I had yawned for the umpteenth time. Today, the rehearsal seemed to drag on forever and as I ran my tongue over my lips, I felt a quick stealth pain that dwindled gradually. My lower lip had obviously added another crack to a growing string of mischievously stinging ones. It was a particularly uninteresting day. The French teacher was assiduously trying to prepare us for the foreign language drama we usually had at this time of the year.Some of the kids were keen on learning their lines, but this made very little sense to me. They were kids from rich homes who had probably been to a French speaking country I supposed. That was the only logical reason I could fathom. If not, why be this enthusiastic about the play?. And ‘why were we acting a French drama in a school that had barely ten people who understood the language properly’?. I could not wait for the rehearsal to be over and while it lasted the weather made it more tormentous- with the vicious Harmattan wind running its dry hand through my under-sized uniform that Dad had promised to change the previous year, and robbing me of the little moisture I had on my body.
Soon enough the bell went off and it was time to go but then another teacher entered. Today was one of those tiring days and it was not letting us off that easy.
The ‘music teacher as we referred to him separated the guys from the girls and instructed us to sit. Then he brought out some printed materials from a yellow file and passed one to each of us.
I look back at this event with a special kind of fondness. Obviously endearing, being my first ‘Choir practice’, if I am allowed to call it so, and even more significant to me because of the invaluable lesson I learnt in the one hour spent in that room.
The music teacher gave us a few minutes to go over the material, and then the practice began. It was a Chistmas song titled ‘The Twelve days of Christmas’. It started off easy; something about ‘My true love’ sending gifts to ‘Me’. But soon everything became smudgy, the words were stranger and the meanings- more confusing. We were more than half way into the practice and it was becoming clear to me that I would not be able to memorize the song in time, for the presentation. This was not solely because of its complexity to me then; eventhough that played a part, but also due to the fact that the song did not resonate with me and I failed to connect with it.
I grew up in a place where Christmas meant buying ballons, setting off knockouts, and going around to ask uncles and aunties for Christmas money, which we called ‘Ego Christmas’. It was that simple. If we ever sang a hymn, it was ‘Jingle bell’ or “Christmas eru go, Papa gini ka-anyi ga eri”. And we had the whole of our childhood to learn the song. Now here I was, expected to learn twelve different events in their chronological order. It seemed nearly impossible, yet these other kids that somehow loved the French drama were already in tune with the song.
That was scarcely comforting. I was not taught to give up or to believe that something was unachievable, so in what can be best described as an adrenaline-geared drive or rather rush, my senses became curiously heightened, till I picked out something that made sense in the whole song. And it was the ‘Fiive Goolden Riings’. Maybe it was because the song slowed down here or because we all echoed it at the top of our voices, that I cannot tell. But, here it clicked. I had gotten a grip. The ‘Five Golden rings’ had this flair about it and I hardly forgot it. From here, I gradually got to memorize the first four gifts.
About a week later we had the Christmas Carol and when it was time to sing the ‘twelve days of Christmas’, I was there, standing in the second row, smiling and beaming with confidence. I could see Dad and mom seated among the audience; and you could diasagree, but I don’t think that there is a greater joy for a primary school pupil than being so sure of making Ma and Pa proud.
And I did not fail
Half of the song was still fuzzy in my head but I never missed the ‘Five golden rings’. I would with great showmanship lip-sync the unclear gifts and their days and wait for them at the fifth gift. From here to the first I was comfortable, and I can assure you that anyone that watched that day could bet a million of whatever currency he or she uses, that I was among the lead singers.
Now, before you get me wrong and accuse me of eulogizing pretence, let me make things a bit clearer.
In that one blessed hour spent practicing that song, I learnt and forever better understood the act and importance of survival. I could not allow where I was coming from, or my inability to pick the song as fast as the other kids stop me from participating in the presentation. I also could not let it make me appear all lost and confused that day in front of my parents. So I took a line out of twelve and built on it. I couldn’t put every part of it together but I rallied just enough to pull off the presentation.
Ever since, I have come to realise that sometimes, all that matters is survival. You will not always be in your comfort zone. You will always meet people you are better than at something and people that are better than you, and you might feel threatened. But if you must ‘Succeed’ first you must ‘Survive’.
You cannot always be the best at everything, but you must always always keep your head above waters. You are permitted to stumble but never to succumb; because if it boils down to survival, then you must reach deep into you, cause within you lies the keys to surmount every challenge.
And that time you find the Key becomes your ‘Five golden rings’ moment.
Happy Christmas to you all.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
#Photo credit to Anne Geddes. Thanks for that lovely picture.