There is a picture of my 1st birthday that always leaves me in stitches.
It is 1996, I’m on low cut as that is the most affordable and reliable hairstyle for the third child, albeit first daughter, of a struggling missionary couple. I’m thinking I was conceived in like… Nah, never mind??.
So, my low cut is complemented by gold earrings. Gold, because, well, calling it yellow sounds demeaning and calling it ‘fake gold’ would be repeating myself when I said, “struggling missionary couple.” Then, I had on this white, pink and purple combo dress and a cake.
I do not remember what the party was like but from the pictures, it was quite the gathering for my extended family and the Scripture Union family I was born into. (Now you understand the missionary part).
Somehow, my parents, and whoever was the photographer, found a way to arrange us children according to our height. I was placed in the center, right in front of the cake that had my first Yoruba name spelt on it with icing.
First picture has me holding the knife with a straight face and the other children smiling. Alright, not bad.
Then, the second picture… ????
I don’t understand why or how such a picture was allowed to be taken but I had the knife in my hand, poised in a strike-like position, pointing at a female child beside me?.
I was not smiling. (That would have been psychopathic looking). I was not frowning. (That would have meant some anger management issues in a one year old). It was just a blank expression on my face and for the safety of my sanity, I have come up with a theory to explain that picture. It is a simple one and summarized as an “unlucky shot”.
I must have been trying to pass the knife from one hand to another… Either my hands alone or with the involvement of an adult’s hand… And midway into doing so, the photographer took a shot. I’ll say he/she was likely high on jollof rice.
You see, very logical explanation.
However, it took me growing up to come to this kind of explanation. Again, truth be told, I just came up with it like right now.
All those years past, I kept wondering why an innocent, cute and sweet looking African queen like myself would have a knife poised to strike over the head of another one year old.
What could have instigated that? What was going on in my mind? Jesus. And to make it worse, the “would-be-victim” of this pose was not even aware, making it look so much like a backstabbing.
Dear God, what could a one year old know about backstabbing? Barely 12 months on planet earth for God’s sake?!?! ???
Or maybe it was just a subconscious thing. Let’s take a look at another angle.
Say, what if this unsuspecting child had been trying to steal my cake? What if I had caught her mid-steal and instead of owning with her chest her thievery genes, she had quickly turned away, feigning some kind of unawareness? What if for the first time in my little life, I was in the position to fight back for what was mine?
I was told stories as I grew up of how our family suffered from armed robbery attacks while living in the Scripture Union headquarters compound.
I’m not sure ‘armed robbery’ is the right word because these thieves were not… Armed. Okay, yes, they may have come with pocket knives and cutlasses but my definition of armed starts with the possession of ammunition. Also, maybe ‘attacks’ is not the appropriate word for these occurrences because they happened too often, quite regularly and became more or less like expected visitations.
I can imagine the clownery of it all; Our small family of five then, because my little sister had not made an appearance yet, gathering round the little circular centre table, thanking God for the day and committing the night into His hands to shield us from all harm.
Then, my dad going round to ensure all the doors and windows were locked, despite knowing that these thieves were very polite ones that would knock and wait for you to open the door yourself.
The routine routine is known to you and to them…
(to be continued…)