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Time and Timelines

Are you one of those people who’s looked back on 2017 and convinced yourself that you haven’t achieved anything? Worried about catching up with your mates who seem to have done much better? Well, let me tell you a story about time.

A long time ago, back when I was about twelve or thirteen years old, my parents travelled out of town. Before leaving, my mother asked me to prepare edikang ikong soup so she and my father would eat when they returned. When finished, or was supposed to look something like this:

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photo credit: Waiters Food

As soon as they were out the door, I commandeered my siblings; we prepared, covered up all the ingredients, and left them on the kitchen table.

In those days, my nickname was Ekpe Mbre; literal translationLioness of Play. If playing was an Olympics sport, I would’ve won gold for Nigeria, back to back. Left with no adult supervision, my siblings and I did the only thing unsupervised children do. We played our hearts out. Climbed trees. Hunted grasshoppers. Played football. Watched TV. Scattered the house. And it came to pass, that the hour of parental return drew nigh, and we were still at play and the soup was yet uncooked.

Now, we possessed a certain sixth sense. Somehow, we were always able to tell when my father’s car was coming down the street even without seeing it. I was lying in front of the mirror, trying to birth my fake baby, the result of my fake and unusually gigantic bedsheet pregnancy when my sister, I think, dashed inside.

“Daddy and mummy are coming!” she screamed.

See enh, magic wands have got nothing on a bunch of Nigerian children with soon-to-be-home Nigerian parents, who have scattered the house and are putting it back in order. The house was set straight in seconds. Nanoseconds even.

The soup!

My eyes widened with horror as I remembered the single most important thing I’d been asked to do. At the thought of what my mother would do when she walked in and there was no soup, I felt a few droplets of urine seep into my panties. I dashed into the kitchen, yelling for my brother. He ran in, quick as lightening and like headless chickens, we got to work. He gathered the ingredients, while I put water for garri on one cooker burner and the soup pot on the other.

By now, I could hear the car engine idling outside, in the parking slot. We always go to the door to welcome my parents when they get home, to this day. Anyone absent from the welcome committee, often gets a query. I sent my siblings to go welcome my parents, and tell them that I couldn’t come to the door because I was cooking.

From the kitchen, I heard my mother’s loud voice. It was liberally peppered with annoyance.

“Ideghe afere anke bogo anye abok tungho isua, k’enye atutungho idagha m?”

Literal translation: “Is that the soup I asked her to cook since, that she’s cooking now?”
Life translation: “I’m going to kill her.”

My brothers and sisters, at this point I must let you know that there are special demons who wait around for when a soul is desperate. One of such demons was on its way to Balogun market when it heard my mother screaming. It sensed that someone may be in trouble. So, it made a detour and settled on my left shoulder.

“Is it not just soup?” it said while stroking my head with its scrawny talons.

“It doesn’t matter what time the ingredients go in. Just pour everything inside the pot at once, turn it and voilà!”

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As my mother’s voice and footsteps neared the kitchen, I was beyond desperate! I could actually see the hooded figure of Death standing near the fridge, giggling.

I took the demon’s advice. Quick as a flash, I poured everything; pumpkin leaves, crayfish, fish, meat, waterleaves, periwinkles etc into the pot and stirred.
A second later, my mother stepped into the kitchen.

“Ah, Mummy welcome o,” I said, adding salt and pepper to the mixture. “Sorry about the food. I was actually timing your arrival, so the soup will still be hot when you return. Don’t worry, by the time you’ve finished undressing, food will be ready.”

All these I said without pausing for breath, in that fast, glib manner of lying children who have suckled the devil’s left breast.

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She gave me a long, suspicious look and walked out of the kitchen. Fifteen minutes later, food was ready and served.

That soup tasted like exactly what it was: an abomination!

I could almost hear the spirits of my great-grandmothers groaning in their tombs. All the ingredients stood apart, separated by rivulets of water and oil. What my mother did to me afterwards is a story for another day. My point is, every good cook knows that each ingredient has a different cooking time and shouldn’t be added to the pot all at once. If that is done, it will ruin the taste of the food.

So it is with life.
Our individual success stories are made up of different ingredients based on nature, nurture, time, hard work, talent, God’s intervention etc. If you’re in a hurry to achieve something because your contemporaries have, you may find yourself using the same ingredients, but failing to achieve anything good, because you wanted to have it all at once.

Give time, time.

It’s good to read autobiographies of successful people and long to be like them. But take your eyes away from the success for a moment, and look at the time and effort it took them to arrive where they are. Good things take time. No matter how hard you wish, a pregnancy will only be full term at the end of nine months.

Don’t be like yours truly.

Allow life and time cook you at your own pace, adding maturity, wisdom, self-control, discipline, and success at the right moments. Trust me, at the end, you’ll come out tasting delicious.

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29 thoughts on “Time and Timelines”

  1. I don’t know which I find more amazing…The story, the lesson or the fact that this is a classic example of how the basic things we do everyday are pregnant with lessons which we so often overlook. I don’t think anything else would have conveyed that message better.
    You’re very creative and your ideas are always well-articulated. Good job!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Would you mind if I mentioned you and this awesome piece in a blog post I’m doing to help motivate other writers for New Years? I read it first on twitter, and it really inspired the heck out of me, since I’ve often felt this way. I’d be sharing it in an article on the writing website I’m the Community Manager for. Let me know if that would be alright! And even if it’s not, I hope you stay blessed and have a happy new year! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Eketi, your life experiences never cease to amuse me sha!!! I’ve been looking down on myself and my seeming lack of accomplishments lately… Blaming myself for not being good enough simply because I don’t seem to measure up compared to my peers. I’m learning that everyone has a different life story and no two are the same. Thank you for this funny, yet thoughtful piece. God bless you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Absolutely well done, I love this! I was just shining teeth like goat when I got to the part where your parents were on their way back. And see you, you were there on the floor giving birth! I can’t with you! You’re too amusing!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This has a lot of humour.
    Love the lessons, the simpleness and the fact that its common place.
    Like the pictures in between too.
    Thanks Eketi for passing this lesson through subtle humour of everyday experience

    Liked by 1 person

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