A few weeks back, I went to visit my kids at school.
My son had a sports back pack slung carelessly over his shoulder. The first thing I noticed was that I didn’t buy that bag for him, so after our usual hugs and how are yous and how’s school and exams banter, I queried, “who’s bag is that?”
“It’s mine,” he said, hesitantly
“Since when? When did I buy this one?” I was sure I didn’t buy anything remotely close to the black and white sling- like looking bag and I eyed it balefully.
Then he began to stammer and lick his lips repeatedly and shift from one leg to another…aha, here comes the truth…
“Ermm, it’s my friend’s own, he exchanged with me.”
“Huh?” That was loaded to mean, start talking and be fast!
“No…errm, I mean, yes but my friend liked it and I kind of liked his own, so we switched “
“Huh! Who told you, you could do that?” I was getting pissed and my eyes had begun to twitch. He didn’t like what I bought for him? I didn’t like the fact that what I thought was a great buy, was being rejected.
I also hoped he hadn’t stolen it…I was mindful of the fact that kids these days just shock their parents with things they get involved in.
Our conversation reminded me of my own crime when I was much younger than him; the day I became a little thief. I must have been about 8 years old then, and my school was Our Lady of Lourdes at Surulere. It was just some two or three streets away from my home so I walked. I would lag behind several company of kids who also lived in that neighbourhood and schooled close by.
My elder sister attended the same school but she hated having to walk with me. It was not her fault, I preferred my own company. I used to day-dream all the way to school and thankfully there were no crazy bike riders back in the day, besides, she had her own crowd and once our mother had packed our lunch bags and drinks, my sister would run out, and be among the first to get to school. I would be among the last, barely making it through the gate before it was shut against late comers.
Anyway, on one of those days, someone’s one kobo coin dropped. Many of you don’t know what a one kobo coin looks like; anyway back in the day that coin could buy sweets or balewa and goody goody.
Ok, so rather than call out to the group notifying them of the lost coin, I simply picked up and pocketed my lucky find. The image of what I could do with this one kobo made me so happy that I began to sing as I skipped all the way to school.
At school, during lunch break, rather than eat the corn beef sandwich my mother had prepared, I headed to the shanty canteen that served pupils who didn’t have anyone prepare lunch from home. I asked for the very red porridge I had been eyeing for days. When I was served, I soaked in the aroma and prepared to devour it…then my elder sister, the busy body came by.
I should have known she would spoil things for me.
Immediately she saw me with the bowl of red porridge, she let out a scream, “Ehn, where did you get the money to buy porridge? I will report you to mummy!”
The joy of devouring the porridge left me. I knew I was in trouble. So I beckoned and asked her to come taste the porridge, I assured her it was sweet.
But she wouldn’t, she insisted on knowing where I got the money for the porridge because my mother never gave us money to buy food outside, she always made our lunch.
So I confessed… I found the money, when someone dropped it…I didn’t steal it. I believed that story until I got home.
Meanwhile, my righteous sister didn’t want to be complicit, instead, she marched off, armed with supreme knowledge.
I looked down at the oily gruel and began to eat. I knew I would be half dead by the time mother was done with me, but why suffer twice. I couldn’t throw the porridge away, even after two spoonsfuls and discovering it didn’t taste as great as it looked. I was doubly disappointed.
Which kind wahala be dis sef?
That day, my mother convinced me I was a little thief and beat me like I was a snake that chanced on her path. After that beating, I realised why soldier is spelt with a J. Many days after, I was still plucking broom sticks off my skin from the hiding I got.
Back to my son’s school; I sent one of the students to call the friend who ‘switched’ bags with him. They were classmates in their final year; low and behold, he had my son’s bag slung over his shoulder.
“Why did you exchange bags? Is your mother aware of this?” I didn’t want some mother calling me about her son’s bag.
“Yes she is, she asked the same questions,” the boy told me.
“Oh? So why did you exchange?”
“I want to use this bag to remember him, we are leaving school soon…”
Issokay! Why didn’t you say so?, I glared back at my son when the import sank in.
“You didn’t even let me talk,” he said.
Talk, he is lucky I don’t have a broom like my mother.