Monthly Archives: June 2013

PLAYING IN THE RAIN

paper boats

Almost half an hour ago I was in the bedroom, picking out a sweater from the closet. It’s a chilly night, and I bet it’s freezing outside. It’s trash day tomorrow and I have to take the trash out. I doubt I’ll be up early enough to catch the garbage truck if I don’t do it now. That was my train of thought before it changed route and I started thinking about the story I had just finished working on as I was putting the sweater on.

I was deep in thought. The story had opened floodgates in my head; memories had come streaming in. I hadn’t realized I was thinking until the door flung open and my baby sister walked in.

“You wouldn’t believe what I’m writing about,” I beamed. But she knows me well; she knew I wouldn’t disclose anything until it’s complete. She didn’t ask what it was about.

“Me?” she teased. We both laughed. She has asked me that a couple of times before, and everytime she does I always give her the same reply, “what’s really interesting about you that I can actually write about?” again we laughed. We joke an awful lot.

Then a thought came to mind. “The origami thing?” I blurted. She looked at me, prodding… that was cue for me to expound. I did…

“You were really a baby,” I taunted her, “guess it would be ok if I wrote about it now…”

It’s a cloudy, starless night, but the incandescent pole mounted street lights have the place well lit; it’s hardly dark. As I carried the black trash bag out my mind drifted to that rainy Saturday. I was nine at the time and my baby sister was almost five. My parents had gone to my cousin’s christening at the Basilica, which was more or less a forty five minutes’ drive from home.

We didn’t have a house help at the time; both of them had left within weeks of each other. One had supposedly gone back to college and the other had left because her dad was sick. My big sister on the other hand had joined boarding school earlier that year; so me and my baby sister were all alone in the house. We were home alone, without any adult supervision.

We couldn’t think of a better day to live out our wildest fantasy-playing in the rain.

When my parents were leaving that afternoon my mom had repeated the words we had already gotten used to: not to leave the house. “Be good”, she had added, “I don’t want to find the house in a mess”.

We smiled radiantly, promising to be good. It was drizzling when they left, but a while later the heavens opened. I don’t remember what month it was, all I recall distinctly is that it looked unusually dark and the rain seemed to fall with a vengeance. It poured for hours without ceasing. My sister and I had nothing better to do I suppose, as we stood by the window starring outside, watching the water level on the ground rise rapidly.

Suddenly, in the midst of that boredom it hit us; there was so much water outside. That gave birth to a brilliant idea; we could float miniature boats on the water. We were thrilled; but there was just one paramount glitch, we didn’t have boats.

Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Neither my sister nor I had ever heard that saying before, but before long we were busy tearing up newspapers, making origami boats. At first we tore papers from our exercise books, but then we realized those were small, so we settled for the newspaper ones as they had a relatively bigger surface area.

The cats were away, now the mice would have the time of their life, playing in the rain.

Without anyone to stop us, we went outside to sail our origami boats in the flood waters. After a while we realized that the water was somewhat still, and that rendered our boats immobile. Our excitement started waning. This was our once in a lifetime opportunity to play in the rain, we weren’t going to waste it on boredom. We went back to the house to regroup.

While I was busy racking my brain on the next fun thing to do out in the rain, my sister’s eye caught something interesting; at the edge of the red tiled roof there was a rain gutter, which wasn’t attached to a downspout. Over time, the water falling from it had ejected soil particles, consequently forming a small crater on the ground beneath it. Now the crater was filled with water.

Excitedly, she took her clothes off and dashed out; virtually naked. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I rushed to the door to catch a glimpse of the unbelievable sight. I envied her guts. My sister didn’t seem to have a care in the world. It was raining, and she was going to have all the fun that was humanly possible at the time. She tried to get in the paddle, but to her disappointment she realized it was too small for her. That didn’t dampen her spirits regardless; she stood there and had the rain fall on her bare skin. Joyfully, she held out her small hands to catch rain drops. She seemed ecstatic.

“Get back in the house”, I called out to her. “Mom will find us outside”. She just shrugged. I just stood there and watched. I knew better than to go after her because then she would engage me in a ‘catch me if you can’ race.

She didn’t seem bothered by the idea of getting sick from the extreme cold; it was fun. She was playing in the rain, and she was comfortable in her own skin, literally; that is all that mattered…

 

WISE WORDS FROM MY FATHER

wise words

How much do you love your friend (s)?

Do you love them enough to let them mess up your life?

These are some of the questions that keep me grounded on matters friendship.

I’m not so sure how it happened, but I did mention in there is no one like a mother that my dad didn’t really exert daunting disciplinary actions on my sisters and I. Instead he chose to sit us down, where he would subsequently give us a few tips on ‘how to live’; most of the time I deemed it unsolicited; nonetheless it didn’t deter me from paying attention. Truth is, I never really listened because I found it interesting, I only played my part-listening- so I could get done with it.

I found those pontificates quite humdrum; he was repeating the same old stuff he had told us before, as if drumming it in so it wouldn’t go in one ear and out the other. Sometimes he would talk about ‘obvious’ things, in my head I would be like, “That too?”

But I respected and loved him and I knew he was trying to be a good parent, so I listened; we listened, even if we didn’t want to hear it.

Somehow, when we were young it was difficult to find my sisters and I in one place together, except when we were sitted in front of the TV, plugged into a particular soap. My father has always been a shrewd man; he knew that was the only time he could talk to us because if he pulled the ‘we need to talk’ line in advance no one would show up. In his opinion, if it wasn’t school work anything else could wait; TV could wait; he always chose that most inopportune moment to share with us his fatherly sentiments.

Both my sisters and I went to boarding school when we were slightly over a decade old, each one of us at their own time. My father knew he wouldn’t always be there to guide us, so he gave us what he felt would walk with us wherever we went; his wise words. If we were sagacious we would heed to them. He didn’t force them down our throats.

Of the invaluable advice he has given us, the one that always stands out is one he’s been reiterating ever since I was ten. He advised us on one of the most rudimentary issues; the business of friendship.

“You’re not going to school to make friends”, he would say squinting, as if peering into the future, guided by his own past. “You are going there to read so you can get good grades.”

“But one can’t live without friends”, I would counter silently in the depths of my mind. I didn’t find any sense in his words.

“Don’t let friends derail you. They will be with you only for the duration that you are in school”, He would emphasize. “After that you will go your separate ways”.

All through my life I have made many friends; some true and many false…I have learnt so much from those experiences. For instance, when I was in high school, one of my closest friends, who also happened to be my deskmate got expelled from school; she and some other girls had been found in possession of alcoholic drinks. She was a very lively person. If ever I was punished for noisemaking it was because we had been caught exchanging banter during class.

Her expulsion didn’t happen out of the clear blues; I had seen it coming; she also knew it would happen ultimately, but the company she was in numbed her mind, she didn’t see the dangers she was subjecting herself to, but unlike her, her friends came from affluent families; I knew they would easily get into other good schools, but her? What would become of her? My heart felt heavy.

As I watched her carry her luggage out of the school compound for the last time, my father’s words came back to mind, “Don’t let your friends get you in trouble, because they will not always be with you, but the things you do, that’s your life”.

At times I took my father’s words for granted, but during such instances I would see the truth in them. So much as I hated to admit, I knew peer influence wasn’t something I wanted to get caught up in. He always pointed out that the repercussions would be dire if we let our friends guide our actions, and I’m only too glad I heeded–even though begrudgingly- to those wise words, because now as I take a look see at my contacts, only a few are my friends from high school-whom I seldom keep in touch with- and from primary, only three to be precise. Now I can definitely say that he was right indeed!

Sometimes I bump into familiar faces on the streets; people I was so close to in school; people I would have dipped my hands in the fire for. But when we are standing face to face, I don’t see the loving people that I once considered ‘family’, I see strangers. Our time apart attenuated all the love we shared back then.

Sometimes we exchange contacts, which we never get to use; sometimes in the excitement we set up dates, where we catch up on all that has happened since we parted ways. In most cases I don’t feel that connection; it faded away. Then at that moment I remember my father’s wise words, “Don’t spend too much time on friends, because chances are, when you part ways you will never meet again in this lifetime”.

Two years ago I ran into a lady I grew up with. She wasn’t my best friend, but she was a member of our ‘famous five’ group-a clique my sisters and I had formed with two other girls (she being one of them). We played together; excluding other kids who we felt had ‘issues’.

Our families were very close. When I was thirteen they moved. I didn’t cry, but i remember feeling melancholy descending upon me; we were so tight, and I didn’t know if I would ever get to see her again. I never did, until that day when we met in a lingerie store. She was in the company of two other friends-a guy and a girl.

I recognized her and my heart did that joyful leap. But to my disappointment, she did not seem to remember me…maybe I should have said hi, but then maybe she did it on purpose. I didn’t care to “Halla”… I wasn’t sure I wanted to rekindle a flame that had long died out.

Everytime my dad brought up that subject-friends-I would wonder why he was discouraging us from making friends. It’s only now, when I’m all grown, that I see the wisdom behind them. My father wasn’t asking us not to make friends, he was only asking us to be weary, because not all friendships last; not all are real.

He was young once; he had travelled the road we had and he had learnt. Out of his love for us he warned us, so we could be cautious when dealing with friends-to discern when to follow their advice and when to make our own independent decisions.

God willing I’ll repeat the same words to my children. Chances are they will roll their eyes then look the other way, and when they do that I won’t blame them; I did that too. But eventually-just like me-when they have made and fallen out with friends; when time has thinned strong bonds that once were, they will grasp the concept; hopefully it won’t be too late.

 

 

 

BELINDA

prisoner

Belinda is the title character and antagonist of Belinda, a sequel I watched years ago. I was just a decade old. I have watched many movies but this particular one made an indelible mark in my life…every so often I find myself referring to it sub-consciously…

Belinda was a young girl, fresh from high school. She found herself walking the corridors of a prestigious college located in the central business district. She grew up in the countryside. When she came to the city she was flustered; things were so different from the life she had lived until then; her college mates drove expensive cars and donned designer clothes.

This life overwhelmed her. She wanted to dress like them; she desired to ride the cars they did… but she was as impecunious as they came; however, she didn’t spend many nights tossing and turning in bed, just like Cinderella, her ‘godmother’ came to her rescue.

Some friends showed her how to manoeuvre past the tough times; they introduced her to some male clients who solicited sex. Before long, naïve Belinda was queen bee…guys were eating from her palms; they were devouring her with their eyes and the girls wanted to be her. She reveled in the grandeur.

“How come your mom never visits you Belinda?” her friends would ask.

“My mom is a model in Paris”. Belinda would gloat. At the time I must have been living in a cave, because I didn’t know what a model was; I hadn’t been introduced to the stunning ‘walking hangers’ strutting their stuff on international runways. The statue of lady liberty would pop in my head. I wondered how one’s mom would be a statue…

Belinda’s lavish lifestyle came with baggage. She became the star and took center stage; everyone wanted to be made privy to the piddling details of her life. So she lied, and before long she had woven a thick web of lies around herself. It was bound to break at some point; even she knew that.

That day ultimately came; her mother travelled from upcountry to visit her only daughter in school. She carried a basket of homemade foods. When she walked in the school, the teachers received her warmly…until she ‘claimed’ to be Belinda’s mother. The teachers looked confused; they all knew Belinda, and the drab woman dressed shabbily, standing in front of them looked nothing like the ‘model’ Belinda talked about so passionately.

They had no choice but to call Belinda.

When she got to the visitor’s lounge she saw the elderly woman, who by now had the school talking. Belinda was in a fix; the sandcastle she had painstakingly built by the beach was crumbling; everyone was watching, and there was nothing she could do. The inevitable wave had finally caught up with her.

Her mom was delighted to see her; oblivious to what was happening. “My daughter”, she opened her arms wide to receive Belinda in her warm motherly embrace.

But her steps were halted by Belinda’s scoff, “Who are you?”

Her mom stared at her, bewildered. “Belinda, I’m your mother”. The crowd that had gathered was now gripped in condescending chuckles.

“I don’t know you, my mother is in Paris”, she retorted angrily.

Her mother couldn’t believe it. “But my daughter”, she cried. “Belinda!” The poor woman broke down in tears, before collapsing… she succumbed to cardiac arrest.

True to the adage, ‘blood is thicker than water’, Belinda’s bloated ego deflated as she went down on her knees, kneeling by her mother’s side, tears rolling down her face. “Mother don’t leave me. I’m sorry”. But it was too late. Her tears were not going to bring her the woman she had blatantly rejected back.

The crowd behind her was now laughing, mocking, pointing fingers at her, but none of that bothered her. There lay the lifeless body of her mother; she had sent her to her grave prematurely. Her mother was innocent, all she had done was work diligently, so she could offer her the best she could; but in return she had rejected her unequivocally.

If only she could take her words back; if only she could get the chance to do things over again; she would let the whole world know she was her mother. She wished…

Belinda opened my eyes; the larger society glorifies materialism; beauty and money are the tickets to prosperity. She taught me a life lesson; one can’t afford to look down on people because they don’t meet their standards.

Sometimes I find myself at a cross-road, where I have to embody Belinda, or be the better person. Such situations feel daunting…

A few years ago I was in a similar situation. I had just turned nineteen. An aunt had called to say she would be visiting from upcountry. I was excited.

My mom would be leaving for work, my big sister had morning classes and I was still taking my time off from books after clearing from high school; my baby sister was still away in school. That automatically meant I would be the one to pick her from the bus stop. I didn’t mind it, hosting visitors is something I’ve always loved…

The next day, I left home early to go pick my aunt. I had left early to allow time for the morning traffic. It had been five years since I had last seen her. I was even afraid I wouldn’t be able to recognize her or maybe it would be vice versa; maybe she wouldn’t recognize me.

There wasn’t much traffic, so I got there earlier than I had anticipated. I waited, watching out closely for any bus that pulled up. I couldn’t risk missing her. After what I considered a long wait, I saw her alighting from the bus that had just arrived. But she wasn’t alone. She was in the company of her daughter-a cousin I’d last seen when I was five-we were both babies- and her elder brother that I had never laid my eyes on. That is what happens when people fail to keep in touch…

My, now grown, cousin had never been in the capital before…she looked mesmerized by the towering skyscrapers. She was apparently oblivious to the uneasy state she had unintentionally put me in. she was in a pair of jungle green linen pants that looked a size smaller and a matching top. Her short hair was bunched up in unkempt pigtails and to complete that look she was in black closed shoes, which had gathered dust during their journey.

As I drew closer to them, I found myself befuddled. I hadn’t given thought to what they would be wearing, but as they stood there right in front of me, I realized I wasn’t comfortable with it. “What will people think?” I hated myself for thinking that, but that is what I felt…but then I remembered BELINDA! Without further ado I held out my hands and hugged them.

At the back of my head there were those unsettling thoughts pounding incessantly…”What will the neighbours say? They will see them, and they will tease, they will talk…” but I didn’t care anymore; they were noble human beings; they were my family. It didn’t matter if they came dressed in rags; it didn’t matter if the whole world laughed or teased…Belinda had taught me better; she had taught me to look at the bigger picture; to ask, “What is the right thing to do?” As opposed to asking “What will people think?”