As a working adult, I thank God when it’s Friday.
However, growing up, Sundays were special. Everybody in my house had to attend church, even if they were near half dead from exhaustion. Planning to give church a miss because you didn’t feel up to it? Not in my father’s house; not on my mother’s watch. My old man literally threw the holy book at ya: “If you like, when you are grown up and out of my house, you could decide to worship at the temple of the Golden Calf, but until then off to church you go”
And off we went, gnashing out teeth under our breaths, and stamping on the floor, albeit out of earshot of Papa Esco.
My siblings and I would squeeze into our formal clothes, which were especially reserved just for church or weddings. Back then, you would not wear casual clothes like jeans or T-shirts to church. They looked rather out of place in the church’s marbled cathedral with its cross spindle. You should have seen how geared up the women attendees at my church were too. They wore hats with brims so wide, they could, err, throw shade. And they literally did – seating in the middle and back pews and dissecting every in-coming attendee’s dress sense. Or lack of.
Husbands or drivers dropped their wives and female members of the family off at the front of the church, as heels were not made for walking the distance from the parking area to the church. Everybody came through looking real fine –styling like they were fresh off a runway or beauty salon. The bigger the leather case bound bible, the better. And sometimes the holy books stayed shut, all through the service.
Meanwhile kid’s clothes in the 80s and early 90s were hideous. My suit was 7 buttoned, and the pants were bongo at the bottom, with a tight crotch area. If I stretched my arm, the cuff pulled up almost to my elbows. If I took long strides, the crotch area crushed my little scrotum. My sisters fared a little better, only because they could accessorize their periwinkle plaits. You kids of nowadays don’t know how good you have got it? Jeans and sneakers to church? Jeans was for hoodlums or discos.
Then we would go ask my dad for money for offering. He would usually be in his bathroom shaving with his trusty bic razor, and would grunt a direction to bring up his wallet. Five naira usually did the trick.
My rogue of an older cousin thought me how to split the collection plate money, so I could have some extra for Fan Ice Lollies during service. If I was smart and patient and obedient, I could have enough for a Big Dip – which was a chocolate covered vanilla ice cream on a stick. I had to be quick and nimble to sneak out of church during service to buy it, eat it fast while perched hiding between two vehicles in the car park; and then wipe my hands on my corduroy pants and rush back to the church unnoticed.
If my dad had found out, he would have split me into two. If our bishop had found out, he would have casted the demons of gluttony influencing me, with 6 degrees of separation.
The clergymen back then didn’t suffer fools gladly. They preached not minding whose ox was gored, or which fox got bored, or whose ego was bruised. They threatened fire and brimstone to early leavers, if they tried to sneak out to give the after-service festivities a miss. The longest services were the confirmation or baptism ones. Service sometimes ended in the early afternoon, and then you had to wait until your parents exchanged greetings with all and sundry.
The choir was awesome – Sister Rebecca led us in an old negro spiritual with Ms. Gladys a perpetual spinster chorusing in falsetto. And Ms Gladys looked the part too. She had a particular chorister stance in which she stared into the distance as if in a trance, while pursing her lips ever so slightly as she hit the high notes.
Sister Pasqualine usually came to church late, and the clack of her high heels as she squeezed herself between the pews looking for a spot to seat added to the medley sounds. The hisses of other inconvenienced church-goers provided a beat. Then the wail of a toddler from a nursing mother added another note, before the rustle of a biscuit packet, as she tried to placate it with an Okin square. Ah biscuits. Been calming toddlers throwing tantrums at church since 1914. Cookie Monsters…
I was glad when I was old enough to leave the kid’s section of the church for the adult section. For me it was a coming of age. I could finally have my own hymn book, and pretend to sing along. I couldn’t wait to get confirmed so I could taste the communion. Swap my “book of bible stories” with colorful illustrations for a Holy Bible with Kings James text. I couldn’t wait to act all grown up and adult as I went to pick my junior ones from the kids section.
Besides in the children’s section, one of the aunties was bit stern for my tastes. She made us make crosses out of palm fronds on Palm Sunday. On the flip side she was the first one who taught that BIBLE stands for Blessed Information Brings Life Eternal.
Years later, hip-hop would teach me that it also stood for Basic Information Before Leaving Earth. Many, many, years later, I would see fake deceitful preachers manufacture interpretations out of the Holy Book to control and deceive their congregation for financial gain.
Around 12ish, we returned home from church.
Then I could finally sink my teeth into the jollof rice of life. Jollof rice was another Sunday special you see. And if the beans were peeled fast enough for them to be sent to the neighbouring market for grinding, moi moi was added to the lunch menu. I couldn’t wait to take off my Sunday best, and ended up ripping the 7 brass buttons off like Clark Kent. My mum came with the kryptonite.
Then I could watch Sunday Rendezvouz . Prince 2000 was like Don Cornelius – he made the dancers on the show break into jigs for bottles of Limca or Parle Soda. Hit me, hit me, hit me….
And my sister would indeed hit me, as she tried to wake me up, having snoozed off on the sofa after stuffing myself silly with glorious jollof. Why? It was time for Tales by Moonlight.
We would gather around the TV, and laugh at the hyena’s costume that made it look like a cross-eyed werewolf. The elephant costume that looked made it look like it had muscle pull.
Evening time came, and then we would watch soap operas, sponsored by Thermocool and Joy Soap.
Then it was bedtime, and I could not wait for the school week to come and go, so that I could experience Sunday all over again.
Check out this song by Scarface: