When I was a child life was easier. I saw life the way any child could see it, for if I should say, any child should know. It was all black and white to me. No other shades of colour of life were known to me; not gray, green, pink, yellow or even the famous red.
My thinking was patterned in the simplest manner. There was no time to recount grudges against anyone.Every pain was cried out. For crying came easier to me as a child. Like every other child, I cried to show my innocence, and cried louder to show my guilt. For a child, the highest point of proving my innocence is not swearing by God’s name or is it by taking any oath. No. None of that worked for me. It was to cry out my eyes.
I slept peacefully at night, leaving every hurt and grudge at the play ground. No insult was taken into the house from the play ground, for mother would tolerate no insult in her house.
My life as a child gave much respect to my elders. I wasted no time in greeting them. Even if Papa Ogoo passed me one million times, he must be greeted times two. For I knew that to keep silent at your passing elder means you have no upbringing. I forbade myself from being reminded to greet my elders.
I knew nothing. I was innocent. Life was simpler for me. Exaggeration was no big deal. Like every other child, you must give your account based on the number you so desire. To our elders around us, it is called lies or bloated truth. To us, the children we must exert our domination in telling the most accurate story. In telling our stories, we stand, raise our chest, and look at every face, daring anyone to challenge the truth in our story. No one cared about the original version, as far as you can pass the message across, despite the variations, we will know. We always know what you want to say.
Being a child meant I must have my own version of the story recounted. We knew nothing like accuracy in story telling for every story must bear our own mark of oratory. I could talk for centuries and not be exhausted. I was a child. The most my elders would do is to ask me to shut up. Why would they always ask me to shut up when I have much to say to the world?
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As a child, numbers meant nothing to us. The higher number you can present, the better and much credible your information will be. We always knew that our elders’ ages are unutterable, yet we still try to imagine it in our small mind. Someone whose age should not be more than 20 could be 40 years to us. Why? He is bigger, he is older, and he must be respected.
Height meant everything to us. The taller you are the better for you to exert your age and domination. If you are tall and declare your age to be 11, we will accept it, until we see someone taller than you.
My life as a child made my world easier. There are explanations for everything. I did not worry myself about why this is like that or why that is like this. No. I was curious as to why why is why. Seeking my own answers, asking questions and formulating my own conclusion where no answer is available.
I lived a carefree life, singing, to every airplane that passes, with other children. Our faces lifted up to the sky, lungs filled with air and our mouth expelling the hopeful song to the airplane to bring bags or rice, beans, clothes, items I may not recall now, and above all, bags of money. Sometimes I just sing along with that gleeful feeling, other times I sing with hope. Hoping that the airplane would hear us and oblige me. Like a child, anything that is not in sight is not relevant, so does the airplane once it passes. Forgotten until another journeys our way.
I was taught to tell the truth always, even when I know saying it will get me some African correctional method. Truth must be told.
There were superstitions around us. As children, as free souls we were. No one crosses over me while I lay down, for this will make me short, it will mean that i cannot grow tall. You are allowed to call snakes at night because they will hear you and seek you out. Whenever I see what interests my stomach I wish that my right palm will itch me. That is the sign that money was coming our way. It may be through dash for errand done or my share from that given to us by either Uncle Dozie or Nelson. Everyone knew that to look at the mirror at night would surely bring a ghost to you. If you don’t want to turn into a hen or a tuber of yam, then do not pick the money or candy that is on the ground. Whatever food item that drops to the ground was meant for the devil, so don’t pick it. If someone is gossiping with your name or our mother is calling us, we sneeze. The last thing that must leave your plate is your fish or meat. For it is only the child that has no respect for the elders that eat as the elders does: eating our meat before the meal is finished.
Oh my life as a child. It was simple. I had no need to worry. I had no need to be saddled with so much responsibilities. For one thing was certain, I will be rich, I will have so many cars and will have houses all over Nigeria and the world.
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This was my dream as a child. This was my life as a child. This was the life I could remember. Beautiful memories they all are. The good ones, the bad ones.
Reality is come upon me. To remind me that life is more than two shades of colour. For it is from these shades of colour that other ones were gotten. The older I got, I began to see the other shades of colour life has to paint my experiences with. Like the colour gray, my life had been gloomy, like the colour blue, I have seen peaceful life, like the colour green I am fruitful. Red shade of life made me realize that life is filled with dangers, life is filled with love.
There is so much to this quick reality that white and black is not enough to express. Responsibilities that must be taken, path that must be made. Part that I must play in this stage of life.
Although I may have lost most of the innocence bequeathed to me as that innocent child. I may never have those experience again, only their reflections alive and fleeting in my memories. I know one thing is certain. I know one reality that is eternal.
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Life begins in white and ends in black. This is the utmost reality. For our eyes bears witness to this: most of the colour contained by our eyes is white and black, though other minor shades abound.
But don’t forget, life begins in white and ends in white. For the day breaks into white stream of light illuminating everywhere, so does that same day give up the whiteness of its light for the blackness of its night. When the day sleeps, night prowls in her cloak of blackness.
When night and day speaks, no other colour interferes. When life comes into the reality before us, no other exists. For life is either light or dark. Love or hate. Truth or lies. Innocent or corrupt.
Black. Or. White!