Each Christmas while I was much younger I always found it more special to do my holidays at my grandmother’s in Kafanchan. Kafanchan was a town but to me it was my village because going there meant spending the holidays with my grandma and my childhood friends, it also was the one place I felt free to let loose of the city life I was used to because amongst us there was no discrimination of your background or what other people in the community felt about you, all we knew was we were friends and shared our childhood together. Each holiday we seemed to have a similar routine of how we spent our days, but there was this particular one I can’t forget, if I remember correctly I must have been 16 years of age then.
New year eve that year started like every other day but the excitement of entering the new year was in the air and like we did most mornings we lit a fire with the dry sticks of the maize that was left in the farms, using the warmth of the heat to keep ourselves warm while we converse about several topics but the ones that were most fun were stories from our childhood about some naïve things we had done. After we had kept our bodies warm till the sun was up we would then move on to eat breakfast, sometimes we all ate together from the same pot after we had all contributed whatever we could or we would all go to our houses and bring our breakfast then eat together. This was the same thing we will do for lunch but for dinner we all went home to eat so I’ll parents can get a glimpse of us.
In the afternoon the females amongst us will be engrossed in making their hair and while we the males will either roam about or stay and chat with our sisters as they either made other people’s hair or theirs. This was a routine we had gotten used to after doing it for so many years and in the evening we would sit in front of rooms in the compound that stood in front of my grandma’s house wearing socks and covering blankets because of the biting cold. We would play music and chat away while laughing so hard our stomachs hurt but this was all a delay so that when the time struck 8:40 pm we would all sneak home and change before heading down to the church for crossover service into the New Year. That was my first time agreeing to attend a crossover service, in the previous years I always opted to stay home and wait for my friends to return before I’d sneak out by flying the fence.
This year I agreed to follow my gang of friends to the ECWA church that was in the street opposite the road. We got there to see the church already full, so we divided ourselves in groups of twos and found a place to sit. I can’t recall what was preached during most of the service but when it was 11:30 Jacob dragged me out of the church with him. While we stood out in the cold, I saw two ladies approach us before I could recognize Faith who was Jacob’s girlfriend alongside someone.
Faith then introduced the beautiful ebony damsel as Sylvia saying she was her cousin. My guy needed a private time with his girlfriend and felt it was I who would be his wingman and handle the job of keeping Sylvia company. I was not good at keeping conversations with the female gender then because I attended an all boys school which did not give me a lot of opportunity to be around girls.
I started off the conversation by asking her which side of the family she was related to Faith, where she schooled and from there the conversation just went on with ease. We talked about being in secondary school, how she was the last out of three and I was an only child, we talked and laughed so much that night that in thirty minutes it felt like I had known her all my life. So when the time struck 12:00am and the whole church shouted ‘HAPPY NEW YEAR’ filled with excitement and joy, I looked at Sylvia with a smile fulling my face and saying ‘happy new year’ and she smiled so warmly that it felt almost as though I wasn’t feeling any cold as she replied saying ‘may this smile always be on your face throughout the year’. Looking into her eyes that moment I felt this urge which overwhelmed me and without me knowing it was like there was a force pulling our faces closer, I could feel her warm breath against my face and when our lips touched, I felt a sensation I wasn’t familiar with exploding inside of me, a tingling in my belly of sweetness.
Her lips were soft, gentle and a bit gummy from the lip balm she had on which tasted like strawberry, as I closed my eyes while we kissed I felt myself leave earth that moment engrossed in the kiss so much that I forgot I was sitting opposite a church or that other people were around us, I was lost in the moment totally that it took a tap on my shoulder from Jacob who was standing with Faith beside him staring at me with hawk eyes like I had just committed a grievous crime. I looked at Sylvia and she was still smiling but I could spot a look in her eye like she was shy that we had just shared something we shouldn’t.
Even now as Dad tells us this story again, I could see the pain in his eyes and how much he missed our mum, the smile that brightens his face each time he looks up at the framed picture hanging on the wall. I know this new year won’t be the same because it’ll be the first our Dad will have to be without our mother, the usual kiss they shared at midnight to begin each year and how they linger in each other’s arms forgetting where they are but this year we’ll be sure to hug him and hope he feels our love reminding him that we each carry a part of her in us.