to the Kuukuwa across the street

There’s a Kuukuwa who lives in the house across the street. I know this because her mother keeps screaming out her name. Whenever I hear that exasperated drawn-out “Kuuukuwa!” my mind flashes back to episodes of my life as a teenage bookworm. I would often lie curled up in bed, completely immersed in a novel, or hide out in the mango tree behind our boys quarters with my nose buried in a book. And ever so often, my mother would call out for me to come assist her in the kitchen. I always heard her calls, but I quickly became an expert at ignoring ignoring and ignoring!

After two or three unsuccessful prolonged “Kuukuwas”, my mother would barge into my room in irritation. She had different tactics – all in an attempt to instil the desire to help with housework in me. (lol)”. One of the regulars was a short speech/warning that went something like “Kuukuwa, so you didn’t hear me calling you. You’re lazy oh. Come and help in the kitchen or else!” And on very special occasions of despair, she would finish with a “Your husband will put your groundnut soup in a bottle and bring you back home with it oh.” I would usually respond with “Why won’t you ask Fiifi?” (my brother) … or when I was feeling pretty wicked, I would mutter to myself “groundnut soup. Hoh! Did Marie Curie spend her teenage years making groundnut soup? And why would I want husband when all he does is sit in the living room and watch tv while you slave away in the kitchen!” Sadly for young teenage Kuukuwa, these episodes almost always ended the same way – my eyes awash with a film of angry tears while I cut onions, grated nutmegs or ground kpakpo shitɔ in the asanka while glaring at the blender angrily. 

So when I hear the woman across the street call this much younger Kuukuwa, I imagine her hidden away in some corner, trying to get five more minutes with her book… five more minutes in that fantasy world. Five more minutes of imagining herself hand-in-hand with Anne of Green Gables, trading best friend secrets and naming the beautiful springs and trees around them. Or perhaps she’s imagining herself as Hermione right now, feeling Hermione’s hurt at being thought of as a know-it-all and yet powerless to stop her hand from shooting up because she knows the answer… she always knows the answer. 

And sometimes when I imagine this Kuukuwa I have never seen, I think about giving her a pep talk. I tell her to keep on being herself for her love for reading will shape her in the most delightful ways. I tell her that all the recipes for Ghana food are online and that cooking is so easy – she can learn anytime. “Feed your imagination, Kuukuwa. Practice writing yourself. You will never regret it. Write that fantasy novella you’re thinking about writing. The one that you’ll stumble across when you’re 25. That one which will drive you to wild laughter when you read it 11 years later. Laugh at, but be proud of the naive and yet amazingly imaginative paragraphs. You will smile when you remember that Kuukuwa of years past and you will be glad you kept hiding yourself say to read… 

but don’t hide in the mango tree though, those red ants are evil and they attack as a giant coordinated team!

Don’t let the light of your imagination dim, Kuukuwa. Don’t let anyone try to stifle it, and oh they will try – albeit unintentionally and without malice for they don’t know better – but don’t let them stop you.”