Monday, April 14, 2008

"Happy Chrisimasi"

The long journey tests our weary bones and sore behinds
Time seems to stand still as city lights fade
Mama would always be there standing by her door
With hugs and tears of joy in her eyes
"Nno"*
"Happy Chrisimasi, Happy Chrisimasi"
The memory of her voice still stays with me
The lines on her skin portray her wisdom
Her beautiful wrinkled palm grabs yours as she pulls you closer
Her living room is filled with photos from years past
Black and white photos in wooden frames
Birthdays, weddings, funerals
Like a museum of personal history,
Every photo with its own story
Mum on her first bike, her first degree, her first child
Memories so precious to leave behind
I remember when I used to think the TV with the shutters was cool
And papa's lap was school
And mama's four post bed was my bouncy castle
And Papa's grand father clock was a wonder
And the tree outside was my little world
Bottle tops for people and matchboxes for cars
Stones for houses and sticks for bridges
Getting dirty in the rustic red sand , I held happiness in my hand
Christmas day was great, we got dressed in our best
There were always so many people there
Family from everywhere, Cousins I never knew I had
After church we'd visit them all
One by one we'd reconnect over our memories
Of last Christmas, last year, last time I saw you
You were this high, you've grown so tall,
Everyone gathered at the table, we would share a meal
Food meant the tomatoes and vegetables from mama's farm
And pineapple and banana from the tree behind the house
And one of the chickens that ran around the day before
The streets are always filled with olobo, Atilogwu, and Egwu Aja dancers
They entertain from house to house
Their colourful dresses, their scary masks
They dance with so much energy as they raise the red dust off the ground
We would spend hours watching them, no one could stop us running around
Sometimes looking through windows when we were too scared
When the time came to return to the city
Mama would pray, and then she would give us some money
It was always sad to leave,
I still remember the last time I saw her
She still gave me money
Mama, I said, "I should be giving you money"
No, she said," Unu bu umuaka'm"*
Then she gave us each a piece of cloth from her collection
Her last words were usually
"Ije oma"*, "Chwukwu gozie gi"*
The trip back would be spent recounting the days spent with mama
The trees, the fresh air, the food, and the people
When we got back, the concrete jungle of the city always paled
We always looked forward to the next time we'd see her again
The woman who named me Chiedu*,and called me her little monkey banana

Consider this my letter to heaven
Happy Chrisimasi mama, we will never forget

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"Nno" means "welcome"
"Unu bu umuaka'm" means "you are my children"
"Ije oma" means "safe journey"
"Chukwu gozie gi" means "God bless you"
"Chiedu" means "God help me"
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