It’s the time to sit around with loved ones, catch up on what’s new in our lives, show each other love.
It is the time to give; our money, our time, even our mere presence, to put a smile on another’s face.
Christmas is the only time I can stand my brothers. Their chauvinist, condescending attitudes and air-headed trophy wives, suddenly become less appalling and more endearing.
The lavish displays of wealth, in a bid to lord it over one another, becomes less disappointing, and more amusing.
My mother’s cooking tastes better, my grandmother’s constant snide remarks sbout the fact that I haven’t borne a son, and I allow my daughters “dress like harlots” lose their hurtful edge and become loving teases.
My husband’s snoring doesn’t bother me, neither does his recently-acquired, but I suspect long-suppressed drinking habit. His procrastination disappears, and so does his constant, surly mood.
It is the time when he catches my eye from across a crowded room and mouths I love you. It is when he surprises me with breakfast in bed. It feels like we are newly-wed and every touch is exciting. It is when the girls walk in on us and groan and cover their faces, averting their eyes from ours for days because they walked in on us making love.
It is when we can’t keep our hands off each other.
It is when he buys me that bottle of the limited edition Tom Ford perfume that I claim is too expensive for me to buy myself. It is when I bake him his favorite double chocolate chip muffins and the strawberry cheesecake he loves so much even though the doctor asked him to cut down on sugar.
It is when I hold my girls tight, and give them embarrassing hugs and kisses in public and they try to squirm and “act cool”.
It is when I ignore the boxes of chocolate and Teddy-bears that I know are gifts from some unfortunate lads.
It is when their incessant tapping at phone screens and keypads doesn’t annoy me.
It is when I become deaf to the noise emanating from those accursed earphones I know might one day blow their heads up.
It is also the only time I allow my father treat me like his baby. In his eyes I never grew from the little girl he’d waited his whole life to carry. I used to hate it when I was a teenager, and now I’m too old for it. But at Christmas, I secretly enjoy it.
It’s also the time I do the yearly rounds to the orphanages and make donations to the church charity fund. I know it should be much more often and every New Year’s, I say, “This year is the year. I will make a change.”
But I always get carried away with work and home and life in general, until it’s Christmas again, and I’m back where I started.
Sigh. Next year, I’ll do better.
This Christmas, however, it’s not the same. There won’t be any long lunches, or dinners round mother’s table, laughing and drinking long into the night.
There won’t be any of Uncle Tade’s fart jokes that stopped being funny when I was five.
There won’t be the awkward silence when Aunty Cecelia starts her fantastical tales about her husband that never was.
There won’t be mother complaining about my cooking skills, and berating me for putting too much salt in the efo riro soup, and me in turn doing the same to the girls.
No, there won’t be any of that.
Because right now, there’s mother sobbing into my neck and me fighting back tears, the girls and their cousins looking forlorn and confused, not knowing whether to vent on their twitter pages, or just cry.
There’s Grandma chastising us for crying and being weak. There was even a point I thought she’d slap mother.
There’s my husband and my brother, James shuffling between police stations and media houses, trying to get the word out, while my other two brothers simply tell us that they will “fix it” their way.
There’s the heavy silence upon the house that’s choking the life out of all of us, and the swollen eyes from too much crying, the horrible condolences and good wishes from friends, neighbors and even enemies.
The rumors that are flying, and the jest some are making.
This house of light, love and laughter is now sorrowful and painful. Because Daddy is gone. Kidnapped on his way home by masked men, and a demand for a hundred million naira ransom for his return.
I feel more like a little girl now than ever before, and never been more thankful for my husband and brothers who have risen to the challenge and done everything that I haven’t had the strength to face.
I’ve spent every night on my knees, crying and sobbing to the heavens when words fail. I feel selfish and stupid, coming to God this way, when I haven’t in good times, expecting him to answer my prayers, bad as I’ve been. Yet, my faith won’t fail. And my hope is alive and I believe in miracles. ‘Tis the season after all.
Daddy still hasn’t been returned, and the police still say they’re looking. My brothers have been gathering money, the whole family has chipped in. Eighty-five million so far; cars and landed properties disposed of. Fifteen million to go. We’re days to Christmas, still awaiting a miracle.
The tears have stopped flowing, the prayers continue, so do the efforts. The hugs are tighter, the smiles are realer. The gestures, more heartfelt.
It’s that magical time of the year again. And we’re still awaiting a miracle. But we have a lot to be thankful for. So we do so.
We dine as the singular unit we had always claimed to be, but had finally just become. Bound together by our love for family, and the lengths we’d go to keep them safe, we’ve discovered joy in the face of adversity.
Daddy may not be with us, but he’d be proud of us. And when he does come home, he’ll find a more loving, tightly-knit family than he was taken away from.
That is the power of love. That is the power of Christmas.
Photo credit: idealmagazine.co.uk