The Ɛto stood boldly in the middle of Nonga ƒɛ. Just in front of the biggest kitchen in Gbledi-Gborgame. It was long and wide. The kitchen was made of mud like most houses in my village. Other houses were made of blocks, and others of red bricks, like my Ebro’s two room and hall. Our house. To a stranger, it was a nuisance tree stump in the middle of a well-kept house. When I say a stranger, I mean someone who doesn’t come from Gbledi-Gborgame. Everyone in my hometown had at least two. One for cassava and her brothers and sisters, another for palm-nut. For ededetsi. Sweet palm soup.
Usually, before the harmattan- Harmattan comes early. Nonga said it is because of the Afadjato that is in my village. She said it is the tallest in Ghana but I don’t believe her. Even as I am 10 years old now. All living things grow ,just like Gogo’s son has grown taller than me. Before, I was taller. Other mountains will also grow taller than Afadjato.
So usually during the harmattan season, we get rice. It was brown and inside the shells. This was what we ate for the Christmas celebrations. And the left -over enters the New year. But usually, there really is not enough in Nonga’s home to enter the new year with.We sometimes had to buy Kofi Wayo from the stalls to support our brown rice. My grand mom. She fed everyone . Both home and abroad. And everyone usually the kids who come by, pound the rice to remove the shells from it. Sometimes we pound so hard that, a portion of it ranges from 70 percent broken to rice powder. “Mimei ka tui sisen dei ooh.” When we pounded lightly, the rice didn’t remove the shells. This is the thing with adult instructions. They are never clear enough. I still don’t understand some things I am sent four or 6 years after. Therefore, I give errands in the middle of the journey to our house with questions like:
‘Agbedi ma obei ma ƒlɛ alo Ɛblima.’ When I hear cassava dough, I move forward.I come home. When I hear Corn dough, I go backwards,, I return the cassava dough. The People know me. So they take it and give the the right thing. After some insults.Even Agbebolo, mu Aunty does that. She has the biggest drinks shop in Gbledi. . Or I stand on the road. When I get responses like : Togbui ooh la ƒlɛ vei. Because I can’t buy my grand father, I stand in the middle of the road until I am brought home by a good Samaritan. Sometimes the-middle-of-the road-freeze motions include buying a dead person. How can people be so cruel.? . No wonder, my aunty who is also called Atsuƒoe bought condom instead of candle for Nonga one day when the lights were off. With the shouts of “ Atsuƒoe wom loo. Nuka ma ko wo’. Didn’t old people say they know the use of everything? Death. My grand-mom can exaggerate. The thing could not have killed her. But I guess it was a really bad thing she bought. I never saw it. Gbledi Mamawo.
So we pounded the rice according to our judgement.
The reason why this Christmas I can remember it clearly was because of two things: I That was my first day of pounding rice , Secondly, I didn’t eat the Christmas Rice. I was between late four years and late 5years. Yes, Yes, because in my 6th year, I came to Accra.
I was prevented from pounding the rice because I could scatter the rice on the ground more than what was kept inside the mortar. Pounding Rice is a very dangerous work indeed. Especially, when two or three people are pounding. Wrong timing could make the pestles crush. And it can go with heads, and fingers of the people pounding. Kids or Adults.
On that day, I had planned to pound the rice. I was denied several times, until around four days to Christmas. When tantrums, pleadings, won me the day. Ebro had a war of words with Nonga to let the poor child-me- pound since enough has being pounded. I didn’t want to believe my rice was not needed.I was hurt. A little. My biggest uncle also was on my side. It was his bag I went to take with other children at agamei, Chebi modzi. I told you before my grandmother says we have the tallest mountain in the whole of Ghana. So we leave on a mountain. The roads are logoligi. And they go up and down. Nonga told me we were one of the places to have light early. For the roads, I hear they have not been tarred, still. So when it rains, the cars get stuck in the mud usually in the valley on Gbledi –Chebi road. Sometimes, cars enter the bush because of the muddy roads. In Christmastime too, the cars get stuck. Not because of the muds below. There are usually no rains in Christmas. The Christmas gifts and bags of people like Ofa koku make the cars get stuck. They are too heavy. He had sent someone with Puppy to announce his arrival (Puppy belonged to all of us. I heard the dog was older than me. Puppy is the only dog I never fear in my life. Puppy was a human being. My mom had hit me one day for saying puppy was a human being. Puppy was everyone’s friend, companion, brother. It is a man. It lives with my great grand mom. That is our second home.)
Christmas rice is the sweetest rice. The smell is like the lavender Ebro uses. But it was rather fruity.Èʋe molon can be scented several kilometres away. First the stew is made. With tomatoes, tin tomatoes, onion, spices such as atinkali, pepper, ginger, and garlic, and garlic. (Garlic was used either intentionally or unintentionally according to the state of fight between Nonga and Gogo. My youngest Uncle who doesn’t eat food made with garlic) , It was cooked in either palm oil or frytol, or agorn3mi or 3nemi.. Whether it is coconut oil or palm kernel oil or any other oils, it was perfect. The meat was obvious. Nonga’s chicken. The goats belonged to Ebro and was used for fufu. Even with stranger hands around the house, my grand-mom was tasked with catching the kitchen. They know her voice. It is sad that, even at Christmastime, Nonga betrays her beloved friends. The rice is cooked, before 9:00 mass at the catholic church. (The church, it is opposite Mama ƒɛ.) The rice is cooked and then mixed in the stew, allowed to cool. We the younger house of the immediate family are served in a big ball and we crowd around it. After, I go and eat with Ebro again.
One thing about Christmas Rice too, it is not prepared in the traditional kitchen. All kitchen activities are brought to the big compound. It is only in Accra that women don’t talk when preparing food.-But they still get sick any way. Much more.
Other children who come are served in the hands. The bigger your hands, the better your load. It is moulded like Molun kple. Rice balls, and they eat it as they go to another home. We too, we get such rice balls as we visit homes. The home visiting comes after church. For most of us of Homatekpor lineage, our next stop after church is Mama ƒɛ . I told you it is opposite the church. Just the main road and a big tree and a drinking spot separates us. And the celebration goes on. And on it goes, beneath the tallest mountain.
It was on Christmas Eve. We were preparing the chicken for use the following day. Two of my uncles were in charge. I cannot remember which of them. I am sure Gogo was part of the two. He likes this to pounding fufu. We the children crowded over the two chickens which are dressed in our make shift kitchen. It was for a special purpose above other purposes. As the chicken is prepared, we hold it for it to be divided well. We better learnt parts of a chicken during this session than a thousand classroom teaching in primary four I am now. The feathers, the comb if it a male, the eggs if it is a female which is pregnant ( It made the soup more oily and the eggs taste nice.) the tongue, the INTESTINES, the gizzard which has a lot of stones and green grasses, the mention of green reminds me of another part of the chicken.
We wait with bated breath as this part is removed. It is called vevei. They say when it bursts, all the chicken is destroyed, because it is very bitter-like poison. Then the thigh. Everyone jealousies the one who eats the thigh. We never know who eats it anyway. And the legs. Every chicken tastes sweet. But I don’t like the chicken which is bald in the neck. It looks very ugly.
As I stated, the extra reason we sit around the butcher of the day is to get the small small parts of the chicken and roast on the fire: The head, intestines( Broomstick is inserted to clean and use for roasting), and legs,gizzard . So we wait for such a time. After, only few of us return.
So we were waiting and waiting and the ritual was traveling into the night amidst the chatter and the borborbor songs blasting from VOLTA STAR radio. This uncle either to punish us this Christmas or not decided not to give us the intestines and co this time. I can’t remember his reason why. I however managed to steal some meat into my mouth. I told you every chicken tastes sweet. Even the raw ones.
After the chicken was steamed, one saviour of a mother gave we the children some cuts to compensate us. Before mine could enter my throat, URRRRHHHHHHH. I began vomiting. My mom came around and asked why I was throwing up. I had no reason to give than to say..
“Alan la yeii”
“Erhhhmm, everyone is eating some of it, so why are you the only one vomiting.”
“ Alan mumu ya mɛi du”
“Yu bui bui bui, Atsuƒoe eve me vi vi tor”. My mother lamented or praised my taste for meat, even leading me to eat raw meat.
“Where is the one I gave you”
“I have thrown it away.”
“And you didn’t give it to me to it?”
After it was announced that I had eaten raw meat and had fallen ill, I was rushed to our room. I sleep on Ebro’s bed because I don’t wee-wee. Those who wee-wee sleep with Nonga. For me and Ebro’s bed, only a bed spread was used on the king size mattress. Nonga has a flat mattress as first layer, then a large rubber as second layer, then adudotse as 3rd and 4th layer, -and a nice cloth as 5th layer; Usually, on her side of the bed. Our bed was higher than theirs too.
I laid there, and Nonga gave me chloroquine. It was very bitter indeed. It made me vomit again. And she gave me chloroquine again. Nonga never gives up. When she is in her mood, she calls me Eƒoe to distinguish between me and her daughter. During moments like this, goes like “Sophia’ tsuƒoe yeeeiii” She would definitely bring my mom, Sophia into the issue.
The following morning, was Christmas day. I couldn’t get up from bed. I was given the light soup made from the meat I stole. My grand-mom reminded me of the event yesterday. I thought it was past and gone. I could smell the perfumed rice, I cried on my loss. I vomited it again. I was given tea leaf, I vomited again, I was given the tea leaf again. I drank a little more. I covered my nose to save me from the Punishment of seeing canaan but not stepping foot there. I closed my nose to the tempting Rice aroma. Mama promised me a special rice dish when I recover. I consoled myself even though it would not be that sweet like the rice on Christmas day. and I was a little strong. I went to bath, and dressed in my Christmas cloth. It was very lacy with three sisters socks to do ankoo but my lazy legs couldn’t make me stand, not to talk of going outside. The rice was brought, but I waved it away. My Christmas rice I helped to pound? How I meant to eat it with my two hands!. It made me more sick. Everyone left me for church. Even my mom. Even Puppy. I was lonely.
The radio was my only companion. The Christmas carols made me more sick. It reminded me of the day. I managed to get to the radio at the table on the feet of my bed and tuned it. After several shhhhhhhshshshs, I got another station. There were two more stations in addition to Volta Star. The cool borborbor renditions lulled me to sleep. The last I could hear in my sleep was:
…Su bor sub or sub or
Mɛi lɛ yom wo bɛ ma va suu bo.
Nɛ tsi lɛ dzadzam,
Nɛ dzi lɛ ʋiʋlim…..
Church was over, and instead of Merry christmases and Eƒɛ yɛ yɛi na wo,
Everyone who thronged to the room came with greetings such as
“Vɛ m3 vivitor”- Someone who likes sweet things
“Cletu ƒɛ togbui yo vi” –Cletus grandchild-My granddad from the other side was a known hunter in his prime days. He ate most of the animals he caught himself, with his family. He loved meat, I am told.
I did as if I was asleep. The following day, the name callings stopped. The following day again, I was able to go to moto again. The roadside was where all the life was. The knockouts and the special bonfire on New year’s Eve will be done on the roadside. I waited for my Goat meat and fufu on New Year Day. Fufu has never being my favourite .The meat entices me.
Hello friend, I have shared mine, I would love to hear your memorable Christmas pastime too. And other readers would love it too. I share this space with you, Kindly leave these memories in the comment session. No matter how short or long, in whatever language, we will read them all.
Ɛƒe yƐ yƐi NA MI KATAA.
HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL.