I can’t remember my first kiss. I can’t remember anything meaningful from my childhood — except names & faces. Sometimes, I try to unfold time, reach out to pull giggles from old picture albums, but this space here — this memory nest — is empty.
My younger brother is a whole different species. He can tell, in details, things that happened some decades back. I would joke that he was fabricating stories — what we call fabu. But in reality, he helps juggle my memory.
Dad would leave portions of food and meat — like the Biblical twelve baskets — for the child who clears the table after his meal. This particular day, an aunt who came visiting deprived my brother of the piece of chicken left for him. In my mind, as Lanre recalled that incident, I told myself it was an invention of his wild imaginations until he quoted verbatim what the woman had said. Those words triggered my own recollection. I heard the voice, clear and sharp, in my head.
Sometimes, a song is a time-marker. I’ve been able to, over the years, tie tunes to seasons. TuBaba’s Implication reminds me of my first time in Benin City — the sex, the booze, the nightlife. Airplanes by B.o.B, among other songs, reminds me of those times when I felt lonely & nostalgic in Puchong, times I would have given anything to breathe the Nigerian air. Music has a way of resuscitating the original emotion from the coldest of caches.
We most times do not realise the magnitude of information lying in fragments of time. We only need a prompt — one probing ray & walls of darkness will come crumbling.
I read a grandmother poem last week & thought how little I remembered of my grandmother. She died when I was 19 years old. The only memory I held on to were those of her joining us in the living room to watch the TV. She would sit on her favourite sofa, near the door to the guest rooms, take off her rubber slippers & put them on the wooden side-table. She would ask, in perplexed tone, why no-one was separating the wrestlers on the screen. They will kill themselves, she would exclaim in Yoruba. We would laugh.
Exploring this tiny crack of flashback brought Iya Agba’s ghost creeping back. I could hear her laughter, the ones we evoked every time we — two naughty young boys — teased her. Omo ake, she would say. I remember that grandma had no use for a cane (not even for her bad eyesight) but she wouldn’t be left out — all her mates alive back then required a third leg.
I can easily write a grandmother poem now. I’d probably never. I’ll keep exercising the mind, searching for mementos to fill memory gaps — the art of reminiscing is a form of therapy.
Even if you don’t remember anything from this short piece, don’t forget this one thing — never cross a child!