Each time harmattan weather begins to bite, I start to reminisce about my life as a teenager. Then in high school, whenever harmattan sets in, it tells us that yuletide is around the corner. Most of our discussions were centred on how the upcoming Xmas would be like. We always had chinwags about our various families’ preparations for Xmas. My folks in the course of the natter often let slip most of their family secrets, but I, always taciturn, would choose to be mum. It was like a routine to us then: instead we would focus our mind on how to write and pass the first term exams coming up (because that was always the period for first term) with flying colours; we would busy ourselves, especially during recreational hours, with fairy stories. As a “guy man”, though not a bad guy, I was always amidst the tough guys. I was never seen among my mates in terms of physical assessment. I hung around guys who were taller, brawnier and heftier, though not, more intelligent than I was. I hung around these or they hung around me; whichever way, because we were complementary. They stood as my guiders and protectors against qualms from other students and I stood as their messiah and mercenary in exam hall. Now you can fathom how helpful both parties were to each other.
Our chitchats as regards to yuletide season were full of fairy stories. We exchanged gist about the kind of wears (like yuppie jeans, t-shirts with inscriptions such as Nike, addidas, etc, wrist watches, timberland boots, sneakers, and so on) our parents would buy or had already bought for us. It was really amazing sitting for several hours listening to cock and bull stories of all kinds. I always listened and never uttered, not because I never had what to say or could not cook up some tales, but I chose to be a good listener than a story teller. Sometimes I would be compelled by my amigos to say something and I would give those stories that when you hear them you would wonder if fibbing was a gift from God to me. I always told them what they wanted to hear. I would glut their ears with tales of how my mum bought me pairs of yuppie jeans; Nike sneakers and how my aunty in America sent me timberland boot and other stuffs which I knew were all fibs. Though my mum always got Xmas wears for me and my siblings but not the likes of yuppie jeans and timberlands.
Growing up, Xmas was always a mixed feeling for me. On one hand, talking about visiting home (village) during Xmas, my house went agog each time it was mentioned that we were going home for Xmas. I was always gaga personally because as a teenager I enjoyed going home for Xmas and I loved my town (ahinze chukwu mbulu onye ohokwu). Home visiting during Xmas gave me much time to see again folks I had met the previous home coming and the chance to visit forests and rivers where I normally showcase portfolios of my mischief. This love would account for those numerous times I would opt to go to the villa to spend some time with my granny (Mmuka ana-eme, RIP). I was not used to my maternal home, though my elder brothers at that time had already bonded with them, until it dawned on me via several incessant admonitions from my mum and upon my realization that if there should be “fire on the mountain” in my fatherland, my motherland would be a place of refuge. Just like Igbo adage says: “oso chuo nwata be nnia ona n’ikwu nnie.”
But Xmas home visit was always flurry; we never stayed longer at home. We always left for the city immediately after New Year’s celebration. Gosh, I detested that in Toto because I always had unfinished “runs” that I often pushed over till the next visit. Sometimes I even lost them before the next time. Woe betides you if you dare utter a word in contrary to that. Of course nobody would like to invite my dad’s torrential wrath. I will never forget that New Year’s day nobody was allowed to go outing because we had to leave for the city early morning the next day. This was to make sure that everything was packed properly to avoid leaving anything behind. I tried to query that and that earned me chunks of hard knocks on my head from my dad; that ached my head rest of the day.
On the other hand, talking about wears, my mum took it upon herself to get something new at every xmas for us. If it was not clothes; it would be shoes, if not shoes; it would be something else. The point is that she never failed to buy something for us. But my mum always found it difficult deciding what to buy for me because I was always known for nitpicking. My dad wondered if I would ever stop carping. But that did not mean I was not appreciative. I valued every gift given to me by my parents because even after rejecting those gifts at the initial time I would still go back and ask for them. It was just that I allowed resentments to stray me away. In fact, my mum would have to ask me special what I would like her to buy for me before she bought it to avoid my grouse. My idiosyncrasy later told on me when my mum stopped buying stuffs for me and I started lacking things. Most times I resorted to putting on my brothers wears and that IK hated most.
Being a young-old man now, I do not get those gifts any longer. Now I know how priceless and inestimable they were. Each time I muse over those gifts, I see them as my "coats of many colours." Now, state of affairs has changed; the scenario has become a horse of a different colour; “ugbo ebuyaligo onodu.” I am now the one giving the gifts and she is the one making choices but without carping because she knows I am doing my best. The onus has fallen on me!!!