It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.
– W.T. Ellis
The past few months had been hard for Gideon Ayomide, he had cooked his home cold. He made the house so boiled that it agreed with the scientific theory of evaporation causing cooling-His kids have warmed up more to their now more highly regarded mother, and drifted away from his cold self. He’s become a nagging husband and a negligent father. His morality and spiritual code have receded in this time of recession.
His five year old daughter, Alice, walked into the bedroom one day, few days to Christmas, while he was having a disagreement with his wife. He wasn’t drunk, but he was uncontrollable.
“You are acting like an idiot Simi, and I’m sure your head is empty!”
Amidst the pain in Simi’s eyes, she had signaled to her husband of the presence of an innocent intruder of which he had ignored but rather kept on vomiting words his weakened heart failed to give a proper churning.
“Come here honey, what do you want?” Simi asked their daughter.
The girl who had stolen a glance at her father quickly took her gaze off him, for she knew he could throw her out if he caught her staring- a little offence that will certainly crown her already grave sin of intrusion. She knew even at that age not to enter into daddy and mummy’s room uninvited. Though she had knocked but the two adults were so much engulfed in their marital theatrics they could not hear the soft knocks. She carefully and slowly walked to her mum,
“I want to lick ice-cream.”
Gideon threw up his hands, angry ‘the tiny rude impostor’ hasn’t allowed him to drive home his point. Simi noticed his agitations,
“Gideon, it’s enough for now…please,” Simi said calmly, and he stormed out of the room.
* * *
Of a truth, Gideon was aware of his spiral moral descent. He wasn’t in denial but there was a chip on his shoulder- a little devil that whispered in his ears,
You don’t have to say sorry; after all you are the man of the house- the head of your home and you can rule like an African king. There are better ways a man can pacify his family other than the lowly ‘sorry.’
Every Christmas, Gideon buys things for each member of his family, a tradition he had upheld for years and tagged ‘WYWF (What You Wish For) or Something like That.’ He presented gifts in boxes which are wrapped up and when his wife and children opened it, they found what they wished for, or something close to it. Anyways, those were years when he was a caring husband and a sensitive father. Now, the home has become quiet like a graveyard anytime he’s around, and unlike then when he could, in a cunning manner, ask the kids what they wish for Christmas, he couldn’t ask now. He had rehearsed it severally in his head and each time it had sounded awkward. Only his wife had made her own wish clear,
“I want a new Brazilian hair for Christmas,” she had demanded without him asking her, and that was when he had told her she was acting like an idiot.
“For wishing for Brazilian hair?” She was shocked; he had never talked at her that way before.
“Don’t you know we are in recession? Don’t you know how hard things have been?” He replied with questions as if to justify the insults he rained on her.
“Yet, you still invited your family over for Christmas without my consent…”
“Gideon, I don’t understand…you mean all these on top Brazilian hair? Ok, can I get Peruvian instead?” She teased him.
“Which head do you want to put it sef? Ehn? That your empty head?”
Simi couldn’t believe her ears, he didn’t have alcohol in his breath, yet he talked like one who had the spirit of liquor descended upon him from the skies after being baptized in a brewery tank.
This new Gideon is becoming unbearable; this new Gideon that doesn’t care to join his family at morning devotions at the family altar is a backslider.
Those thoughts had made her unaware of those soft knocks until their little angel walked in quietly and she had signaled to her husband who had not seen her to stop, but he wasn’t done…
“You are acting like an idiot Simi, and I’m sure your head is empty!”
* * *
He had gotten gifts for his wife and his 7-year-old son, Junior, but he had to visit another shop to get one for his daughter as well. While in there, he noticed a man dressed in a Santa Claus costume following him about. He was carrying the same size of box as his and picking the same wrapping sheets too, but he ignored him and proceeded to the attendant to help him wrap up the Barbie doll he bought, and so did ‘the Santa’ too. Gideon chose Barbie because he knew girls of Alice’s age do like to play with dolls and of course they want their mothers to have another baby boy or baby girl whom they can play with. The later which he was never going to give to her as a fulfillment to her WYWF will rather be relegated as a ‘something like that’ in form of Barbie. Every little girl wouldn’t mind Barbie as a sister, friend or better still a baby- a baby’s baby. That will make the doll his grand-daughter. Gideon smiled at that thought…
“Sir…” the attendant called.
His box was ready while lost in thought. The attendant was even done with Santa’s box too- an exact replica of his, the content though he couldn’t decipher. Santa tipped the attendant, picked his box and left.
I have no tip to give you girl! He screamed with his furrowed eye brows as the young attendant stared hungrily at him with pleading eyes. He ignored her, as he’s always ignored everyone since the recession.
* * *
It was silent on Christmas day at the dining table, no visitors, no extended family members, just the four of them- the basic nucleus of a nuclear family. Gideon sat on the side of the table opposite his wife’s while the children sat opposite each other. They eat silently, even the forks and knives barely made contact with the dishes. Gideon coughed to gain everyone’s attention,
“Hello…family. Hmm…WYWF or something like that still continues…the tradition is not dead as you all think,”
If he was expecting a hint of excitement, he got none- only a dry smile from his wife. Then, he brought out a box, and pushed it to her.
“Honey, that is yours.”
Simi pulled the box closer. As she unwrapped it, the children craned their necks betraying their initial disinterested response to their father’s gesture. When Simi opened the box, she saw what she wished for- a Brazilian hair. Gideon noticed that for at least a second her expression registered what he wouldn’t refer to as a shock, neither was it a disappointment, but rather a feeling of nostalgia; as it brought back the event of few days back in their bedroom- all the words came back at him like a gushing wind.
“Thank you.” Simi said with a sad smile.
Maybe she’s feeling shy. Maybe she didn’t believe I would buy her that after all and she’s feeling shame for losing faith in me.
Gideon’s inside was brewing with excitement, happy he could still pacify his aggrieved family even though they may not say it out. The children craning necks; his wife’s shy disposition said it all. Next was his son. Junior was reluctant to open his box.
“Open it Junior,” Gideon pleaded. The boy shook his head and said,
“It’s not what I wished for.”
“Oh, what did you wish for son?”
“Sometimes the parts could be disjointed and made to fit into a box like this you know” Gideon encouraged.
He knew what he said sounded foolish and his daughter coughed. She coughed so hard her mother literarily ran to her and made her drink some water.
“Are you okay dear?” Gideon asked.
Alice nodded her head- only that her father didn’t know what she was thinking. His foolish talk intended to cajole Junior into opening his box had just raised the horns of the little girl’s fear of how daft her father was.
The parts of a bicycle fitting into such a little box?
Even a 3-year-old knows better.
After much cajoling, especially from his mother, Junior opened his box and he found a toy sport car and he didn’t feel any worse or better for he had made up his mind not to feel excited at anything other than a bicycle.
“Something like that, right?” His father tried to amuse him, “four wheels,,,vrhmmmm!”
When Junior didn’t seem to be consoled, Gideon turned his attention to Alice as he brought out the last box and pushed it to her.
“Yea, my angel. Open your box darling.”
Alice dropped her spoon and quickly loosened the ribbon and pulled off the sheet in haste.
Little children can be exciting; they are the most forgiving creature on earth. Look at how she tore at the box like a cute puppy will go for a fibula.
Alice opens her mouth wide in surprise…
Awww, she loves it…see the excitement in her eyes. Oh, I need a bear hug-
“Come baby, come give dad a hug!”
“It’s empty” Alice whispers.
Everyone stood up to look at the content of the box.
As his daughter looked into his bewildered eyes, Gideon remembered Santa and the attendant. He turned towards the door furiously with the intention to rain hell on the shop.
“Where to honey?” His wife asked.
He could not reply, for he was too embarrassed to tell anyone at the table, his own family, what just happened. Then, Simi asked her daughter,
“What did you wish for honey? Didn’t you wish for anything?”
The girl looked up into her father’s eyes again and then looked down, fiddling with her little fingers.
“The other day,” she began “…dad said mum’s head was empty,” she said as her parents exchanged looks.
“I…I…didn’t understand what it means because my aunty always say the same to me in school. She always asked me which of my parents’ brain I have.”
She looked up into her parents eyes.
“So my wish was to see the content of dad’s head…in a Christmas gift box”
The silence that ensued swept the whole room like a wind which then followed a torrent of uncontrollable tears that streamed down Gideon’s face. Gideon wept, in the presence of his family. It was the perfect opportunity for Simi to express herself. She called the children to her and held each of them by the hand as they all face the weepy grown-up man.
“My love,” Simi began, “…for many years since this family began, we have been upholding the tradition of ‘WYWF- What You Wish For,’ but since a few weeks back I and the kids have moved to a new and deeper dimension- ‘WYPF- What You Pray For.’ All the mornings you refused to come for morning devotions, I held their little hands like this and we prayed. What you wish for sincerely wouldn’t always give you that, but you may be consoled with something like that. But, what you prayed for effectually and fervently will never miss!”
The rainmaker from Gideon’s eyes was doing a great job, and Gideon did not fight it; he allowed the tears flow along with thick slimy mucus- he didn’t care if it was embarrassing. Simi continued.
“I prayed to have my husband back, and the kids prayed to have their father back. Is that too much to ask?”
Gideon moved forward and embraced his family.
“I’m sorry…I’m so so sorry.” He confessed.
And the river of tears found channels in three other tear glands, for there were no dry eyes in the house that Christmas.