Does anyone remember those days when, you were governed by the powerful un-spoken words of a parent? They give you one hard stern look, and you’d better grasp that message, especially when it is meant for correcting or communicating some private message too heavy to spill.
One of the few lessons I learnt while growing up amongst the multitude of passed-down diverse culture was “Child, just keep it real! While one of the toughest punishment in my home for not keeping it real came from my strict disciplinary Lagos-born/Delta origin mother, readily scolding me with her looks, such that makes a baby whimper! You know, like when a baby finally passed gas after a very hard time of reflux! Now followed by lashing of words that sometimes comes out like she’s multilingual when she’s angry…“Eh! Before I open my eyes, Go and carry your books! Or sit in your room, think about your life then Read Your Book! And God help me if any of her sisters happened to be around, Oh no! It becomes a group of supported bilingual women in pursuit of life drill, debating and deliberating point of correction. Their utterances in support of themselves and disagreement with the child in question. Such comradery allies!
So, as these community of better-life-for-a-better-child allied confer, I’d ignored them, especially when it’s in a second language, walked questionably to my room, pass my older sister’s room, who’s also glued to her boring Barbara Cartland books, either recovering from a bad sinus congestion – again! It’s into my oily dull-pink wall bedroom, the shade of a broken hearted impatiens flower! Just what I needed!
Slouched unto my lower bunk bed, with my skinny legs raised upwards towards the springs of the vacant upper bunk – which has now turned into my personal go-to library and curiously meddling through my book collections. What do I read today? African literature books? Where do I want to be transported to today? Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God? With the debate of struggle between old ways and new; tradition and change. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? Reviewing one of the greatest American works of art yet condemned as obscene and racist.
Leon Uris’s collection of concentration camp stories? Oh no! Another night of depressing imagination! The way of white folks by Langston Hughes – a dreamy night of what could have, but never was! My collection of exchanged “forbidden” Mills & Boon from my reading companion who lived across the street (that’s usually hidden inside the big textbook) or the glorified collection of newly released Pacesetters from CMS bookshop where my class mate’s mother Mrs. Scott was the head Librarian and would always allow us to borrow and return upon completion. Hmm, my assigned punishment turned into my glorified escape paradise! Here, I get to travel like Wole Soyinka’s Ake back in time to the events of the story am reading. I called it my transformation lounge, my joy of reading!
But as I grew older, now with my own children whose passion am trying to fire up into becoming literature lovers, not that it’s working anyway! But I’d wondered, if I could use those techniques I was trained with to make them love crawling up into a ball with a good book, at least one! Am wondering…’was it meant to be a good punishment? A motivation? A challenge? Or just a parental order, dismissed with no intention or explanation?
Lately, every now and then they will ask; do you still curl up with a good book and shut the world out? Do you still keep a diary that records your feelings? If you are thinking back of those days and smiling…Ok, maybe I did get something good back from their tough love. Ah ah! And maybe I can finally admit it and pass it on to the children, not when they still think Romeo and Juliet died for no reason; how else will they know…if only they will embrace the journey! Someday.
Written By Yinka
For TUMBLR BOOK CLUB INTRO