Looking back. Growing up, Christmas was a time to either feel important or just roll with the rest and almost become a donkey and invisible. Andrew Kaggwa shares his memories of the day.
There is that thing people have always said about Christmas. It is a time to share, make merry but above all, time people become a family again.
I remember when I was a child, Christmas was always better when I had been promoted to another class and with good grades. However, ,as I grew up, became a hard head, the grades did not matter, instead what mattered was if I was or not expelled.
If you found yourself in the unfortunate categories, getting expelled or repeating a class, the entire festive season would be a nightmare, you could not even suggest a film to watch or dislike a meal.
Even liking the meal and asking for more was not that safe, you were afraid of comments such as, “how I wish you liked reading the same way you like food” would come up, thus one would just be humble for the entire season.
Sulking and feeling hated
When you complete the school year on the wrong side of things, Christmas would be one hell of a day. You would spend it apologising for your mistakes, you would eat less, work more than anyone, not watch as much TV and in your free time, you would look at a book, yes just looking at it in a reading posture.
I did that for only one Christmas, the next time I got expelled. Then in high school, I used my little savings to get myself onto a bus to the village, my mother would receive my report card via the post office while at work.
But of course things were always better when you completed the year saintly, reminding your parents that you needed a new pair of shoes, suit, a pair of shorts to wear after church and another attire to wear to see the neighbours.
The office child
When all was well though, Christmas kicked off at the office, since no one is that busy, my mother would go as far as taking some of us to her office. There, I would spend the day being an assistant to whoever cared.
Years later, in such seasons I made friends with some of her workmates and one of them even gave me my very first computer lessons, the days that followed, she would give me assignments to type some things she insisted were vital. I felt important. The process made me feel needed though years later, I learnt what I was typing were minutes of meetings that were as old as three months.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed the season from her office to their end of year parties, the secret and not so secret Santa gift giveaways, some of those workmates even brought bonus gifts for me.
The Christmas tree fell
At home meanwhile, me and my brothers could not take serious roles in the kitchen thus, we always got tasks that required flexing our small muscles.
On top of these was cutting the Christmas tree and growing up in Kamwokya, a Kampala slum with fewer trees, we survived by invading people’s fences in the neighbouring Kololo and Bukoto.
The task was to make sure the house was decorated at least by December 15, and much as all other Ugandans burnt their trees for fun at the end of the month, to usher in a new year, ours stayed intact for 12 days after Christmas.
Slaughtering and doing dishes
Of course being boys, we were also in charge of slaughtering the birds. Like most of the people that do this, we cannot remember when we learnt how to slaughter birds, and it is like it just happened.
During the day, as our sisters did the baking and cooking different foods, we were too involved, having to wash plates, cups and glasses, you know Christmas also meant using a different set of cutlery, one you probably last used on Easter.
Staying in the kitchen during the day gave me some of the few cooking tips I utilise to date. For instance, there is no way a poor me would know that one cup of rice gets ready with two cups of water!