When I was much younger, mum would take my siblings and I out to attend birthday parties which were mostly parlor parties with a few kids and plenty of ice cream and chips to go around. I remember one of such experience.
I was incurably shy as a little girl. Too shy of people staring at me too much, shy of letting my feelings known, shy of admitting my most inner thoughts for fear that I would hurt others feelings, shy of talking about myself, mostly shy of being myself. Most times I wished I would just melt into the wall and become a wallpaper or magically just became not there anymore. The only thing that could ever make me escape was books. I could not get enough of them, they afforded me a world in which I could be myself and lose my self consciousness. They gave me a world I could disappear in for hours without any one noticing, they gave me a glimpse of freedom and my young heart yearned for it.
It didn’t help that most of these birthday parties were often thrown by wealthy parents of the kids because mom worked in a big school and knew some of these parents personally. Hello socializing. They threw birthday parties and invited us but the only fun part of this whole thing for me were the books I got to read at their place. Finise’.
Before you settle in to read this, let me just let you know that I am a bush girl. Yes. I much rather prefer walking around the compound with my bare legs rather than slippers. The other weird facts you’ll get to know as this story unfolds.
At each of these parlor parties they would ask if we wanted chicken and chips and I would feel so giddy and weak with relief in my head. This was something I knew rather than some ovigami casserole. Don’t stress your brain, I invented the name. Don’t give me that look, is it your invention? This people could eat anything and call it food.
The chicken and ‘chips’ were brought in and my smile of anticipation froze in my face. Let’s just say the only thing I was familiar with there was the chicken. The rest were strange foods meant to poison me.
“Where’s the chips?” I asked in a tiny voice.
“Right in front of you,” they replied with amused smiles. I knew it. They had followed me here too. My village people.
“Oh” I said with a fake smile on my face while my brain frantically looked for ways to get me out of this one.
I turned to look at the chips the way one would at an obstacle. “I’m gonna eat you and swallow you and enjoy you without disgracing myself and village people,” I told the chips point blank in my head staring at it. To be fair it actually looked like chips. It was long, brown and kinda hard so it reminded me of those potato chips Iya Kudi sells for me on my way to school every morning but that’s where all similarities ended.
This ‘chips’ had tomato paste smeared on it that I later got to know as ketchup. “Is not me and you that will eat this one” I concluded in my mind. I attacked the chicken first. Then turned to face the chips. I picked one and examined it like it was a material for a science experiment then bravely managed to chew on it. I winced. Fainted. Threw the vile thing away from me and asked for more chicken. All in my head of course.
“What the heck is this?” I said.
“Irish potato,” my little sister whispered with a delighted expression. Of course she would know it, these were the kind of things she liked. I managed to eat the one in my hand and gave her the rest to eat. I can’t just can. Village people – 0 me – 1.
When every one of them were out playing games I would be upstairs reading a book all by myself, imagining I was the heroine or one of the characters. Then their mother would come in and find me sitting all by myself and wondered why I was not playing with the rest. She told my mum when she came to collect me and my siblings that I wasn’t social that I should learn to be yenyenyen. Mum in turn scolded me on not being social and i was pained. I was older than most of those kids and even those my age still thought like a child in many ways. They didn’t understand the frustration of trying to start a conversation with someone who thought Jam was way better than Peanut butter. Ehn! Osigini.
I never could understand them and they never could understand me but I sure learnt one thing from them. Their posh accent. It was something I unconsciously adapted till it became a part of me and now when people hear me speak they think I’m one butty. But I know myself, deep deep inside me I’m a bush girl. I don’t like Irish potatoes, I pick out the coconut from my coconut bread, I don’t know if I will ever have the courage to try out chinese rice except maybe with the threat of starvation, Sharwarma is a journey I’ve not even dreamt of starting, and finally I love my bare foot. That feeling of walking on a wet sand after rain falls with the smell of earth around you is orgasmic. Most of all I still enjoy dancing under the rain, and yes, I’m now social. Nobody is a stranger to me unless you give me attitude and trust me nobody does that better than me.
Childhood seemed like such tedious thing then but now I realize, I miss being a child.