Cape Coast, Ghana
By Nana S. Achampong [Noon, January 15, 2013]
when I was growing up, my mother was a midwifery teacher; my absent father was a lawyer who did not practice anymore. and we seemed to move every year from town to town. still I remember growing up in a home that had just enough of anything that was needed to live… just beyond survival, accompanied always with overflowing possibilities and hopes. we weren’t rich by any stretch, but the utilities were always on, and the variety on ghana television’s single channel that went to sleep by 10 pm seemed to be sufficient. on the short wave dial of our radio, enough programs from ghana broadcasting corporation 2, the francophone africa numero un and the propagandist voice of america catered for our music and entertainment needs. our vinyl collection may have been limited, but we were never too far behind the trends. and we laughed.

even though the mosquitoes were far less aggressive, the trees and shrubs in our compound were treated with insecticides at least once every month. we did not have plenty, but the enough was more than ample; the enough included boarding school for all 7 of us, short visits to the country once a year, Sundays without undue pressure to go to church, enough space at home to make time and meet oneself alone, and many many chances to make mistakes. and we laughed.

above all, home was filled with boxes of books that carried stories from every corner of the world from the beginning of known time, accompanied always by that sweet musky new-book smell. all brought in open cartons by my stepfather – may his sweet soul rest in peace. the books bore strange names and stranger covers, talking about strange customs that rendered my impressionable mind fodder for the jittery hands of imagination. every single page took me to parallel realities, my dreams unbounded. and I laughed.

even during the hunger of 1983, small hills of fante kenkey remained until they went slightly off in the storeroom even as we shared the last of every food we had from our fowls and garden with whoever chose to drop by. and we laughed, me and my siblings, and the watchmen and the house helps and the relatives and family friends that popped up unannounced and left their kids behind who somehow stayed for as long as they needed to. we all ate and laughed and dreamed big dreams, dreams unfettered by reason and the material and the shackles of want.

and my mother was always there – permanent and dependable – to make everything right. I was powerful. my thoughts had strong wings, and no speed limits, and I could touch the sky, really. for I counted myself among the stars. nothing – and I mean not a single conceivable notion – ever seemed too big. or too far. or too heavy. or too forbidden. everything was possible. and we laughed.

and then I went to school. and made friends. and I traveled, and I grew up. and before I knew it, I was an intruding mourner at the funeral of my own fading dreams; when I looked at them, all I could see were hard gravels of bitterness. my staple diet consisted of well-constructed anesthetized stories played over and over and over on uncountable channels on television, those flashing screens that numb brains even as they redefine reality. I was caught up, fixated on badly produced reports of mindless murders and senseless debauchery, and millions of fleeting pop music that undermined my desires, and prescribed diluted truths that shook the core of my being, and abundant strange foods with addictive tastes that slowed my metabolism down. and I couldn’t laugh anymore.

in effect, I was a man buried alive in a catacomb, going through the motions, wondering if my childhood ever existed. in this zombie trance have I floundered for the past 20 odd years, attempting to kill parts of the pain with narcotics and intemperance, and dying for simple pleasures and the occasional extreme risk… for risk too is a high.

so I somnambulated back home sometime during the year of the end of the world, still burdened with the vestiges of my journeys and sojourns and existences, still waking up morose and breathing the foul air of the past. and tonight, this ides of january, as I listlessly thumbed through my old playlist, beautiful things by Bahamadia ft Dwele came on. 8 bars into the song, a smile broke on my face. and all of a sudden I could hear myself breathe. I smiled. the weight of babylon, the mighty wretched whore, was dropping off of my drooping shoulders.

and all of a sudden my eyes opened. and I could see. and I began to forget the tears of a far-away time. and the cold of the snow, the aloneness, the bitterness, the cabin fever, the meanness of surroundings, the machine culture, police harassment, second-class citizenship, the glorification of stupidity, ignorant arrogance, republican irrationality, sickness in icy systems, strange new diseases, manufactured reasons to hate, lack of knowledge as an art form…these and many more, they all begun to melt away. and I smiled.I sighed a good one, one I haven’t had since…I wonder. and I smiled.

I decided to think about the beautiful things. I remembered home, my home, my mother the god these days incapacitated with the thorn of dreadful alzheimer’s . I remembered her home, her scents, the sights, the sounds. and I began to laugh. I was there. and I breathed out. again, and again. I’m alive! because this is what I have been craving all these years – the pace, the grace, the simple pleasures, imperfect family, real food, affordable personal valet services, being taken seriously, the outdoor albeit dusty, the mosquitoes….the things of hope and sweetness and unspoiled dreams and cholera and some material poverty and love and life. and I laughed.

o my, how amazing. from now on, I promised myself, will i think about the beautiful things a lil bit, the things I thought about before age and travel and parenthood turned my heart cynical. I wanna fall in love again and save the world and write the great African novel and do something no one has done before. I found me…again, albeit slightly maimed, now thinking about the beautiful things a lil bit. and it makes me laugh.


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