buy our clothes, shoes and bags as early as September. Two days before Christmas, preparations would begin in earnest. My sisters cut chunks of darling curls attachment and weave my hair into a huge mass of curls. I really enjoyed feeding the he-goat, bought in advance like our Christmas clothes with all sorts-cabin biscuits, baba-dudu, jollof rice; and cry when it is finally slaughtered, the men from the abattoir removing it’s skin and blowing it up like a balloon. By the time I am served its meat as pepper-soup, I’m usually over my grief.

Christmas eve, I can’t sleep. I sleep sitting down, my head on a table, my hair tucked in a hair net to keep my curls intact. I hear mama in the kitchen; the sound of frying meat, the smell of coconut rice and boiling tomatoes and moi-moi and plantain and chin-chin.

6.00am.

I wake up, bathe and dress up in my Cindarella gown, lace trimmed hat complete with an elastic band that goes under my chin, pink plastic sunglasses with Mickey Mouse carved on the sides, and black covered shoes stuffed with tissue paper. I rush my breakfast, eager to go out and show off my Christmas clothes.

My sisters and I walk the length and breadth of Kurmin Mashi to NDA all the way back to Badiko, strutting like models on a runway. We go from house to house to say merry Christmas. There was always more than enough to eat during Christmas, there was. Neighbours called us in and offered us jollof rice, fried rice, coconut rice, rice and stew, it was always rice and despite Mama’s warning of the prevalence of witchcraft and gbomo-gbomo during Christmas and not to eat food from people we don’t know, we say thank you and eat as we listen to Jingle Bells and Silent Night blasting from old stereos. It is Christmas; we are young, what can possibly happen? After eating we stand up to leave. Our host then brings out crisp one naira notes or shiny fifty kobo coins and distributes among us whatever denomination they see fit. If we stand up to leave and don’t get any money, we storm out in anger, saying stuff like ‘Her food was not even sweet sef, ‘No wonder she doesn’t have children’. We rant until we get to the next house.

Just before sunset, we begin the long walk back home so tired our shoes become too heavy to wear. We remove them, loop the buckles together and hang them on our necks. Mama always throws a fit when we get home all dusty, and our Christmas clothes stained with stew, Kunu, Fanta, Zobo and a fine layer of dust; us, grinning from molar to molar with our pockets full of one naira notes and fifty kobo coins. She gets even more alarmed when she removes our clothes and sees the size of our stomachs, the skin stretched so tight with food it is transparent. After asking God to forgive us for eating more than he had given us capacity for, she  marches us to the bathroom and scrubs our skin until we are one shade lighter.

Mama always collects our money with a promise to keep it safe. Later, When I ask for mine she would say, ‘if you promise to rent your own house, feed yourself, and pay your school fees till you finish University, I’ll give the money to you’. I let her keep it.

It's Christmas again and I'm all grown. Now I do all the spending and the cooking. Looking back I wonder, What was all the fuss about?

©Naomi Lucas 

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