Oh how I wish I could take my children back in time, to my own days as a child.
Life was so simple and communally joyous! In those days of rain dances, of tales by moonlight where under the tree we would sit and listen to stories, the days where our hungry stomachs were fed with food not solely from our mothers pots, those days that a father was for all and not just for those he bore. Oh how can I bring back those times for my children?
“Mummy we will be late for the movie if we don’t leave now for the cinema”, my son’s voice cuts through my thoughts. The truth of the matter is that there is a huge generational difference between where we are coming from and where our children are today.
I recall a windy harmattan morning, the haze so thick that you could barely see anyone. We had just arrived the previous evening from Okigwe were we lived, to our village Arondizuogu. We were so tired during the bumpy drive through the red dusty road, but the joy of going to the village was so strong on my mind that we did not bother about how bumpy the journey was. I had pictured my grandmother welcoming us in a dance of joy she does each time we visited. When I finally saw our compound I screamed out with joy and was just about to open the door to jump out of the moving car, but was stopped by my father’s sharp firm voice.
We finally drove into the compound and there was pandemonium. Children ran from every corner of the compound announcing our arrival. These children were my cousins who had travelled back, as we had from different part of the country, from Enugu, Lagos, Kaduna, Owerri and Port Harcourt. We always looked forward to this homecoming; it was always a wonderful reunion.
Lo and behold the great NNE my grandmother, our grandmother emerges as always and breaks into her dance, accompanied by a hummed tune. I stand very close calculating the last move of my Nne, so I could be the first to sprint into her embrace, that way I get to be wrapped in her arms completely.
Dance over and all the hugs done with, I chatted with my cousins under the udala tree, which was often our meeting point. We settled to tell tales of the cities we have come from, and what stories our Nne would tell us. “I wonder what the story would be tonight?” I asked. “Maybe it will be the story of the wicked stepmother,” replied Ngozi one of my cousins. “Oh no! Not again we have heard that story like a thousand times,” Onyeka interjects, “and Nne will keep on telling us that story so that when you girls grow up you will not be wicked stepmothers.” As if on cue, all the girls pounced on him while the other boys came to his rescue.
Nne called out for super and we all ran inside. We sat down to a nice bowl of asuru asu akwa, which is corn pudding laced with vegetable and pounded ripe plantain. Have you also noticed how modernization has sent our local authentic dishes into extinction? Mealtime over, we hurriedly cleaned the plates and swept the room. We then began the wait for the folk tale under the udala tree. We waited for the moon to blossom into its full glory, and once the moon was over the udala tree, lighting it up and casting shadows of the tree branches, we all ran out towards the udala tree, everyone with a stool or an empty jerry can to sit on. We always danced, raced, jumped and walked around our sacred tree theatre.
Nne finally arrives and begins with a song, which we often responded to with a clap or a bang of our hands on our seats. With the song over, Nne started her story, heavily spiced with riddles. She would often pause to ask one person to give an answer to what a particular character in the story would do or say, and quickly relate it to each and every situation we may find ourselves in life. She never failed to point out the moral lessons contained in the story. What a way to teach us her children. I ponder why we are not able to do all these for our children today.
The spaces for the under tree theatre for tales by moonlight have all transformed into apartment blocks and industries. The trips to the village have been replaced by summer trips abroad. Grandmothers are no longer found in the villages, but have relocated with their daughters to townships and cities. They may now be found in aeroplanes on their way to vacation at the sunny beaches of the Bahamas with their grandchildren as their nannies.
I look back on my childhood, and the time my grandmother spent with her grandchildren, and consider how important it is that young children value and respect the wisdom and the grace of the old. That the young know it is okay to help an elder carry a heavy load, to get up and offer a sit to a person older than they are. That they understand the history into which they are born into; that they understand respect is not a matter of choice but is a non-negotiable obligation for the society.
How on earth did we lose all these wonderful attributes? A lot of the discipline my generation has today comes from the strict moral obligations we were thought as young children. But what have we today? How many times have we as parents saluted teachers rather than assault them for disciplining our children properly, forgetting that we were not spared in our days. How then won’t we lose it all?
It seems like there is no remedy, abi? No! There is still hope. If we can begin to be grounded in our values, understanding the ideals of contentment, and the power of honesty cum integrity, then we can begin to rebuild our destroyed structures of values, and a good friendly neighborhood. My take is that the family still remains the source of a good or bad citizenry in every society. The family is the foundation of a solid and well-built society. The family will form the type of society we wish to have, and the sort of people we want to be. So armed with this knowledge, can we begin to help our families have more lofty values and reflect the goodness we want? One of the ways we may do so is to facilitate the interaction of the old and the young, and to respect the wisdom of the aged.
Till I write again, I love you for reading.