Ode to Tales by Moonlight


Jan 28

Ode to a playground

A place from your past or childhood, one that you’re fond of, is destroyed. Write it a memorial. 

In Memory of Tales by Pseudo-Moonlight

Growing up, I loved to listen to stories. There were two immutable things by which I could be whisked away by any stranger and they were, Sleep and Stories. I would automatically open my eyes wide whenever anyone was telling a story and I’d just soak up all the words. My best part of any church service was ‘Testimony Time?! Overcomers’ Time!’ Although there weren’t any real ‘moonlight’ tales where my sagacious grandmother would sit under the mango tree and tell us tales of the tortoise and the hare, I regarded every story ever told to me as a moonlight tale. So here’s to every tale by the pseudo-moonlight…

Remember when you taught me self-love – in that story of the tortoise who hated his hard shell but soon realised that it was his hiding place when war came.

Remember when you taught me love for my family – in that story of the dog who took his mother up to heaven when every other person offered to kill their own mothers.

Remember when you taught me delegation – in that story of the tortoise who stationed several other tortoises at the different race points so that even though the hare was fast, he always saw ‘the’ tortoise ahead of him.

Remember when you taught me contentment – in that story of the last and youngest wife who accepted the scraps of yam pottage given to her by the other wives, whereas, unknown to them, all the love potion had stuck to the bottom of the pot and so the husband loved the last wife solely and entirely.

Remember when you taught me wisdom – In that story of the tortoise who told everyone to acknowledge the hotness of the hot water just so that it’d get cold by the time he drank it.

Remember when you taught me obedience of my elders – in that story of the last wife who, by the instructions of an elder in the forest, placed 32 corn seeds in her mouth and kept mum for a week in order to regain her lost teeth so her husband would fall in love with her again.

Remember when you taught me not to believe flattery – In that story of the tortoise deceiving and luring the elephant with word that he(the elephant) had become king of the jungle just in a bid to trap him into a deep ditch.

Remember when you taught me fearlessness and life without inhibitions – In that story where the tortoise took up all the challenges of the king in order to marry his daughter.

Remember when you taught me that greed is bad – In that story of the tortoise going bald as a result of the hot yam he stole and kept in his hat. 

Remember when you taught me team work – in that story of the king’s party where he ordered everyone to bring their own wine but everyone thought the other person would bring wine and so everyone brought water and the wine jar was only filled with water.

Remember when you taught me that the world can be better – with that story of a life without fear of theft or robbery, where traders left their goods out in the open and only put price tags on them to indicate how many cowries shoppers had to drop to pick up items. 

Thank you for all the good times when you caused me to rest my hands under my chin and stare in the amazing wonder of stories and their ability to completely whisk you to another place and time. 

But those memories, I have chosen to destroy. Because, you see, I have grown up and realised that those were not the best of stories. I have realised that the tortoise was such an evil and cunning personality, that women were too mute and rather drab and petty in your tales, that people don’t climb up to heaven in ladders, that contracts and agreements have to be upheld, that not all men have 7 wives, that people are not as stupid as we imagine them to be, that the king is only in a social contract with his subjects and he isn’t almighty God, that elephants don’t eat akara, and that as long as property exists, there will be theft and robbery. 

I have learned that the best stories don’t necessarily have to have a victim and a winner, a hare and a tortoise, a mischievous person and a stupid one. I have learned that sometimes, we may play both parts of the plot – the downtrodden and the downtroddener, the oppressed and the oppressor, the tortoise and the hare. Whatever. 

But most importantly, I have learned that life is a big story and that I cannot afford to wait till the end of the story before I learn my moral lessons.  

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