Category Archives: Nostalgia

My grandfather’s house.

I’m writing a scene in my book which draws on my image of this house and it occurred to me that I was not even remembering it how it appears in this photo.

 

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I remember when the cherry bush on the right was on both sides and full of berries. Behind the hedge on the left, there was a rectangular metal tank, the old ones that used to be mounted on blocks of wood, that gave you warm water when the sun was directly overhead and whose taps could be padlocked. Remember those? We used to love dashing around the compound and knocking on the tank, especially when it was half-full because only then did it make the most beautiful music (there is a doorway in the wall beside the bush on the left).

The house seemed small and dark the last time I was in Oba, in April. It was always dark but it wasn’t always small. It was and wasn’t the same house, as I was and was not the same person standing in it.  All behind the back of the formerly spacious compound, my uncles are building houses of their own and my father wants to tear down this house because it’s “old anyway” and a hazard. It could fall at any time, he says. I managed to convince him to let us do it up, make it stronger but keep it the way it is. I’m fed up with all the tearing down, all the newness in Nigeria — even if I understand it.

I understand that ‘New’ is synonymous with prosperity, status and progress and for many people who have grown up with nothing or a little -in the shadows of a world to which it seemed they would never belong –  it is the way to go. But it irks me that people pay good money on visas to go to countries where they trundle around  in buses to visit other people’s old houses, their dilapidated abodes, ruins with the dust of ancient farts lingering in the breeze.

At the same time, a part of me wonders if newer is not simply easier. All around me during my last trip, my mind struggled to play catch-up, to reconcile the things I was seeing with places, houses, even people that no longer existed. It was hard to look for myself in popular haunts and not find me. It must be brutal to have to live with that every day. So, people build. To carry on.

It is in human nature to want to exceed our parents’ achievements. I get that. But at the expense of a blank slate where history should be? I would wager not.

Woke up today with ‘Body Language’ playing in my head.

So, I have a confession. All my life, I’ve wanted to be on stage. ALL. MY. LIFE.

I’ve done amateur stuff at various stages of school and actually got admission to study Theatre Arts in university but chose something else because I felt I was betraying my father by not doing medicine and the compromise in my mind was a more ‘serious’ arts degree: English  in the end.

The urge to perform has only died in the last few years, but I don’t know, can dreams die, or are they simply put on hold? Each year I tell myself I should try to go up for character roles or extra roles, take a few community classes or improv classes and/or tap dancing or just fling myself into it…something! (Although I think I am more guarded now, and quite reluctant to visually emote.)

This is the woman who started me on the path. Lydia Grant, aka the dance teacher from the popular Fame film and subsequent TV series, aka the almighty Debbie Allen.

“You’ve got big dreams. You want fame. Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying. In sweat.”

These words till today, have got the ability to induce mania in me. They’re so powerful and can be applied to just about any facet of the creative process. I have the DVDs, the soundtrack was my ringtone for a while and my playlists are full of Fame songs such as ‘High Fidelity’, ‘Starmaker’, ‘Hot Lunch Jam’, ‘Be My Music’ and ‘I Sing The Body Electric’.

From age two till about 14, I wanted to be Lydia Grant.

My sisters and I would perform wall sits until our thighs felt leaden. We’d wear our one-piece swimming suits – lovingly packed for us all the way from obodo oyibo, even though there was nowhere in which to swim – don leg-warmers (ditto) and prance about pretending to be the kids from Fame. Sometimes, we tucked out dresses into the leg bands of our underwear and that worked just as well, although one kept having to stop and re-tuck, particularly after a challenging bit of choreography (for me, the high kicks were murder. I was a plump kid).

I cannot tell you how many times I hurt myself. Once, I slipped on the carpet and banged my bum on the floor so hard, I could have sworn my I compacted my spine. I’m still convinced that is why I am the shortest in my family. I’d hide the injuries because even though my mother encouraged the dreaming, the one thing she did not condone was injury or damage to property. But these were the days before the proliferation of ‘Do not try these at home’ warnings. Besides, who would have listened? Not me. The whole point to Fame was sowing the desire to try it at home.

Long before Lady Gaga came along to popularise the term with her album cover, long before Save The Last Dance and the abomination of the Fame remake (according to the reviews. No true ‘Famecicle’? ‘Fameite’? ‘Fame Fam’?* would see it. I certainly didn’t), there was this TV series that told us that we could be whatever we wanted, do whatever we wanted and that is was OKAY to want it as badly as we did. AS LONG AS YOU WERE WILLING TO DIE IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE IT.

Lydia Grant and the entire cast of Fame (et vous Coco, et vous!), thank you.

* What is the collective noun for a group of Fame fans? Answers in comments please!

P.S: The name of this blog will be changing soon.