Growing Up, Personal Experiences

Attention

Attention

“Pay attention to the ending you want. Never lose focus.”

That morning, as I prepared for school, my dad had promised me a private treat. “We will do something special after school today”, he said.

And that was it. I couldn’t concentrate at school. I imagined oh so many great and mighty things that day… a bicycle maybe? No no no… it couldn’t be…a computer game… a pet?…I was delirious with suspense and anticipation.

Finally, after the longest school day in the history of the world, it was time to set out to get the treat.

He never spoke much, my dad. So the ride was a silent one, broken by the hazy music coming from the car stereo.

To cut a long story short, it was a visit to his farm. To work. This was my special treat.

I was shocked, yet too young to be disappointed, confused as my great imaginings collapsed into the reality before me.

Not having experienced a farm before, I somehow turned on recording mode and ended up with strong memories of many life firsts for my 6 year old self.

I ate farm-roasted corn-on-the-cob for the first time that day.

He roasted it right there on the farm. He used his cutlass to dig a small pit, then asked me to gather small pieces of wood with him. We worked together and created quite an impressive stack. I watched him start the fire.

For the first time, I watched a fire I had helped create pop and fizzle, with the occasional high-pitched whistle as green twigs caught fire. The glorious aroma of roasting corn even as the wind occasionally sent heat and flames from the fire-pit our way, making us run laughing to a safer location.

No unnecessary word was spoken.

It rained.

A sprinkle at first, then a downpour. He didn’t seem to notice.

He planted me under a stand of banana trees, smiled at me and continued working. I remember the smell of wet soil, the drumming of the rain on the banana leaves, and tiny me wondering how exactly I was better off under the banana trees, with the amount of water that got on me.

In the manner of children, I created a private game under that wet banana tree; pulling up weeds, weaving stories around the wet world around me, watching ants gather food, and ultimately committing a few ant murders.

My dad kept on working, weeding, slashing with his cutlass, soaked to the skin under the heavy downpour.

He would come up for air from time to time, water streaming down his face, look at me for a few seconds, smile and go back to work.

We left after dark. The forest night shift had started, heralded by the insect choir screeching the symphony I have come to associate with wet and cold forest nights.

We stopped at a bush bar on our way home.

I tasted palm wine for the first time that evening and almost forgot to breathe as the sweet liquid burst onto my tastebuds for the first time.

For what seemed like an eternity, I sucked in huge mouthfuls of the delicious fresh palm-wine, resisting my dad’s attempt to stop the flow of liquid heaven until he had to physically wrestle the calabash from me.

I caught him smiling with embarrassment at the men at the bush bar. They said something to him and everyone burst out laughing.

I didn’t care. I smiled happily, my mind struggling to capture the wonder of this, oh-so-exquisite high fidelity experience.

I can still taste that first drought of palm-wine anytime I want.

The drive home was as quiet as the drive to the farm. I spent it re-living the memories of the day, cocooned in a beautiful cloud of palm-wine generated bliss.

My mind kept on recording.

The growl from our trusty Peugeot 504. Dusky foreign music merging with radio static, fading in and out of the car speakers. No electricity at home. Lantern light with the smell of soot as we ate rice at the dining table.

A perfect day.

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