This is a guest post.
My childhood was really interesting and full of fun. I was born into a large family. My father had married and divorced several women before he met my mother and as a result, I had a few older half siblings. This made growing up a lot of fun for me because it was always a full house and there was never a dull moment. We lived in a very big building with lots of flats, a few of which my father leased out to tenants. The compound was also very large with plenty of space for playing around. Another factor that contributed to the fun was the presence of domestic helps. We had different maids come and go, each with a different cultural background. This gave us the opportunity to be exposed to different games and folktales from all over the country. Some of those maids were stern and unfriendly but most of them were very relaxed and loved to play as much as we kids did. My early years were filled with funny events and occurrences due to all the influences around. I am going to share a story about one of such occurrences. I call it “chicken drama”.
I have already stated that my mother was not the first and only woman my father married. This always put her on edge because in this part of the world, if you had step-children, that could mean serious trouble for you. Nothing you ever do will be right in the eyes of your neighbours and acquintances. Every little act of discipline would be perceived as maltreatment of the children and you could easily be branded a wicked step-mother; like the one in Cinderella. Anyway I digress. Back to the story. The main issue that made my mother uneasy was the fact that the mothers of those children, although they were not living in the same house with us, might want to harm her and her kids. That is also a common occurrence in this part of the world. This fear of being harmed made my mother to become very prayerful and “spiritual”. This spirituality was further fueled by the church we attended then. We were made to believe that the devil had so much power and we had to stay awake and pray in the middle of the night or witches would kill us in our sleep. My mother was always alert and concious of the fact that there were demons everywhere. Every unusual occurrence was caused by demonic activity. She was what we Nigerians call a “prayer warrior”.
This chicken drama began when one of our tenants started rearing chickens in the backyard. The hens laid some eggs which later hatched into really cute chicks. I was nine years old at the time and my baby brother must have been around four. We were really taken with the cute chicks. They were so fluffy and yellow, we decided that we simply must have them as pets; at least one of them. Our maid at the time, Fatima, was the most exciting, adventurous and mischievous help we ever had. She was very playful and was ready to go along with every silly idea I had so I approached her with a new one; to steal the tenant’s chicks. She eagerly agreed of course and reappeared shortly with a very cute chick in her hand, apologetic for being able to catch just one. We set up living quarters for the chick immediately. After pondering for a few minutes I decided to create a home for it in the top drawer of my dresser. That was one place I was sure my mother would never look. We made the chick comfortable in the drawer and left it open just a little bit, for some air to go in. I made sure the space wasn’t large enough for it to get out. I was so happy with our new pet and I actually thought we would be able to take care of it till it grew and was able to lay eggs. We fed it whatever we ate; we obviously didn’t have the slightest clue on how to rear chickens. My top drawer was filled with biscuits, strands of spaghetti, grains of rice and whatever food you can think of.
Our “pet” didn’t last with us for up to one week before the “chicken drama” occurred. It was a Saturday evening. We had just come back from a visit to the amusement park; mother, Fatima, baby brother and I. Someone foolishly left the drawer open, wider than usual, before we left for the park. The poor chick, after being locked up for so long, found it’s chance at freedom and jumped out. At that same moment, for some reason which I can’t remember now, my mother followed Fatima and I to my room and saw our wonderful pet. Now my mother is someone that overreacts a lot; she’s known to make a mountain out of a molehill and this made us to lie about a lot of things while growing up. As soon as she saw the chick she screamed, ‘Jesus! Who brought this chick here?’ The little person in my mind was running around frantically, thinking of what to do because I was so scared of what my mother would do to me if she found out we had stolen the tenant’s chick. However, on the outside I maintained my composure and calmly told her that I didn’t know who brought it. ‘So how did it get here?’, she asked. Again, I replied that I didn’t know. She immediately started binding and casting evil forces. She then called the errand boy, Patrick and asked him to take the chick outside and set it ablaze. The rationale for this was that if the chick was indeed a witch that changed her form, she would die in a very horrible way; being burnt alive.
Fatima and I looked on in dismay as Patrick took the chick, poured some kerosene on it and set it ablaze. I felt terrible as I watched the chick burn and I was convinced God was going to punish me for what I had done. It took me years to get over that incident and I eventually told my mother about it. She laughed and said she couldn’t even remember burning a chick. It’s something I laugh about now when I remember it but it wasn’t in the least bit funny then. I couldn’t sleep that night. I kept tossing and turning, thinking about what a terrible person I was. I had caused the execution of an innocent chicken.
This is a guest post.