A CHRISTMAS OF SPREAD FRAGRANCE
“Odun n lo so pin o Baba mimo “, the song punctuated my sleep that chilly morning. I dragged the blanket reluctantly off my squeezed face, yawned and searched for the light switch on the wall close to my bed. I clicked it and stared helplessly at the hour and minutes hands of the clock. They pointed at 6. I wished it was not yet day break. Sleep can be very delicious when it is served in harmattan. I still watched the second hand ticked past 40 seconds. I forced myself out of the bed, meandered to my table for the devotion. I had forgotten it was the first day of December till the devotional book jolted me to that. The song that had awoken me now made meaning me.
My neighbour loves to start his day by tuning in to the radio station. It’s a habit. I have wondered if he could change. “Do you teach an old dog a new trick?” He once asked me when I teased him about his fond habit.
This is one song that introduces one to the year-end and the yuletide. The song is a phoenix; it springs to live once the year is preparing to say its benediction. “Aye! It’s Christmas,” joy bubbled in my heart as I painted my toothbrush red with the toothpaste.
“I need to go and see my tailor early before she becomes busy,” paused, “last year, I couldn’t get my gown till the after Christmas. A very annoying memory.” I spoke under my breath as I marked the last script on my table.” Tailors can be very cunning and unfaithful during moments like this. They will not tell you they have more than they could chew. They pile cloths for deadlines they knew they cannot meet. I sighed as I remembered what I suffered from my tailor last year. She an adept seamstress and I’m used to her, I don’t know how change to another tailor.
My siblings have pestered Mummy to call to tell me they would be visiting when they vacate from the boarding school. I warned her to release them as soon as they vacate before the transport fare get hiked. I dislike the recklessness of drivers during this season too. Left to me, I would have begged Mummy to dissuade them, but I know Tomi can be very adamant. She would not even agree to me sending them money for the celebrations instead of them having to travel. She has been reminding of visiting every time she calls.
Soon it was the 24th. Christmas Eve. December is known for its speed. This year, it seems more brisk. “We cannot miss church this evening,” I awaken interest in my siblings. My eyes kept finding my ticking wristwatch every time. I felt as if something is slowing the watch down. I just change its battery, but I couldn’t shake this feeling off my expectant self. “What’s the time?” I asked Tomi. I checked my wristwatch to be sure it was correct. It was. My restless self needed something to engage it; I opened the fridge to be sure the grinded pepper, tomatoes and onions are intact in it. I lay on the bed yearning for sleep that refused to come. “Has sleep ever broken your heart?” I turned to Tomi, hoping for a gist.
“Silent night, holy night,” the choir serenaded me as I walked into the church flanked by my siblings. I noticed the Christmas lights glittering round the decoration clothes hung stylishly over the church and round a Christmas tree from the side of the pulpit. I adjusted my seat properly to sit. Mothers, ladies and children have something on them with red and white colours. A child blew vuvuzela across me. I giggled at him. He blew it into my face. I blinked and threatened to beat him. He smiled naïvely and ran into his mother’s laps.
On the night of a Christmas Eve in church, you don’t pray to miss the stage play. The drama. I watched it began with a bated breath. I had, as usual, expected a comic play that would make us laugh gracefully and endlessly too. The drama broke me. It brought me close to tears. No, I cried. I guessed I did.
“How could she have done that?” I asked my saddened self. She poured the food on the open dump while the neighbour peeped. He took sugarless Garri in the morning, afternoon and hopefully would do the same this evening. “How could she have been so insensitive to her very environment, how?” I smacked my lips and hissed. “More so, it was on a Christmas. Haba. She missed a wonderful chance to beam the love of Jesus.” I cringed within myself.
The solemnity that filled the church was soon diluted with succeeding programmes: Dance drama, Eulogy, Songs and so on.
At 12 AM, the excitement peaked. I have been familiar with the ecstasy since I was small.
The church became a cacophony of shouts. We greeted ourselves. Phones started singing different tunes as Christmas messages from loved ones came into them. I switch mine off; it was becoming a nuisance to me. I needed concentration. I tried to be as joyful as others, but the drama harped a string on my heart. I tried to hide my feeling. I managed.
I saw people fluttered out of churches and fireworks high in the dark sky as we walked home. I heard few blasts of bangers. The state government has laid a ban on its use. It was said that it was because one Igbo man’s shop got burned last year due to the stocked bangers in his shop. The street was like a nightly market.
Scenes of the drama replayed in my solemn head as I pulled the blanket over my frame and clicked off the light. In the stark darkness of my room, the drama began to reflect me. I wasn’t different from that insensitive woman. Memories of past Christmas came gushingly. Haunting. Christmas has always been about me alone. I have innocently seen it as a day to enjoy with one’s family. Although, I have heard about spreading the fragrance of Jesus on Christmas day, but I have just never given it much thought.
“This Christmas must be different,” I muttered into prayers before sleep finally took me away from my misery.
Morning came. Christmas was well into the hazy air. I smelled it. I requested three of my students to visit me. I have had them talked about the pains that the demise of their fathers have brought to them and all I have done was pity and wish life treats them with benevolence.
“Aunty, so Christmas can be this lovely?” One was confused.
“Thank you, Aunty. I will keep this chicken for my brother. Mother told us we would have to manage our Christmas meal without meat last night. She kept apologising to us till this morning.” Another student said, tellingly.
I felt some wetness within my eyes, but I don’t want to cry before my own students. I tried hard, but I failed. I failed woefully. I cried. They cried too. I wiped their faces dry and packed food for them to take home.
It was evening and my heart was just thrilled by this indescribable joy. Peace pervaded my soul. I spread the fragrance of Jesus. I was joyful.
Christmas came and went, but my heart remained glued to these students. They began to sneak into my prayer points. I began to notice this change in my life. I now understand it more; Jesus reached out to me so that I can reach out for Him.
“Jesus! I will shine your light. I will shine.” I burst into prayers this night.
Odun n lo so pin o Baba mimo: An evergreen song popular in south-west Nigeria.
Garri: A staple food made from cassava.
Haba: A remark.
Adesina Ajala is a budding prosaist, poet and physician, who circumstance made to start writing back in high school. His works have appeared and forthcoming in anthologies and other platforms, including the 3rd Chinua Achebe Poetry/Essay Anthology, where he got a certificate of award for submitting an outstanding poem.
Adesina made it to the final rounds of the “truncated” online BenPets Short story prize in March, 2018. He is on the shortlist of the League of Wordsmith 2018 for the Flash fiction/Short story category. He desires to be the hope of the pen and the pride of the scalpel. He sent this story from Gusau, the capital place of Zamfara state, Nigeria. He can be connected to through: facebook..