As a child I did not crawl at all before starting to walk. And I did not walk until the morning of my first birthday when all of the children ate, drank, danced and played around or past my spot. Until that day, I would just be there as if glued on to wherever Mum or anyone else would sit me up until whoever came willing to pick me up again. How I would put out my hands towards every passer-by to signal that I wished to be moved, making enough sounds to invite attention. And how I did that without crying for it was also much fun, as Mum and Dad would later describe my funny stats in life. Of the siblings before me from Dad’s two wives, there was not one so different in childhood features as I would turn out to be. Especially after that morning when my birthday celebration brought so many happy children around me for the first time and I finally got up on my feet and joined the party, just like that.
Dad believed it was the result of being very sickly in my first few months. Every known childhood illness came my way and he shared every moment of anxiety with Mums until this turning point at one when my health was also no more in any danger through primary school and college age.
Speaking about primary school also brings up another truly funny act of mine.
Mum’s mate was the one who led me to my first day at school. The environment was full of fear for me and the sight of so many crying children was enough to sway my heart. So at some point during registration I excused myself to use the toilet. My escort was not paying attention to me because she had to keep her place on the queue. And it was to have been just a short walk away but that was the last she saw of me all of the remaining school day. I found my way back home, so far away that she could not imagine I could find my way. When she came home late afternoon with swollen eyes from weeping for my loss, she found me at my late lunch table. Infuriated, she picked me up and flogged me thoroughly.
The fear of school was forever driven from my heart and in its place was born the opposite love for my education. These coincidences attracted quite a few nicknames. Dad believed I was a reincarnation of his only other brother who had recently died and nicknamed me after him. They loved one another so much and he believed my love for him was the sole reason I refused to die in that first year. He talked about it with tears a few times and was always so proud of me, which slowly created such a passion in me to always make him very happy. Each exam report was my first stream of thank-you gift to Dad. School certificate result was delayed and Dad said not to worry, I could repeat. I assured him that I will be in division one.
Mum also had her nickname for this child that literally refused to be killed by every dreaded childhood disease. She had fourteen deliveries in all and only six would live including two of the three after me. She believed that my destiny was to protect her and I got nicknamed “the great one who would save me”. In the native language, this mouthful came alive in three one-syllable words. She would not get involved with any contract without asking my opinion. Once when she got duped, she told everyone that if I had been available she would never have seen such breach. In her eyes I was godsend for her freedom and I enjoyed giving her pride in herself even till her point of death.
Speaking about lightening her fears, here are two of what I consider my funniest acts. One was my first attempt at getting a girlfriend during my upper primary school years and the other, nightmares during sleep in my pre-university period of work experience. My parents championed the values of work experience for every young adult in my category, to learn the double-edged discipline of waking up early regularly and reporting responsibly to authority as a means of testing your worth. I made it great fun by taking up one of Dad’s old bicycles and being my own mechanic for it throughout the time. They watched me using it to and from work every day with delight especially in the savings I made on transport and I handed it to Dad.
The trouble of handing out my first notice for a girlfriend was caused by her mum as a firm reprisal and I learned some basic rules of the game. We were neighbours quite a few blocks apart in the same estate and as kids we would not let the problems of our parents make or mar our tone of friendships. In a multicultural community of those times, her mum threw hot soup meant for family table all over me to make a point against crossing the line. It worked; I didn’t cross the line for a girlfriend till third year in university.
An important line my mother watched me cross during my work experience was in my dreams. Each night was a nightmare and I’ll wake up screaming. She’ll be immediately beside to lead me to Dad’s bed and there I could sleep soundly till dawn. Sibling rivalry believed I was making it up but until later in life when I knew better, during sleep a presence would be pressing on me so hard that I would be physically helpless. In the resulting panic struggle to release myself from this force, I would awake screaming. In community crippled by fear of death, many still believe it’s due to witchcraft and often they are right. But if your religion knows who you’re, Soul, complete child of God, it means you’re ready to see why you’re here on earth. Just be still, watch.
Tony Nwadialo – Author, The Three Freedoms, Volume 1 @ www.createspace.com/3860724