I once heard in the mouth of a trusted friend that “expectation is the mother of all disappointments” and the lesson sank in well for I had reneged on an earlier promise I had made, or was it that I didn’t make the promise let alone seek for ways to fulfill it? For sure am wary of making any promises to friends and family, and would prefer to rather ‘take them by surprise’ in order to be canonized as a generous man. For there have been times I felt constrained to make a promise, only to be restrained from keeping the promise fulfilled due to the usual unforeseen and excusable circumstances.
Stuck with this dilemma, what would the son of man do when an 8-year old little girl snatches a promise from my mouth and runs with it? This little girl is my neighbour’s daughter and her name sounds like a promise fulfilled; Miss Precious! I like to obey the exhortation which Jesus gave his disciples when they shouted back at the naughty little nice kids that came around their Rabbi. He urged them not to turn kids away from him since they were the custodians or rather true owners of God’s kingdom. So in my little way, I allow kids to explore and inhabit a special place in my heart if they so wished. And I have learnt the basic tenets of friendship from kids. And they’ve been wonderful friends.
Couple of months back my neighbours’ kids had their way into my living room. Sorry we used to call it parlour until we all became westernized in recent times. I had kept my door ajar and they waltzed in gaily like ballet dancers. One rushed to grab my acoustic guitar- which is more like a monument since I can only play the CFG chord; another made for my animal carvings that I ‘exported’ from Nairobi. Unlike others, little Miss Precious’ eyes went for my books. She must have been wowed by the array of books on my shelf. A little argument ensued when I refused to pull out the books for her to glance through. “Uncle, I said I want to read your book noooowwww!” she had insisted when I told her the books were too advanced for her.
I browsed through my library and all I could see were religious and motivational books, counseling books, anthologies of poetry and short stories, novels and others with an intellectual tilt that would register as black and white dots on her brain cells.
Finally, I saw a children’s novel by a writer friend which I gave her, and she agreed to leave with her friends. Few days after, she met me at my apartment’s entrance. ‘Uncle I have finished that book. And I want another one’. Sounding apologetic, I said, “My dear, I don’t have books for little children” But as much as I tried to dissuade her, my little friend will not give up. So we struck a deal before the Christmas that I will buy a story book for her and that was the beginning of my woes. I was as free as a bird floating in the vast space until she came back from the East with her folks after the New Year and her justifiable ranting heightened.
And each morning when our paths crossed while setting out to work, she’d quiz and remind me of my promise. I had a myriad of excuses: I closed late from work; I went on official trip outside Abuja; I was too busy to go to a bookshop; I don’t have the time. To buy one, emmm, etc. Not satisfied with my hollow defense she’d quip “Uncle but you said, you’ll buy me the story book last week!”
Two weeks ago, I went to Integrity Bookshop at Emab Plaza in Wuse 2, Abuja to look for a ‘storybook’ for my little friend, Precious. I searched through their children’s section but none clicked with my heart for I wanted not just a story book that will have pictures and words. I wanted one that will stir her intellectual curiosity and also leave a lasting memory in her subconscious for the years ahead. I didn’t think twice when the bookshop assistant brought a biography of Mother Theresa of Calcutta for me to consider having disqualified several other children titles they’d brought earlier.
With a glint in my eyes, I browsed through the colorful, well-illustrated and graphic pages. There was an ‘aha’ feeling in me and a smirk in my mouth for the story of this legendary prose was written in free-flowing prose.
The price was reasonable and with joy, I paid to the cashier and claimed the book as mine for just a night till Miss Precious nudges and pokes me again to fulfill my promise. I headed back home and through out that night, I poured through the pages and was amazed that all I could sketch before was a line or stroke of Mother Theresa’s life. And save for the nudging and constant reminder by Miss Precious, I may never have read the story of Mother Theresa who lived and died in India, serving the poor, disparaged, sick and vulnerable people with empathy and devotion.
With sure steps, I knocked at their door and gave the storybook to Precious’ elder sister. The next morning, she saw me again, and this time she was full of smiles and said profusely, “Uncle thank you for the book’. She nodded in affirmation when I asked if she liked the book. She promised not to disturb me again for another storybook but at the back of my mind, I felt she might ask for a storybook yet again. For when the intellect becomes curious at a tender age, there is no limit to its voraciousness. It happened to me after I read Eze Goes to School, Bayo Goes to School, One Week One Trouble, Samankwe and the Highway Robbers, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finns. And the list goes.
Two weeks have passed and Miss Precious has not bugged, poked or worried me about getting another story book. Could it be that she is still savouring the literary juices that the Muse had hidden in the pages of her storybook? Or has she tested and proven that I can be trusted to supply another storybook without a war raging between us? Someone said trust is built by actions, and not words. Maybe my actions have finally swallowed up my many words that didn’t fulfill the storybook promise!