Nigerians are a very religious people and so, a typical Saturday begins with a lengthy morning devotion moderated by our patriarch (or matriarch) while we slouch on the cozy sofa or cuddle fluffy throw pillows with our heads bent over and saliva drooling from the sides of our gaped mouths, struggling to sing along to common choruses like ‘good morning Jesus, good morning Lord’ and ‘I will enter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart’. My parents eventually adapted to this and may tap us when devotion was over or leave us to snore away our useless lives.
Oh! My dearly loved parents sometimes waited to go upstairs before yelling our names and reel out a long list of chores (sigh) to be done ranging from sweeping, cleaning, doing the laundry to mowing the lawn. I wish I hadn’t said that because we don’t mow grasses.
In Nigeria, we cut them under the blazing hot sun with blunt machetes and ungloved hands. We stop cutting when painful, red blisters form on our palms and our backs burn from the heat of the scorching sun or the grasses have all been cut very low. They say it is for our good. By the time we go in to have breakfast, it is almost time for lunch. A win for them but a heart shattering loss for us.
Breakfast on Saturdays is usually beans or any of its derivatives (akara or moi moi) served with pap, custard or garri soaked in ice cold water. We scuttle past the well-polished, dark crystal table sitting gallantly in the dining room into our bedroom, each of us carrying a tray of hot akara and pap (or whichever meal we are having) and quietly shut the door behind to avoid attracting the wrath of our parents, who consider eating in the bedroom with unwashed hands the hallmark of uncivilization.
Well, our Africanness cannot be masked forever. Didn’t our ancestors who lived quite longer lives, eat with bare hands? Posterity will treat us kindly for passing on this rare tradition. Isee!
We conveniently wipe our greasy lips and fingers on the curtains and dash through the front door into the courtyard to play, leaving behind a huge pile of filthy plates on the kitchen sink and our school uniforms soaked in a large plastic basin of soapy water. We play football, hide and seek, ride bicycles, chase lizards through the neighbourhood and hunt for innocent grasshoppers until our mother calls out to us.
She had discovered where we hid our school uniforms and so, when we see her furiously approaching –unknotting and retying her wrapper- with a stick in her hand, we run as fast as our little legs can carry.
Our friends jeer as we sneak in from the backdoor and soon, they hear us shrieking from the hurt of cane falling on our backs. We do our best to muffle the moans so as to brag that we certainly could ‘chest’ cane.
In no time we wash every dirty thing, fill the empty drums with water and have our baths only after being called pigs. We excitedly say goodbye to our parents who are glamorously dressed up for a cousin’s owambe (wedding party) and steal into the living room, the second they drive off, to watch sit-com or cartoon rather than do our homework.
This spells doom but we don’t realize it until a slap on the back jolts us from sleep and they are standing right in our frightened faces. Ahh! We pray for the ground to split open but it doesn’t. The beating is followed by series of kicks and we flee into the bedroom to begin our homework.
Mother comes in moments later, holding ‘takeaway’ packs of jollof rice and small chops neatly wrapped in a black cellophane bag and finds us playing Ludo. We beg her not to tell Father and quickly pick up our notebooks, pretending not to know why she had come and feign an Einstein-like level of seriousness. Shaking her head this way and that, she laughs hysterically and says in a manner peculiar to frustrated Nigerian mothers: ‘You won’t kill me’.
She throws the package at us and we catch it soberly. We resist the urge to open it while she casts a debasing look around our scattered room, sighs and walks out. None of that bothers us. We tear open the package and pounce on it like hungry lions. Unknown to us, that is our dinner. If we knew, perhaps we would chew slowly and take long sips of water in between bites.
Watching to see if Mother will give us some of Father’s scrambled eggs, we rally around her like starving mice but she completely ignores our whims and orders us to change into our pajamas and come to the sitting room for night prayers. ‘We must thank God for a wonderful day’, she announces.
We stroll like cats into the bedroom, angrily jump onto our eight-spring bed, duck under our thick blanket and doze off only to be woken very early the next morning for devotion. Boom! we remember our rumpled Sunday clothes.