A Moonlight Christmas.
The night was cold and the air full of strange creepy sounds but Chinelo had never felt more content or safe. Nestled in her father’s arms, she felt as if she were in a warm soft bed instead of bare earth. She looked around at her elder brother, eleven and carefree, who was laughing and poking her elder sister, thirteen, in the stomach. Her sister Adanna stood up and began to chase him for daring to harass her. She turned her head towards the left and saw her mother who was busily stirring a pot of something. She wasn’t sure what it was but it smelled good. She still looked wan but at least she was better. They were not so afraid that she was going to leave them, like they had been weeks ago. By her father’s knee was her six year old friend Ogechi who was concentrating intently on plucking insects from the ground in front of her.
They called her a baby because she was the youngest, but at seven she knew she was no longer a baby. More so, because she knew that her family had gone through a lot this year. It had all started with something about land, her father said. She didn’t understand fully but it seemed as if her father was about to lose his land. She had seen men in dark suits come and go, spouting words she couldn’t understand, with ominous looks on their faces. She had seen her father gnaw his nails in worry every evening when he returned from the farm and her mother’s spirits droop, like a wilted flower. She no longer sang to them at night or in the early morning as she made breakfast. Her sister and brother had also gone around with grave looks on their faces. She had puzzled over it. She had asked them why they were sad but they had patted her head and told her not to worry. She had known why they were sad when two months ago one early morning, the suits came. This time they looked angry. They were shouting at father. Quietly, her mother and her siblings packed their clothing and a few household items. When they left the house, Chinelo knew they wouldn’t come back.
They walked with their meager possessions, passing other farms and houses until they got to the town’s outskirts and it was there father erected their present thatched shelter. Two days after they moved, mother cried in her sleep. Blood seemed to ebb out of her body. Her aunt had come to stay and help the family for a few days and Chinelo dimly understood that she had lost a possible younger brother; for it was a brother she wanted. Mother was dangerously sick for a few days and father looked older than ever, and gnawed his nails harder. Adanna tried to behave like a grown woman as mother recuperated. That had been nearly a month ago.
“Food is ready,” her mother called out. They were all outside the tent. Chinelo stirred in her father’s arms. Chijioke rushed to where the pot was as if he was afraid he wouldn’t get his own share. Mother ladled the soup into plates and Adanna set it out and placed the big bowl with wraps of fufu in the centre. It all seemed so familiar, like Christmases past.
Her father smiled benevolently and looked round his family.
“Let us pray,” he said head bowed. He was about to bless the food. Then he seemed to change his mind. He looked at the seven year old in his arms. “Chinelo, you pray for us.”
“God, thank you for this food,” Chinelo said. “Thank you for papa and mama and Ada and Chijioke. Thank you for Christmas. In Jesus name.” The rest of the family boomed a loud ‘Amen.’
As soon as she was through, she opened her eyes and saw that the night was suddenly bright. It was as if the moon had suddenly come out from where it was hiding, announcing the birth of the savior to them all.
“It’s so bright,” Ada said in awe.
“It’s a full moon. We should dance,” Chijioke said and proceeded to do a little jig on the spot.
Her father smiled and lifted her up and placed her on the ground, food momentarily forgotten. “It is usually maidens that dance at the full moon,” he said.
“Now I want my two maidens Ada and Chinelo to dance for me. Ogechi will join them too. I and Chijioke will do the drumming.”
His wife stood up. “I will join them too. They are small girls they do not know how to dance.”
“Mama, you will see something today,” Ada said nodding her head confidently and began to sway from side to side.
Chinelo giggled and shook her tiny waist as her father and brother drummed on an empty pot. She felt had never had a more perfect Christmas. The moon shined brighter still as if in agreement.
P.S: You might not have a lot this Christmas in terms of possessions, but if you have family and friends then you are lucky and indeed rich. Be grateful for them this Christmas,