“The Cock is still alive!” I screamed with excitement as it jumped off the big bowl when hot water was poured on it by grandma. The full-fledged cock began to hover on the floor spurring up dust as it flapped its wings gasping for life in futility-its head has been severed from its body. I was dazed as I watched our Christmas meal resurrect and dancing Makossa on the floor! Grandmother always told us stories that made us long for her presence. She knows how to hold us spell bound with all her wonderful stories of the wise and cunning tortoise as well as myths about our village. I and my siblings have never had dull moments with her; she is always a joy to be around. I get captivated by the song that accompanies each story because of the many lessons attached to it. So when papa said we are going to spend Christmas in the village, my joy knew no bounds, I was overwhelmed and glad that I am going to see grandma again and hear more stories to tell my friends in school when we resumed from the Christmas break. This experience however is no story, it is reality!
This constituted the fun accompanied with the attendant atmosphere electrified with joy, beauty, carols and colours of Christmas in 1992 encapsulated in my memory. For some people, it is a season to wine and dine again. For others, a time to visit old friends and relations. Yet for some, it is another time to get new sets of clothes that will last till the following Christmas, but for me, Christmas means utopia! It means surplus pounded yam with special kind of soup garnished like never before with assorted meat oozing a peculiar aroma typical of every Christmas, featuring rare spices, thus igniting a passion coupled with cravings for the yuletide.
Even with this seeming ecstasy, my intentions for these unending feelings are fictitious rather than the reality that evolved Christmas- the birth of Jesus Christ. I could not articulate in words the thoughts about the knock outs, carols and nice clothes about this compulsory obligation observed also by non-Christians until the reality hit me when I was at the verge of plunging into the years that ends with teens.
At 89, grandma’s mind is amazing. She remembers every detail of what happened to her in life and when she starts narrating her experiences father just cannot take it. Grandma always says that men don’t have the mind to listen to stories they just want to work hard and make money. She had looked at me with a piercing gawk as I sat by her bosom on the eve of Christmas and quipped, “no matter what you do, let life pass through you, don’t just pass through life. Enjoy each experience and learn from your mistakes because you may likely meet similar challenges in the future. Her views about life are informed on the fact that life’s beauty is best enjoyed by experiences. “Life is a teacher, but only the best of us glean from its rich resource” she said. “Odion you are twelve years now isn’t it? She asked, I nodded on the stool on which I sat in affirmation. “Very well my child, you might not understand the weight of what I have just said but as you grow you will begin to comprehend the weight of my sayings.”
“Christmas goes beyond food and drinks as well as the gifts we get, Christmas is the reason we have hope in ahopeless world.” I was listening with rapt attention as I slapped myself on the cheek alongside the mosquito that perched there. “When Jesus was born, the world that was hitherto full of darkness received light.” She looked towards the sky, “three wise men from the East saw his star in the sky and knew that a messiah was born.” She paused to catch her breath. “They made efforts to find him so as to pay homage. You might have been told the story in Sunday school?” She adjusted herself on the seat as she asked. Even when we have been taught about the birth of Christ in church, grandma’s version opened a new vista of understanding for me. I wanted her to continue, so I confessed, “grandma we have been taught but I never understood it from the angle you have told the story, your version makes me see the birth of Christ from a different dimension.As if I were there,please continue,” I pleaded.
“Tomorrow we shall continue”,she gets up. “No grandma I implored her to continue”,”Don’t worry tomorrow I shall tell you everything, let’s go and rest because tomorrow is a long day” I sensed she was tired and sleepy just as I am,so I retired.
Sometimes I wonder how grandma came about her depth of brilliance and aesthetic command of the English language. Papa did much good to assuage my confusion. “She was the first, lady to go to a university in the entire Oza-nogogo clan in Delta state.” “Really,” I blurted as we drove back to Lagos in our grey Peugeot 505.I Felt proud of my grandma, I will tell Chuks about my grandma when we resume, I thought. “When female education was not popular, the missionaries took note of mama’s clever mind and took her away from her parents to school abroad where she studied Latin and literature at Oxford university” papa continued as I caught a glimpse of mama through the mirror brimming with smiles at the passenger’s seat behind with my little sister who she was breastfeeding.
As I wondered why she was smiling, my mind raced to what happened in the village. The cock gasping for life and how grandma held it by its feathers and shoved it back into the bowl, this time it didn’t struggle, it just stayed and faced its fate at Christmas-to be cooked and eaten!