I grew up into a family tradition that saw to the reunion of my maternal family members every January 1. It was introduced by my late maternal grand parents(May God rest their souls). The whole essence of the annual reunion was for the grand children of the family to know ourselves and bond with each other.
At the end of the gathering we are handed white envelopes as our Christmas giveaway while the brilliant ones get additional brown envelopes in appreciation for their academic excellence.
I have never cared much about the brown envelopes rather I am usually interested in the heap of white rice and banga stew that is served in a big round tray of which mid way to the consumption you discover that its Fr. Ifeanyi the 1st son of Mama Ifeanyi, that is sitting at the other end of the circle or Ogonna, the daughter of Mama Chioma that is sitting at the other end smuggling kpomo through her spoon covered with rice inside her mouth at intervals.
Even though it was a large gathering of cousins, we had to take turns in picking the chunk of meat according to year of birth, that’s why you find the ones born in late 90s smuggling meat like drug lords without clearance from customs, since they might not get the desired chunk of meat when it finally gets to their turn.
In fact when the meal is served, one will start targeting a particular piece of meat while praying that the Holy Spirit covers the eyes of the elder ones so they won’t see it or take it when the time comes.
The usual practice was that we come home with our results in hard copies whenever we are coming for the reunion and after the dinner, the general cash gifts in white envelopes will be handed out while the brown envelopes will be given to the deserving ones, usually those that took between 1st to 3rd position.
At the early years we started the reunion, there was no competition or much struggle for the brown envelope. One of my favourites cousins usually takes between 1st and 2nd position and it was beginning to look as if some of us only come to eat food and then clap for the few that goes home with brown envelope.
Whenever the brown envelopes are being presented my grandfather will also take out time to appreciate the parents of the children that got his special gift. At this time I dare not make an eye contact with any of my parents because I will get look that says ” Oka mma na nni”(some who is only good at eating food).
In one particular year, only my cousin that wears glasses took between 1st to 3rd position while people like me were sitting there shamelessly eating ofe akwu with towel anu. Her glasses which has a rope tied to it made me believe that people with glasses are far more intelligent than the rest of us.
I didn’t know if my granny intended to pepper us that year but in addition to the brown envelope she was given, she was also given a large chunk of fried chicken( Bazzar fried standard) and I didn’t know when I shouted not sure if it was in anger, protest or shock but everyone bursted into laughter and because of that, my grandfather announced that Chicken together with brown envelope will be given to the deserving ones going forward.
Our people say that when you talk to a man in the language he will understand, he will hear you but when you talk to him in his own language it will go into his heart. As a child, my language has been consistent. My language has always been food and meat and I have never pretended about it.
My grandfather’s announcement was the beginning of the competition for me. I would prefer to come between 1st to 2nd position and eat chicken than to take the position and go home with a brown envelope. 1st, I didn’t know the value of money at the time because my parents provided everything and secondly I never knew the amount contained in the white envelope because they( I will not call names) will collect it from us and keep saving it for us till today.
It is not as if I am not intelligent, my intelligence is not the conventional ones associated with wearing glasses, rather the one that is massaged and activated with the mention of chicken and barbecue.
I took an oath in my anger that the coming year, I will make my parents proud and I definitely did. I hustled and came less distant 3rd and behold on the last day I shared my “loot” with my mum. While I enjoyed my Chicken lap with a bottle of gold spot as I had imagined it, I willingly gave my mum both the white and brown envelopes for my saving.
My grannies, parents, uncles and cousins were shocked. I had to shock them. Who would have thought.
We all need a little motivation.