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A happy family in the time of COVID-19

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These days, Nigerian homes have no numbers. You have to go to Google Map to learn how to get to your place. So, there is no way to let you know where this happy family lives except by hillocks and ancient trees and how far it is from the Oba’s Big Place or palace. They lived in two rooms and a parlor.

The kitchen gave out to a yard where “they” planted some vegetables and fruit trees. But the beauty of the two-bedroom house was the bathroom and the toilet. In fact, it was because of the bathroom and the toilet that Daddy and Mommy took the house and paid five-year rent in advance. In addition, the water policy of the Landlady was very enlightened. They could use all the water they wanted. Put Daddy in a big bathroom with a lot of water and he was in his element. He could spend the whole day in the bathroom.

This was the situation when they first moved to this dream toilet and bathroom. Daddy used to go to work quickly in the morning. He looked forward to coming home in the evening. He would eat his dinner and then go and bathe. After his long hot bath, he would sit around and then go to the bedroom and lie down to read.

Sometimes he would call Mommy to come and join him. She would complain that she was watching a film after which she would have her bath, bathe the boys, put them to bed and then she would come to bed.

In the morning, the boys will come and greet their parents and the four of them would read the day’s prayer. Each will say their silent prayer and get ready for the day.

The Christmas break started, as usual, on the 16th and the festive season of harmattan haze and dust with dry skin. It was the time of Vaseline. But Daddy came home very late. He didn’t ask for his dinner. He didn’t even see the bathroom how much going inside to luxuriate in the water there. After he had been in the bedroom for some time, Mommy went to join him. Junior went to listen by the door. Dandy went to the door, knocked politely and reported that Junior was listening by the door. And he gave Daddy their report cards, which Daddy threw back at Dandy. Mommy asked the boys to go back to the sitting room or go to their room. She collected the report cards. The boys left them. Junior went back to the sitting room and the Indian film he was watching. Dandy couldn’t understand why Daddy would fling their report cards at them. He was looking forward to all of them reading the report cards and laughing at their high grades, comparing them with the last term. He went to their room and found a games book to read.

Daddy had switched off the light and wrapped himself in the huge wraparound. Mommy crept inside the wraparound and wanted to know what the matter was. At first, he said nothing, then he promised to tell her tomorrow but he never did. Instead, as morning came, and it was Saturday, Daddy got up, put on yesterday’s clothes and was gone. All-day he didn’t come home. Suddenly, the home became something else.

What happened to the toilet, to the bathroom? His beloved hot bath?
Wuhan was a distant sound that would soon be as familiar as the street next to us. There a virus had arisen and nobody had a cure for it. There were rumours about it. The last time such a virus visited the earth was 1918-1919 and millions of men, women and children went with it. But a vaccine was found for it and it went away. But this one, nothing would cure it.

All over the world, nothing could be done. The virus had no legs. People must carry it pass it on to other people. To stop passing it, people must lockdown, don’t go anywhere except to get food, medication and the bank. All offices closed. Those people who could work from home worked from home.

Daddy stayed at home but everybody wished that he could go out and stay out. He was irritable, he was impatient. Worst of all, he began to treat the other three as punching bags. Ask him a question his answer was a blow. Ask him how was his night he gave you a dirty slap. Mommy warmed her way to him but no way. He was not interested in her. And he didn’t leave the house, just that he quarrelled with everybody and rained blows on every one of the others in the family.

One day, Mommy left the house to go and visit her parents who lived in the village. He bought a bottle of Gordon’s gin for her father and a bottle of cider for his mother. Her parents were happy to see her and asked after her husband and her boys but they knew she had come for something, some consultation. Little by little they talked to what she wanted. She described his behavior at the beginning of the Christmas holidays. Then when the lockdown happened, he beat everybody on a regular basis, every day, whether you speak to him or you ignore him. The parents told him what to do and she thanked them and prayed they will live forever and a day.

In town, she bought “opon ayo”, one draft, a chessboard and the characters. And a game she had never heard about called Go, a Chinese game. At home, she announced that she was going to teach the boys how to play the games. And she was surprised to see how the children took to learning to play the games. But her greatest surprise was Daddy who took over teaching everybody and in a series of lectures taught everybody the fundamentals of these various games. Generally, all these games teach us to think ahead, put yourself in the place of your opponent and play his game and your game ten steps ahead. In no time at all, everyone was playing chess or ayo or Go or draft. She remembered what her mother told her as she left the village that day: the family that plays together stays together.


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