Telling a 5 years old boy like me that your father and mother are in white man’s land, and they will re…turn very soon; is like saying you have a new toy somewhere, but you can’t have it now, maybe tomorrow.
The power of tomorrow works every time like talisman to most 5 years children. Apart from the fact that tomorrow never comes, it is a better and more comforting word than never. The best word for that age range is “now”, they want everything now, but the next best thing especially if having something now will be bruise the controlling ego of grownups, is having it tomorrow. That way, everyone is a winner; because the grownup is happy to have instil some authorities, apparently the child can learn some virtues relating to being patient. The child is also happy that he may not have it now, but it is not like he is never going to have it, he is surely having it tomorrow.
The idea of having some people coming to see me soon who possesses an entourage of names like Daddy, Dad, mummy, mum, parents etc, is exciting and confusing at same time. And rather than it answering any of my many questions, it’s raising more questions, confusing questions;
Who are these people named parents? Why are they visiting me? Will I like them? Will they bring me toys? Are they going to be joining the long list of family members whose favourite pastime is telling me off?
The blessings and curses of having one’s parents abroad is that you end up living with relatives, or in my case, grandparents, and that means having many uncles and aunties coming in and out of the family house. I thought my grandmother is my mother, my grandfather is my father, and those uncles and aunties are my siblings, and I’m the last born.So you can understand why I’m confused about the need for another set of parents.
I remembered living with my paternal grandparents at Ijebu Imushin, helping to remove dry skin from melon, roasting Garri on the largest of all clay-pots, plucking mangoes and coconuts from the trees, catching Esusu and Ire at nighttime, love those days, happy days.
I also remembered living in Ibadan with my maternal grandmother, helping her to sell groceries in the shop, going to the neighbours on Sundays to watch “Ori-Ade” and “Koledowo” soaps, I can also never forget the day I got stuck in a shrub of thorns, in my hurried dive to retrieve a football. It took the combination of my grandmother’s tears and the neighbour’s many fingers to pluck out the thorns from my bleeding body. If I can, I will relive those days in a flash, thorns and all.
The need to move from Ijebu – Imushin to Ibadan, and I guess back again, have to do with the side of the family that reckons they have the better cares and treatments for a sickly child. Apparently as a child, I was always sick, the daily basis type of sickness, it got so bad that just like Muhammed Ali, I even make my medication sick. I remembered fainting once, it’s like I fell asleep so fast, and so sudden, whilst still standing on my leg, the last thing I remembered before the blackout is the panicky screams of my grandmother.
In those days, almost everyone around me is either a doctor or a nurse, professing solutions and antidotes do my many illnesses. We’re always on the move from naturalists, spiritualists, occultists, and of course I’m known on first name basis by most nurses in all neighbouring hospitals. In one of our many medical tours, someone somewhere must have told someone that the solution to this child’s sickness is by ensuring he lives with his parents – the polite way of calling me an attention seeking spoilt brat.
I have heard stories of the extent people go to, in order to force a family member back home from abroad, the most popular fetish means is by drawing the person back home using fetish means. The person then just up and leave, maybe my parents experienced this, maybe not.
Well, I was at school, probably reciting and memorising as usual, the Nigerian way, when someone suddenly dashed into the classroom, and whispered something to the teacher. The teacher flashed an alien smile at my direction, and said I should pack my school bag, I’m needed at home.
One of the many uncles that came for me was beside himself with excitement, on our way back home which is less than 8 minutes walk, he used the word again – parents. My parents are here, not never, not even tomorrow, they are here – now. The tricky bit is what do to with that information, what to say, how to say it, how to feel, happy, excited, scared, worried, puzzled, not sure.
Then I first saw him, my father, running towards me, in the middle of the street. Not too far from him, is also my mother running behind him. And before I could make up my mind on how to feel and what to say, I was scooped up in a big hearty hug, slobbered with kisses, my mother wetting my face with her tears. I guess I have to do what other children will do when they face my type of predicament, do what others
around them are doing. So I acted excited, I acted happy, nodding and shaking my head to their many questions and uncomfortable flattering like how big I have grown, how handsome I look, how smart and intelligent I talk, really?
There is however something all too familiar about this new set of parents in town. It’s like I heard their voices the other day, and their laughters quite similar to the ones I heard the day before. Their faces is now growing on me with every passing minutes, and that evening when I tried to open a wrapped packages meant for someone else, I hear my father’s all too familiar baritone voice chastising me. It’s like they never left, or maybe they only went abroad for days and weeks, not months and years.
I stopped being a sick child from that day, my uncles and aunties stopped being my siblings, my grandparents stopped being my parents, everything completely changed, on the day my parents returned.