By Bola Abiola

Christmas for me has never been about Santa Clauses or presents discovered under the Christmas tree on Christmas day. We sure didn’t stuff our stockings with sweets to hang over the fireplace. Draping stringed popcorns on Christmas trees never occurred to us. We didn’t even have a Christmas tree. All those things are for people that live “in the abroad” right? This is Nigeria where we have a dark skinned “Father Christmas” spotting a really white (obviously fake) flowing beard. I have always found that weird; very dark man with very fake white beard? Definitely weird.

Christmas for my family was about eating special delicacies, hanging past Christmas cards on black sewing threads strung from wall to wall creating a special canopy of colours under our ceiling (I cannot remember that without smiling at the treasured image of how long it would take I and my two older brothers to find the perfect Christmas cards) and spending the whole day indoors, entertaining friends and enjoying the company of one another.

We would wake up early on Christmas day, sing one Christmas song after the other, thank God for witnessing another Christmas and then head to the kitchen to cook. I loved the cooking of Christmas food as much as the food itself but most of all I enjoyed spending time with my family. Christmas was the only time of the year that guaranteed my dad’s presence as he travelled a lot in those days being a nature photojournalist and writer. He would regal us kids with stories of his travels and give us the most unusual souvenirs (one year I got a wooden necklace with a tiger tooth for a pendant. Jeez!!!).Mom smiled a lot back then too. I was daddy’s little girl. My brothers were his big boys. He was our hero. We were a happy family. This was all Christmas was all about.

And then Dad’s travels started becoming protracted and when he returned, he and mom will spend time arguing behind closed doors (we knew because they always came out of their rooms looking livid and heading towards opposite directions), dad had no stories to tell us and mum was always snapping at everybody. They grew distant as the fighting increased. Then they decided they couldn’t continue that way any longer so they dissolved their marriage, divided their belongings, mum got custody rights while dad got visitation and special holiday rights. Just like that, my perfect family got shattered into pieces. Mum remained single, dad remarried and we, the kids, were left stunned at how things fell apart. We tried to recreate Christmas like it used to be but gave up within a year or two of the divorce.

All these thoughts were racing around in my head as I trudged up Ojodu Berger Pedestrian Bridge wondering how I was going to cope with yet another Christmas with my dad and his new wife. It’s my turn this year, last year was my brothers’ and that’s how we’ve been passed around like a yoyo between both parents during the Christmas holiday for the past five years.

So you can already tell why I detest Christmas. Every Christmas song, decorations and so on reminds me of what I have lost. The joy of being part of a family and something more; a father’s love. It’s not like my dad doesn’t love us kids anymore but with his new wife and all, his calls became less frequent and now all we talk about are perfunctory things. Things are definitely never going to be the same anymore. Only a miracle can make things right again. And I don’t see how that’s going to happen.

Normally, I would speedily sojourn this pedestrian bridge every other day but today I was especially slow as I really didn’t want to go anywhere. I just wanted to crawl into a hole and be left alone. So I lingered on the walk way taking in my immediate environment. It was then I noticed the abysmal sight before me. There were beggars, homeless, destitute and disabled people all about the place and people walked past them like they do not exist.

I was still trying to take this all in when a scene unfolded before my very eyes. Not too far from my vintage point on the bridge, I saw a little girl tug at her Father’s sleeve while pointing to one of the numerous homeless people parading the bridge. She whispered some things to her Fathers ears for some minutes after which He put some cash into the pocket of the coat he was wearing and it over to her. She ran to the homeless man where he was seated on the floor and handed him the coat before kissing him on his cheek. Then she said “Mewy kwismas…Jesus loves you…you hear?” With this she took off to meet her dad and turn to wave goodbye to the stunned homeless man as they strolled out of sight.

Tears stung my eyes. This is the kindest gesture I have ever witnessed in my life. I saw tears of joy stream down the hobo’s eyes and then at that moment I realised that I have been viewing Christmas from a wrong perspective. Christmas isn’t primarily about family traditions, special delicacies, Santa clauses and decorations. Those things are not bad in themselves but they seemed to have clouded my senses from the real deal. Christmas is celebrating the birth of the Saviour. It’s about spreading the love of God without expecting anything in return just like how God gave the world His son to save the world from sin, just like the little girl on Ojodu Berger Bridge. This love should be shown to others not only on Christmas day but every other day. It didn’t take me time to recognise that I have to do things differently. I have to accept things as they are now and be happy regardless.

Rather than show up at my dad’s doorstop all dull-faced and disinterested, I would give him and his wife a hug and sincerely wish them a merry Christmas and maybe things will begin to look up from there. Maybe I will be able to influence my brothers to forgive my parents and appreciate what we have now; each other. Things will never be as they were before but they can get better. They will get better.

With this resolve in mind, I strode off the pedestrian bridge eager to have a merry Christmas indeed. And this was made possible because of the miracle I witnessed on a pedestrian bridge. Chill…I got a Christmas miracle. Awesome.

Bola Abiola is a young lady who loves the Lord, is passionate about young people, enjoys drawing, writing and spoken words.

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