(A True Live Story)
Christmas Traditions in Onitsha: A Journey to the Village
I lived with my parents in the big city of Onitsha. As a little boy, I always looked forward to the season of Christmas. It was a season that my family would always travel to the village to celebrate with relations of my father who all lived in the village. They, on their part always looked forward to our coming home for the celebration because my father would always come with plenty of gifts for every one of them.
Discovering the Wonders of Village Fruits
My siblings and I were always excited with seeing some of the trees that produced some of the fruits that were sold in the cities that we enjoyed eating. Onitsha was a well built-up city, filled up with people, buildings, and cars. We never saw trees that produced mangoes, oranges, udalas, bananas, cashews, etc. It was therefore an amazing sight for us to be shown such trees in our village.
It was much fun for us to wake up early in the morning to go out to search for udalla fruit which always fell from its tree during the night, and those who came early enough would be lucky to go home with a handful of this fruit. Some mornings, we would discover that earlier callers had picked up all that was available to be picked, and we would go back home disappointed and sad.
Christopher Pilot: The Boy from a Humble Background
Christopher pilot was one of the village boys who showed interest in my family whenever we came home for Christmas. He was about two years older than me, yet he served me as if I was his master. He was from a very poor family and valued highly the little gifts we gave him. He was so poor that at the age of eleven, he often got along without wearing any clothes because he had only two short knickers and wore them only when he went to church on Sundays. He had not started going to school because his parents could not afford the fees to send him to school.
It was with surprise and fun that I discovered that Christopher pilot had so much respect for me to the extent that I could simply ask him to go and call somebody for me, and off he ran, and with joy he obeyed me.
A Heartwarming Friendship and Acts of Kindness
One day I gave him a pair of my white canvas shoes to wash for me. He picked them up happily, collected soap and some water, and started singing happily as he washed them. Sometimes, I would give him little gifts like a piece of cake, some chocolate, or a piece of meat from my food. He would always accept such gifts with a smile and Thanksgiving.
Unexpected Sponsorship: Christopher Pilot Path to Education
Unknown to me, young Christopher pilot had found himself in school when he was 13 years old. One rich man with his mother’s propinquity, upon hearing that he was not in school because of his parent’s poverty, decided to sponsor his education.
Years rolled by, and I gained admission into a very famous secondary school after I had completed primary six. Having completed registration formalities and assigned to my classroom, I went and sat on my own assigned seat in the class with great excitement.
A Surprising Reunion: Christopher pilot in the Same Class
As we all sat in class waiting for the teacher scheduled for our first lesson in Mathematics, someone walked up to me from the rear and tapped my shoulder. I turned to find out who it was. I could not believe my eyes when I saw that it was Christopher, now in the same class as me.
Stupefied and Overwhelmed
At first, I thought that I was seeing a ghost. I almost lost consciousness to my surprise. I was so stupefied with shock and disbelief and was battling in my mind what to say to him.
“Perhaps it is someone that looks like Christopher’’ was what my mind told me.
With lips trembling with fear, anguished between surprise and disbelief, I muttered the words:
“Are you Christopher?” “Yes”. He quickly answered me, with broad smiles and excitement all over him.
Just at that instant, the teacher walked in and he scuttled back to his seat.
Reflections on the Impact of Support and Opportunity
This surprise encounter with Christopher pilot in my new class kept my mind busy and distracted me from whatever happened in class that day. So many thoughts ran through my mind as the teachers who came in that day ran through the lessons for the day.
The Nation’s Emotional Reaction
I could not comprehend how someone who had not started schooling when I was in Primary 3 could be in the same class with me in my secondary school, three years after. It was not until after the lessons of that day that the secret was let out.