I wrote this a year ago.
Merry christmas everybody. Sure I’m a little early but hey…
The smell of garlic assaults my senses as I wipe my face with my hands.
I adjust myself on the stool and it creaks. I adjust again, and it creaks again. Louder this time.
Everything makes a sound in this kitchen. The handles of the pots squeak. The hinges on the door groan. It’s like I’m an instrumentalist, and the kitchen, my studio.
I stand up and open the pot cooking on the stove. The heat from the handle burns me and I drop the cover quickly, like I’m shocked it burnt me. I add a little water to chicken cooking in the pot, Cover the pot and sit down again.
The smell of chicken fills the air. It feels so good. I can go to the parlour and sit with mummy and the twins while the chicken cooks, but I won’t. I will stay here and tend to this chicken. I will make sure it’s perfect.
It doesn’t matter that it’s just the chicken legs that brew in the pot. The chicken legs that Aunty Ajoke had sold to mummy yesterday. It’s chicken. Mummy says that so far it’s part of the chicken, it’s still chicken.
I inhale the aroma. I take a lot of it in, like it’s some special perfume that I’ll never perceive again.
I stand up and put off the light. The sunlight is seeping into our small box of a kitchen so I have no use for this red light anymore.
This kitchen is about the size of Hannah’s wardrobe in our old house.
The old house.
Mama says not to talk about it.
So today I won’t talk about it. I won’t talk about how our old kitchen is over 5 times the size of this new one.
I won’t talk about how the walls of our old kitchen were adorned with tiles and how the walls of our new kitchen is adorned with soot.
I won’t talk about how our new house is a small one room apartment in apartment in Suleja, while our old house was a 6 bedroom duplex in Maitama.
I won’t talk about it. Mummy says not to linger in the past.
It’s easy not to talk about how things were, but it’s impossible not to think about it.
How do I stop thinking about the fact that we moved from grace to grass, from plenitude to penury.
How do I stop thinking about the fact that in barely a month, it was all gone?
Mummy said that daddy’s business had faced some difficulties, and we were going to have to make some ‘adjustments’.
She told me to explain that to my 7 year old twin brothers.
Mummy didn’t really give me a detailed explanation, and I never asked.
I never had to. I knew. I heard all the shouting in their room at night, I noticed as the help started leaving one by one. First John our gardener, then Hannah our chef.
I don’t blame her too. How do you tell your 17 year old daughter who just finished secondary school that your life is falling apart?
And that all your money is gone?
I knew that Daddy had invested in a business that went bad, and that we had lost all the money.
I knew that mummy was a house wife, and apart from the money that Daddy gave her she had no more money.
I also knew that Daddy had taken a loan from the bank, and that they would come for the house soon.
I however didn’t know, that they’ll take everything in the house.
I didn’t know that the wrinkles on daddy’s face and the worry on mummy’s brow will increase per minute.
I didn’t know that Oluwatofunmi and Oluwatofehinti would cry everytime and that I would have to be the one to soothe them.
I won’t think about how I had to stay home to take care of the family.
It wasn’t like they made me, I just knew I needed to.
Mummy and Daddy were falling apart and so were Tofehinti and Tofunmi, someone needed to be strong for us all. I needed to be strong for us all.
But I will not think about it. Mummy says not to.
I check the chicken again, this time with the ‘supposed to be yellow’ rag that we keep on the window seal, and then I go back to leaning by the sink.
It’s almost done.
I will listen to mummy and think like she said.
She said this christmas is all about hope.
She said we should be thankful.
When she said that, I laughed, and she threw me a look that would have made Medusa jealous.
She reminded me that Tofunmi and Tofehinti were still in school.
She told me that Daddy had just gotten a letter for a promising interview and that things would be better.
She reminded me of how we found God this year.
She reminded me of life’s little treasures.
How we could afford to laugh,
How inspite of everything She and Daddy had stayed together.
She said this christmas brought hope.
She said we had to celebrate.
She bought tacky decorations. We are eating chicken instead of shawa or awara.
She bought new clothes for the twins. Even though they are okrika,Second hand, they are new. Atleast to them.
This christmas, instead of me to be grumpy and sulk about how this christmas is different from the last and how much we’ve lost.
I will think about how much we’ve found. How we’ve become closer as a family, how we’ve found Christ.
This christmas is after all about hope.
The chicken should be ready. I pick up the ‘supposed to be yellow’ rag again, take the pot off the stove, put out the fire and leave the kitchen.
I walk into the sounds, the sounds of my family laughing in the parlour.
The sounds of love, and laughter, even in penury.
This christmas, I do have a lot to be thankful for.