The most pleasurable pleasures of my childhood were those I had moving around with father who was a broadcaster, record producer, culture researcher, and writer. There were many more which included haunts of the neighbourhood in Akobo where we lived in Ibadan (at one time West Africa’s largest city). There was a railway line that ran through the area about two miles from where our house was located. The blare of its horns was always piercing through the morning air. I remember the sense of awe and delight the first time I walked onto the tracks for the first time. We had just got back from school, and we walked, and ran, aimlessly around the area through bushes, paths, houses and dusty roads until the rail tracks showed up, then stretched in two directions away from view. I have encountered a few other moments in life where the simple pleasures of new discoveries made everything else seem insignificant, and with memory being the only consolation for their brief, fleeting existence.
I was eight, and father was driving to Akure in an old Isuzu. Hands on the wheel, and hungry, he asked me the excited son to feed him bread from the passenger’s seat since I had two hands free. There was another one with mother at the wheel driving somewhere, and insisting that drivers should never turn their heads back from the road. It was my duty to look out to find the right water bottle we had wanted to buy from many of those hanging out of the many shops we were driving around. Where are those days? Faces come in and out of that seemingly crowded childhood: Seye, the distant cousin who rode a bicycle, and later joined the military; Baba M who drove the brown Toyota van; Lanko Lanko who made bread a few houses away and who – from now distant memory – looked like the biggest woman I had ever seen. Iya Tobi was the one who pilfered grandmother’s kola nuts. Grandfather liked ludo. Grandmother liked singing, and storytelling, and gardening.
The best rationale I can muster for keeping a public journal of thoughts is so as to re-live the delights of a charming childhood and now an equally stimulating adult experience. It is not remarkable that I’m writing this now from a cozy comfort of a Chicago hotel, but there is also something pleasing in the deja vu smell of a new experience reminding of a forgotten past. One of the first water colour drawings I ever made were lost in a hotel drawer.