Sometimes I’m amazed at the events I can recall from my early years, when I was under five. I tell my friends about some and they think I make up the stories. I know I was younger than five because we moved out of our storey building when I was five and these things happened in that house.
For example, I remember Gift, our yellow paw paw help. I also remember her boyfriend, her madam’s husband (she was an apprentice at a tailoring shop). I remember how they came to the house in the afternoons and sent my sister and I out to play. I remember my mum always complaining then about how the food (milk and Milo especially) in the house was disappearing and wondered if Gift was feeding the world. Best of all I remember the fateful afternoon my sister (who is just a year older than me) suggested we hide ‘uncle’s’ shoe. Oh how they searched for it. My sister gave me ‘the look’ when I was questioned. Uncle was forced to wear my dad’s slippers home, I wonder how Gift explained the disappearance.
I remember being given a 1 naira coin (or was it 50kobo?) by a visitor. I remember playing with it all day until I swallowed it. I waited to die but death didn’t come. I felt the urge to empty my bowels so I went to the toilet. Lo and behold, it was my precious coin ! I put my hand in the WC, recovered my coin and moved on.
I remember my the night uncle Victor brought the colour TV my dad sent him to buy all the way from Lagos. What great rejoicing it was that day! Don’t remember if we were the first to buy a colour TV on that block. We just couldn’t sit still.
I remember the afternoon my mum ran into the house with the clothes she had taken out to dry. She locked the door firmly behind her and told us to be quiet because Willy Willy was outside and was going to knock on our door soon. True to her words, there was a knock on the door, and we froze. I remember thinking of my baby brother who was barely 6 months then. I prayed and prayed that he won’t wake up from his sleep, cry and give us up. The knock was persistent for a while, then finally stopped. Nevertheless, the door was kept shut until my dad returned later at night. I later found out that ‘Willy Willy’ was my mum’s cousin who had been disturbing her for cash.
I remember finding a new exercise book in my parent’s room. I was happy I found it because that meant I could keep it. The only problem I had was marking it as mine. I knew the first letter of my name ‘A’ and I could write that only so I decided to hide the book while I go learn how to spell and write the other alphabets. It was therefore very painful when I saw my sister with the same book. I cried and argued that it belonged to me since I found it first. She called me a liar and showed my mum her name boldly written on it. Unfortunately for me, her name also begins with ‘A’ which I had earlier written so she just completed it with 4 more alphabets. I promised to learn to spell and write my name that day.
I remember the day I had a convulsion. I don’t really recall being sick prior to the episode. I was playing outside with my sister – breaking palm kernels precisely – when this seizure took over me. I still remember the cries for help (don’t think I went into unconsciousness immediately) and a spoon being shoved into my mouth. I later woke up in the hospital, confused. I was discharged and sent home, apparently well. My sister then revealed to me that I was rushed to the hospital on ‘Oga’s’ motorbike because my father had driven our white Beetle to work that day. ‘Oga’ was our neighbour then and I had always dreamt of taking a ride on his bike. I used to imagine myself on the bike, floating in the air. I had finally taken my ride on it but in an unconscious state. I considered faking a seizure to take a second ride knowing that this time around I’d be conscious.
I remember playing at the backyard one day and Oga’s wife asked me to go into her house and get her something. I went in quietly, found what I needed and was making my way out when I was stopped by Oga.
Oga: Who sent you?
Oga: Who asked you to take that?
Oga: Ah ah, am I not talking to you?
I was mute because I was too embarrassed to say ‘your wife’. I thought the word ‘wife’ was adult language and probably shouldn’t be uttered by little kids. Till tomorrow, I don’t know where that knowledge sprung out from. I chose to play dumb to avoid using that word. The man got fed up and dismissed me.
I remember weekday prayer meetings in church. The children’s section was usually full and sometimes older children had to carry the little ones. As usual, my sister and I were well balanced on the laps of two older girls who adored us when the coordinator asked a question. She wanted to know who remembered the memory verse from the previous week. Everybody was quiet. I was surprised because I remembered it quite clearly. I contemplated keeping shut but another part of me went ahead to signal the coordinator.
She was so impressed that little me could give a very accurate answer that she gave me a big cane to flog the others. I did the Herculean task, flogging my sister and Charity (whose lap I had been sitting on) as well. When I was done, I returned the cane and made my way back to my seat only to be pushed and regarded as Judas not only by Charity but my sister as well. I was shocked at the betrayal by my sister (oh yes! I was the one betrayed). I stood by myself for the rest of the class.
I still remember other events – good, bad and ugly – but I will stop here. Do you guys remember anything remotely funny or interesting from your early days? I would love to hear your stories.