Memories

New Series: Once Upon a Boarder

Hi folks!

Guess who’s back, back again. Waila’s back, tell a friend! #hieminem

Yes, we’ve been here before but let’s not dwell on that.

It feels good to be writing again but I must admit I’m a bit rusty. I don’t remember it taking me this long to churn out a post. I guess that’s my punishment for neglecting the craft for so long.

I’d like to thank the Twitterati for shaming me out of hiding. I’d been meaning to snap out of the funk and resume blogging but when one of my old blog posts suddenly started making the rounds on Twitter, I logged into my blog and was shocked at how long it had been since I had last published a post. I honestly thought it had only been a couple of months. Somebody say deluded!

Well, I’m back with a brand new series!

QC LogoYou know I like to document my memories and what better memories to pen than those I amassed at Secondary School?! If like me you went to a government boarding school in Nigeria, you will know that it was a life changing experience. For those of you that don’t know, I am a QC girl…that’s Queen’s College to my non Nigerian readers. It was one the most popular schools in the country and while I will admit it was one of the better government schools, there was nothing posh about it. Really, nothing!

Lack of ‘poshness’ aside, I don’t regret my time there. It taught me so much about the world and life in general. I always say that QC was a pretty good replica of the real world. There aren’t many schools where you will find the daughter of a driver sat next to the daughter of a multimillionaire. We had students cutting across the tribal, class and financial divides and it really did give you a glimpse of real life.

Many of the relationships I made there are still going strong and while academically I didn’t learn a damn thing, I did learn how to pass exams, iron without an iron and rebel without appearing rebellious!

In this series, I will share some of my secondary school stories with you. Each story will be complete so there’ll be no waiting for part two. It will be interjected with other posts though so if you find that next week I write about something different, be not confused.

The first story will be up this week. I am not active on Twitter so it’s not the best place to look for me. If you subscribe to this blog, you will get an email alert when the post is published. You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram for updates!

Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/waila.caan

Instagram: @wailacaan

Happy Wednesday!

xXx

Waila

The Case of the Walking Wardrobe

6a00e54fc798d0883401630338f9cc970d-800wiMany years ago my family played host to a friend’s daughter for a couple of months. Her mother was critically ill and her father had his hands full nursing her.  On the day her mother died, we took her home under the guise of going to visit her dad, as we often did while she was with us.  My mum had called me aside earlier and asked me to secretly pack up her stuff and put them in the boot of the car.  I will never forget the paranormal sounds that pierced the air when her dad broke the news to her. Till this day, I have never heard anything like it. I sat with her for hours while she wailed and I shed a few tears myself. My tears weren’t’ for her mother, they were for her. Her pain was palpable and I shared in it.

In the following weeks, we were constant visitors at their house; my mother, to help with the funeral arrangements, and myself, as a companion for my new friend. New because the few times I’d met her prior to her stay with us, I’d established that I didn’t like her. Her abrasive personality grated on my nerves. I groaned inwardly when I heard she was coming to stay but smiled and made her feel welcome. I knew better than to be ungracious.  My mother expected nothing less from me, and rightly so.  But seeing her breakdown and holding her in my arms as she wept inconsolably changed all that. Her shared pain drew us together.  I had just turned 13, she was 17.

I remember being concerned about her. I knew what it was like to lose a parent and I worried constantly about how she was dealing with it. Having her turn up unannounced one afternoon was a surprise as she lived an hour’s drive away. I was in the middle of a piano lesson so I told her she had to wait a while before I’d be free to hang out with her. She said she couldn’t stay, she’d only come to collect a few things I’d forgotten to pack for her. I couldn’t remember seeing any of her stuff lying around but I told her to feel free to head up to my room and grab whatever she forgot.  She left before my lesson was over.

The Sunday after her visit, I decided to wear a new dress my mum had bought me a couple of months before. I tore my room apart trying to find it. Running late for church, I decided to reach for my favourite cream brocade skirt with the black floral embroidery instead. That too was nowhere to be found. As I rummaged through my wardrobe perplexed, I realised there were quite a few items missing. I sat on the floor, confused, and it was there my mother found me. Before she could scream at me for not being dressed, I told her half my wardrobe was missing. At first, she thought I was being silly, surely, my clothes couldn’t have developed legs and done a runner?! Perhaps if I’d tidied up my wardrobe like she’d asked me to umpteen times, I’d be able to find things more easily? It wasn’t till I mentioned that my favourite skirt was missing that she took me seriously.

“The cream one with the black flowers? Didn’t you give it to Anita?! She was wearing it the last time I went to her house.”

I didn’t need to be a graduate of the police academy to realise what had happened to my missing clothes. Many of the clothes that were missing were new and I was determined to reclaim them. I needed to confirm my theory so my mum and I took a trip to her house. Under strict instruction not to utter a word, I sat quietly while my mum calmly asked if she’d helped herself to my clothes.

At first she vehemently denied it but after my mum gently reminded her she’d seen her wearing my skirt, she came clean. She went off to her room and returned with a suitcase full of my property. Underwear, clothes, jewellery, books, shoes and some random bits and bobs.

The look of furious shame on her father’s face is beyond description. He made several attempts to hit her but my mum stood in his way.  After calming him down, she encouraged Anita to apologise to me and her father, which she did.

What happened next shocked me to my core.

As we made to leave, I reached for the suitcase of clothes but was halted by the sound of my mother’s voice saying, “leave it.”

Leave it?! How could I leave it?! Some of my favourite possessions were in that case!  Besides, most of the clothes wouldn’t fit Anita (who was two sizes bigger) so what was the point?! I knew better than to argue though so tears running down my face I walked away from my belongings. I’ll never forget how hurt I was. I felt betrayed not only by Anita who in spite of my reservations, I had embraced, but also by my mother who had taken the side of a thief over her own daughter.

On the journey home, my mother tried, unsuccessfully, to console me. Whatever happened to justice? Didn’t I deserve to have the things that had been unlawfully taken from me returned? Surely that WAS the right thing to do?!

Understanding didn’t come till many years later. My mother’s actions were a lesson in mercy; compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

Free Writing: Write About Someone You Used To Love

goodbye

I will never forget what I was wearing the day it all started. A canary yellow v-neck jumper from Zara, black wide legged pants and pointed black court shoes. I’d met him a few months before at a party my cousin invited me to.  We didn’t talk much at the party and to be honest, I only noticed him because he was quite light skinned. He had a girlfriend at the time so there was no thought of a possible romance.

The day I met him again, in my yellow jumper, I was at church waiting for the first service to end so I could go into the second service. There were quite a few of us waiting in the foyer and I was surprised when my roaming eyes connected with his.  He remembered me and seeing as we were both alone, ended up sitting together during the service. Afterwards, he had a few hours to kill before he had to go to some lunch soirée and asked if I’d like to catch up over drinks. I said yes and that was the beginning of a rather interesting year and some.

We got on so well over drinks that when he dropped me off home, we swapped numbers. It was the summer holidays and I was working my first ever job at a photography studio selling makeovers to members of the public. He worked for a hedge fund and in that period was as working Japanese hours.  His working day started at midnight and we would be on the phone talking about Lord knows what, till I had to get out of bed and get ready for work. I got the raw end of the deal on that one! I couldn’t use my phone at work so he got to sleep while I was working. I was seriously sleep deprived that summer.

I will never forget our first date. We met up in the west end, grabbed a bite to eat at Wagamama and then walked the back streets of central London. It really was perfect. Well until we headed to the cinema to watch a movie during which my bag got stolen. Actually, even that was perfect. He went into superman mode and called the police and my bank to report the theft. We walked to his office because he had a shift to start and he called me a cab, paid for it and shoved a couple of twenty pound bills in my hand to tide me over till I got my replacement cards. I tried to refuse the money but it was a Friday and in those days, banks didn’t open on Saturdays. After convincing me to swallow my pride and take the money, I did.

For a whole host of reasons, things didn’t work out between us. He was and still is an amazing guy and we are good friends to this day. At the time things fell apart, I was convinced I’d never find anyone like him again.

I was right, I still haven’t found anyone like him and to be honest, it’s a good thing I haven’t. In hindsight, amazing though he was, he wasn’t right for me.

Love,

Waila

Fighting For Forever: Part II

I remembered the first time I took Karen to see my mother. Knowing how quick mama’s tongue is, I’d briefed her on the right things to say and do. As soon as mama came into the living room, Karen fell to her knees and greeted her like a good servant would greet his master. I was impressed. When mama went into the kitchen to serve lunch, she trailed her offering to help. Not wanting to be left on my own, I followed them into the kitchen but one sharp look from mama told me I wasn’t welcome. I groaned as I realised she intended to grill Karen. Much as I wanted to protect her from mama’s interrogation, I realised it would have to happen at some point so I conceded and left them to it.
Half an hour later when they both surfaced with smiles on their faces, I breathed a sigh of relief. All through lunch Karen wouldn’t shut up about how fantastic a cook mama was and I was certain she had passed the test when she promptly cleared the table and offered to do the dishes after lunch. I couldn’t have been more shocked when mama called me later that night and gave her verdict.
“My son, leave that girl, she is not a good woman.”
“Mama! How can you say that?! You met her today, what’s not to like?!”
“I am a woman and your mother at that. I know a good wife when I see one and I am telling that she will not make you a good wife.”
“You can’t just say that,” I groaned in frustration, “help me understand how you came to that conclusion.”
“It’s in her eyes my son, she smiles a lot but the smile doesn’t reach her eyes. She is shrewd, she is not a kind person.”
“How can you know that when you’ve only just met her? I’ve been dating her for two years and she’s never yet given me reason to agree with you.”
“Call it feminine intuition but I know what I’m saying. I’m your mother, I won’t lie to you. Oju e buru gan, her eyes are wicked.”
I was furious with the old woman. The very eyes that made me feel like a million dollars when they smiled at me, how could she call them wicked?!
“Look mama, we both know how you are. You never see the good in people, always quick to criticise. Karen is the woman I have chosen to marry. If you want to convince me otherwise, you’ll have to come up with something better than this your wicked eyes theory.”
“My son, you are not a baby. Marry whoever you want to marry but know that the day I cease to tell you the truth is the day I will join your father in the grave. I cannot sit back and watch you make a mistake without saying my piece. If you want to marry her, marry her but for your sake, I hope the blackness I see in her eyes is just her pupils.”
“I’m grateful for the advice but I think I know Karen better than you do. She is a lovely girl and I have no doubt she will make me happy. You wanted me to find a wife, I’ve found one. Please be happy for me, that’s all I ask.”

Oh mama, I wish I’d listened to you!

Karen has made my life hell the last six months. Initially I told myself I deserved her anger. I’d made a mistake and though a part of me wanted her support and understanding, on some level, I felt I deserved to be punished for being so gullible. Any fool that does business with a man that wears a white suit in this Lagos deserves to be conned! But six month of hostility from my wife was more than I deserved. I’ve begged, grovelled and worked my butt off trying to find a new job. What more does she want?
I will never forget her reaction the day I broke the news to her. It was the first time I saw what my mother saw in her eyes. Blackness.

Love, Waila

Dear Friends,

Given my impeccable manners, it would be rude of me not to acknowledge that today is the 14th of February. Only one who is bitter would begrudge lovers openly loving themselves whilst the rest of us gaze longingly on. I am not one of such. I bear no grudge against Saint Valentine, after all, he is not to blame for my current state of ‘manlessness’. 

I woke up this morning with a false sense of hope.  Sometime during the night, while my brain was off duty, the powers of the night hijacked it and filled it with nonsensical notions. How else would you explain the urge to robe myself in fine garments this morning should a gentleman friend want to wine and dine me after work? How else would you explain my turning up to work this morning expecting to find my desk crumbling under the weight of the flowers resting on it? Wicked powers they are, wicked! They almost succeeded in their mission to send me into depression but the forces of good intervened.  Just as I began to wonder if anyone loves me, I got a text message that read ‘Happy Valentines Mother!’ How my heart leapt with joy!  Oh to be loved by someone besides my mother who is obliged to do so lest the traumatic hours she spent in labour be in vain.

Yes, my son remembered me on this day! Such a simple message but so unexpected and sweet.  It pleased me so much that I have decided he ought to be rewarded for his impeccable timing and intuition.  He will be the recipient of the jacket his heart has long desired. ‘She has a son?!’ you wonder.  I do indeed.  I did not conceive him though, I would not dream of ruining my fine figure. He is the product of the union between my Uncle Tee and his wife. Some would call him my cousin but that is their business.

This year, Valentine’s Day took me by surprise.  Apparently, love (along with dust, germs and bacteria) has been in the air but I hadn’t noticed. Mayhap it is because I have been otherwise occupied and have not visited the malls or high streets recently. Yester night it suddenly dawned on me that the day was aye upon me and I found myself rating my memories of the day set aside for love.

Last year my dear friend Stinkus and her gentleman friend T-Baby turned up at my flat with a heart shaped mug filled with little chocolates and a packet of cocoa. I was deeply gratified by their thoughtfulness although I suspected foul play. Perhaps they were trying to motivate me to enter into a union of my own? I suspect their patience with my aloneness is wearing thin.

My second favourite memory was the year my mother gave me a silver necklace with a heart shaped locket. The locket held a picture of her cradling my infant self in her arms. It’s the sort of gift one treasures and passes on to one’s offspring. Alas, I lost it!

My favourite memory features my brother G, who when he chooses, can be delightfully saccharine. I forget how old we were but we were in primary school at the time. We were trying to decide on whom to bestow our titles of Valentine.  We concluded it ought to be people we loved. He said he loved me and asked if I loved him. I said I did. We saved our pocket monies and went together to Park n Shop to pick out presents. I remember not what he bought me but when he handed over the gift bag, he leaned in and gave me a peck on the cheek. Romantic or what?!

It is with these memories I warm myself on this cold and rainy day.

A Happy Valentine’s Day to you.

Love,

Waila