26 August 2011

Down memory lane

Growing up back at the village was fun. Didnt seem like much fun then but I appreciate the peace and tranquility there now. Everyone knew everyone else and was responsible for the other. We took time to stop and chat our neighbors and even spent a whole evening exchanging stories after a hard days' work.

I liked the way we did stuff together. We, the children would organise to perform chores together at different homes in turn. Some of us would be cooking while the others worked. Somehow the food tasted better when we had it together in a group. And the stories were never ending. So was the laughter.

Going to school was a joint affair too. Up until class four when I went to boarding school. We woke up early to prepare to go to school. More often than not there was one or  more kids waiting outside to walk together to school. We talked all the way and only ran the last bit of the journey when we heard the school bell ring. In the evening it was one large party again, headed for home.

We learnt so much that kids nowadays do not get to learn. Walking home in the evening, we had to be on the look out for each other. There was always the danger of that man or other who lurked in the shadows awaiting little children who was more of a mother's imagination than reality. Often times as we walked, we would suddenly stop talking and stand, when one of us imagined they had seen a shadow cross our path. We would all huddle together and take off in different directions screaming. At this, someone from a homestead nearby would come running to find out the cause.

The most fun came at Christmas time. This was a time of merry making and special treats. Aside of new clothes which were unwrapped just a few days to the day for fitting, were the delicacies. But we had Christmas carols too. This is what used to happen. The older boys and girls would meet up in the evenings to practice songs. Then the last few days to Christmas, they would go from one homestead to another just after dark to sing. There would be this large number of youths trudging into a homestead, who would come, sing two or three songs before proceeding to the next homestead. They of course expected a token from the home. A chicken here, or some bread.  This they would put together and hold a party on Christmas day evening.

There were stories of village folk who did not wake up to meet these night guests who would have a smelly surprise at their gate the following morning. What surprises me today was that there was no talk of these youth misbehaving while they went about singing at night to earn their Christmas party. If one dared to go beyond holding the hands of a girl they would not only be the talk of the village and beyond but would invite gossip on their parents on their parenting skills!

The most exciting of all was Christmas eve. We would usually go to church for a service that was meant to usher the birth of Christ. There were performances from different youths. There were always some grownups given the task to ensure all went well. Considering one of them would be our headmaster, we all went out of our way to put on our best behaviour. After all, none of us wanted to have their name called out on the list of shame at the school parade when schools reopened.

Things have changed now back at the village. Folks don't have much time to hold chats one with the other. Children now ride in school buses to school and thus don't get to play and even socialise as before. People have put up high gates and serious dogs, you don't dare just walk into some one's home without notice. The Christmas carols are no more. Many people have left to go work in big towns and only meet occasionally. Life back at the village now remains a distant memory of what it was before.

I often think that our upbringing is ideal for our African setting. I mean, at the end of the day so many social ills were evaded then. But then with the changing lifestyles things had to change.
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