Childhood Chronicles

All of us are products of our childhood.

-Michael Jackson

 Aisha, Amaka, Aniekan, Ayo. 

Our experiences as children shape us into what we become; maybe not singularly, but to a great degree. This explains why I sometimes wish childhood was a little different for me; that I had experienced a bit more fun and pain: read more books, played soccer more, known God better, done more drawing, been allowed to see my grandmother’s corpse after she passed on, among others. Now, childhood’s past, the wishes no longer count, and what’s left is an appreciation of memories of the experiences which stood out – memories of things like Sundays.

Probably like you reading this, as a child, I had my week split into three main parts: five days of school, Saturday of chores, and Sunday to be remembered – the fun came somewhere within all of these.

My memories of Sundays don’t stem from the fact that I had to meet up with a few chums in church and have a feel of their exhilarating lives while the Sunday school teacher taught herself and the few who cared to listen – no, I happened to be among the few who managed to listen. It wasn’t about some lass my age I innocently admired from a distance and hoped to see in her ‘Sunday best’ and as fate would have it, get to talk to… or just wait till another Sunday; neither was it about the Sunday afternoon family meals we had, where we all ate together, except for my then mildly juvenile elder brother who always sought occasion to be absent from the table; nor the tense last minute preparation for every succeeding school week – yes, we often only got to wash our school uniforms and often faded white socks on late Sunday afternoons or evenings, with some fear of what Dad’s reactions would be, who never got to understand that his childhood was way more boring than ours would ever be :D! Neither am I led to remember Sundays for Tom and Jerry! or The Adventures of Tin Tin and the likes. 4 PM on Sundays defined my memories.

It was our – or maybe just my – most delightfully feared hour. By our, I meant myself, my brothers, and as many other boys (and girls) we had around then. Our fear was one. Sometimes, when not keeping track of time, we forgot about it, only to be reminded by a figure across the street or worst still a tap on the door. We had this wall clock which chimed on the hour but never saved us; it was never allowed to chime four times before the source of our fear arrived. And once he was seen anywhere close, whoever saw him first raised an alarm, started a frenzy which spread to everyone and had us scurrying for places of temporary refuge: behind chairs, underneath beds, behind doors, in the bathroom, kitchen – and with the help of a little exaggeration – in the ceiling, anywhere, just so Baba would either not find us, labor at finding us or at least note our reluctance to follow him where he went. No one loved Sunday evening Fellowships!

Hiding from Baba was fun up until he found us, in which case his decades of experience always shone. He would search, find, and would attempt leaving no one behind except granted a promise of being joined later. He would have us whine and whinge with excuses of headaches and tiredness and a lot to be busy with; things which only lasted till he’d left. But he was too assured of his ways to let them go on our pranks.

Baba probably took our reluctance to attend Fellowship to mean we lacked some basic spiritual experience and would reflect this viewpoint with a saying which he very often used against us. He never shouted the words, never spoke them fiercely, he always seemed to make them sound like something out of a song. You are not born again he’d always say, or sing rather. All you had to do to get served these three seconds of pure melodic pleasure was give excuses why you couldn’t go for Fellowship. And by so doing, he unwittingly handed us something to mimic and laugh about in his absence. And in a bid to getting us ‘born again’, Baba would stop at nothing to get us to the Fellowship venue. If he was bothered by how much time he spent in achieving this feat, he hardly showed it. He had to be one of the most tenacious persons I have known up until now.

Of the bunch, I was fairly cooperative and didn’t get to be pushed to hard before going with him. I wonder what the view would have been like to onlookers: some kids, an old man, on their way to heaven-knows-where. They would quite easily have guessed – with bibles in our hands, it wasn’t much of a puzzle. Once we arrived at the venue, we sang praises to our heavenly Father, shared testimonies of our being born-again, which surprisingly Baba never disputed, even by a mere shift in his facial expression. He contrarily encouraged us to do so before even sharing any other testimony of God’s goodness to us and our families. And even when we seemed to have no testimonies, we found one or two to share…out of coercion – at least ‘being alive to witness the moment was one’ we were always reminded of. After testimonies, we prayed about our walk with God, school, family, and other things children like to pray about. And to wrap fellowship up, we listened to Baba imperceptibly inscribe on the individual tables of our hearts Words to get us ‘born again’; I’m almost certain, he had us on his knees in secret prayers.

I look back on these things now and wonder why we ever so feared 4 PM on Sundays. We were children – I wonder if I ever stopped being one.

After graduating from the class in Baba’s care, we would often cross paths and I’ll see in him a man who worked against his age – the opposite being apparent – getting other children born again. This he did, not out of the motivation physical dividends brought I believe, for he had his very own challenges. Ah! He did.

Baba had many children, biological and spiritual, and the biological must have caused him more pain than we the spiritual ever dreamt of doing – though you could hardly tell from his demeanor. He never let it get in the way of what he did, never was deterred from running after us. He saw it all differently, had his physical eyes switched for a spiritual pair, acting temporal, living eternal.

Life’s taken us all around. I haven’t seen him in years; don’t know if he’d retired from active ministerial service or had passed on. But I’m sure wherever he is, he’d be glad to know that at least one (or more) of his many children no longer waits to be dragged to be made born again, but on the contrary makes attempts at fulfilling his favorite duty – getting others born again.

Baba wasn’t well learned. Maybe he wasn’t really accurate at interpreting scripture too. If appearance and manners were to be considered, I don’t see him faring too well. But Baba had a heart, a treasure chest. With this he planted seeds in lives which many theologians, and wealthy nonspiritual folks would fail at doing. Seeds which no one can take away except the very children in whom they were planted.

The world may not know him, you may not know him, but his own BABA up there does know him. And that because he’s His reflection: calling out to us, searching, seeking, finding us out; giving His best at making us who we should be; never living us alone.

Everywhere we find ourselves holds a purpose to be fulfilled, and a life (lives) to be touched.

Baba had a candle he wasn’t ashamed of lighting his world with. You too have a candle. Light your candle, stand where it shines, and allow others abide in its light. Teach them also to light theirs and do as you have done. Take your candle, light your world.

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