Back through the years I go wandering once again,
Back to the seasons of my youth,
I do recall…
I’m not doing a lyrics post, I’ve just found myself wandering through the halls of my memory bank and pulling out random memories and today I pulled out Celia’s (not real name) story.
Earlier today I was on facebook and I saw a transcript of the “Danger of a Single Story” Ted talk by Queen Dr Chimamanda Adichie. I’d had watched the video several times, I even have it on my laptop but when I was writing Local Content- 2, I definitely did not have that video in mind. I found that some of the things I wrote about, Queen Chimamanda had already talked about in her now famous speech. HERE is the transcript of the speech.
Back to Celia, Celia was my classmate in primary school. I think she joined us in primary three or four, I am not certain. She was one of the dullest students in class, she and Titi (again not real name) used to battle for last position. When we got to primary five, our teacher decided to put us in the same seat to see if things could get better for Celia.
Celia was extremely beautiful, she had the most beautiful school bag and her lunch box was a green contraption that had a food flask and water bottle bound together. We hadn’t been close, she was almost a year older than me- I was one of the youngest in the class, our houses were not in the same direction (we had a small gang of about fifteen to twenty pupils who went home via the same route, it was a close-knit group that had members in every class and we didn’t socialize well with other pupils who were not in that group). I loved to read and would bring my novels to school to read during break, I wasn’t very interested in my classmates and their shenanigans, I had my books and they were all the company I needed.
I remember feeling upset that I had to sit with Celia, I had always sat with boys and they didn’t feel the need for unnecessary chit-chat, neither did they stir up cruel gossip or tensions like the girls in my class were prone to do- some of those little girls were vicious!
Most importantly, I didn’t need any distractions at that point in my young life. My school had a scheme in which they’d give a double promotion to the brightest pupils in primary four, like most other schools but my school differed from the norm by allowing them do one term in primary five before going to do two terms in primary six. I knew I was eligible for the promotion because there was no one in my class better than me academically and I had led the class since second term in primary two but I didn’t want to rest on my oars- I was a very focussed and ambitious child who knew where she was going and how to get there.
Celia was happy to sit with me, she thought me interesting in my intensity and she’d giggled when I told her how I’d be a world famous cardiologist like Dr Jayne Ajuluchukwu who’d treated my grandfather at LUTH that same year (I had no idea that I’d have to study medicine first, I hated medicine then for many reasons). She was from Cross River and had a charming lilt in her voice that spoke of her origins.
Her parents didn’t live in Nigeria, they lived in different countries (I can’t remember if they were divorced) while she lived with her aunt. Her aunt provided her with everything she wanted- well her mother was paying; but she didn’t give her attention. No one asked if she’d done her homework, her aunty didn’t even look at her report card! She just paid fees and ensured that her cook gave Celia the best food and that she got anything she wanted.
I remember being so angry and sad for her, the emotions bubbling like lava in my tiny throat. I had an almost opposite upbringing with my parents being very invested (perhaps too invested) in all that concerned me. They provided me with books to stimulate my mind, each month my aunt would bring a sack (50kg rice bag) of novels and science books from her Boss who doubled as a Rotary district president. My school work was closely monitored and my parents discussed my progress with my teachers.
I made Celia my project, her grades had to improve whether she liked it or not. We’d review our lessons before we went home and we’d do our homework together (I usually did my homework in school anyway, unless it was too tough, then I’d give it to my mother). I also learned plenty from her, from skin care to deflecting unwanted masculine attention- I’d mentioned that she was very beautiful.
It was from her I learned that things are rarely black and white, there are always other shades and hues. Her life’s story taught me not to make snap judgements or dismiss people without knowing their stories. We’d all thought of her as dull- she wasn’t! She was very bright but didn’t know how to apply herself and there was no one to guide and push her.
Her grades got better that term, she was inching towards the middle of the class when I left for Primary six in second term. We stayed friends until I left school and she traveled to join her mother. I don’t know what became of her, I’d searched for her on Facebook several times… No show.
I wish I could meet her now, to hug her and thank her for being my first teacher on the journey of withholding judgement, for teaching me to ask why and how more often, for all the fried plantains and scrambled eggs we devoured together during break and most importantly for being my first teacher in The Danger of a Single Story
Want to read Walking in BorrowedShoes- 1? See post HERE