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.”

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12 thoughts on “to the Kuukuwa across the street

  1. I loved reading this piece so much and I remembered most of my childhood moments. I enjoyed reading alongside watching cartoons too and my mum said the same about groundnut soup and my chicken soup because I will not know how to prepare any of them and food in general.

  2. Nicely written! I can relate to this.

    I spent my JSS years living with extended family and needless to say it’s very different from living with my immediate family.
    I was a voracious reader and when i was with my parents this was encouraged. However it got me in trouble very often with extended family because i would lose track of time when there was something else to be done.
    Gradually, i got in trouble so often i reduced my reading and other study time which affected my academics and guess what, i got in trouble for that too.

    I think it was somewhere during those period the writer in me was born.

  3. Oh God!, i have been here before, and i recall reading my non fiction 8 years later. Sure today i encourage young ones to seldomly not pay too much attention to the calls and screams. My mathematics teacher taught me a lesson that made a bad boy in eyes of my father. He said, doing good is not always right, but doing right is always good. For me washing dishes and helping mom, was good but not right, but reading, writing, thinking, imagining, was right and good. I love this, I’ve got to let my younger friends read it.

  4. Hehee… my escape in those moments was to go to the toilet, shut the seat and relax, until about an hour when my ma goes, ‘Herh Yaa, are you giving birth?!’

  5. Nice one der kuks. I remember hiding under the sleeping cloth cover with a torchlight just to finish my book at night… cos in the morning the calls will come from u to help in the kitchen… its so amazing how far we’ve all come.
    really refreshing kuukuwa. ..

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