Monday, December 20, 2010

All I want for Christmas

My church came up with this weird activity for Christmas. They called it ‘All I want for Christmas.’ The youth council came up with the idea and the church council accepted it immediately and had it announced two weeks to Christmas day, after mass. I sat in the pews with my legs crossed as the president of the youth council made the announcement. I had a very interested look on my face but in my head all I was thinking about was the queue at my favourite waakye joint.  As I listened, I realized it wasn’t as boring as I thought. The long and short of what he was saying was that, in addition to the usual nine lessons and carols this year, we were going to have a special program where the whole church exchanged gifts. He even made a joke about all of us being little Santas. It was to awaken the spirit of giving and also help the church to be more united.

Money wasn’t accepted and I’m sure the men were really pissed off about that. We were to all write what we wanted for Christmas and put it in an envelope. When the ushers shared the envelopes, it felt weird because usually we were to put money in them. This was actually cool. I looked at a man in a very heavy kente cloth and gold chain and started getting ideas of what to write. “There are strict rules though.” The youth president said, like he was seeing the items I was day dreaming about. “What you want for Christmas should not be too big to fit in a  box this size.” He said and held his arms about half a yard apart. “What a party pooper!” I thought. The congregation laughed out loud and I’m sure for the men it was a sign of relief. “Please bring your envelopes next week. We will put them together and we will all pick them one by one. Make sure you don’t add your name. Each envelope has a secret number inside. Keep that number only to yourself because on Christmas day, the items will be given out according to numbers. Also, you don’t have to buy the exact thing the person asked for. Anything close to it that you can afford is just fine and don’t forget to add a little note to the present.” He went on to explain. My number was 17 and now I had to find out what I wanted for Christmas.

It wasn’t until Friday that I remembered I hadn’t written what I wanted for Christmas. Honestly I wanted a car but unless it was a toy car it clearly won’t fit in a box as small as they said. I discussed it with my boyfriend. He spent half of the time laughing at me. Sometimes I wonder why I even tell him stuff. “Jean, just think about something small. You are a girl. I’m sure you want something you already have in a different colour.” He teased. “What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, slightly offended. He took a sip of his drink. “Men know what they want. Even if it comes to sizes or price ranges or even priceless things I know what I want for Christmas.” His self-confidence was becoming a little annoying. “Ok, Mr. I’ve got it all figured out. What would you want under 100 Cedis for Christmas?” I asked. He responded in a second. “A new video game controller. Let me make it simple for you. Just imagine yourself in your favourite store. If you had to pick one item for free, what would it be?” he went on. “I don’t know because I won’t want to pick something and later regret it because I could have taken something else.” I whined. Paa Kaw giggled again and shook his head. I was feeling very vain at that moment. “Jean, it’s a gift. Even if you throw it away, you don’t lose a thing. It’s the thought that counts.” The sad thing is that, I knew he was right.

Sunday morning just before I rushed to church, I wrote down what I wanted for Christmas. I was so excited. That day, the church was full to the brim. Ahh but these people paa, didn’t they realize it was a two way situation. They came rushing like the Pope was the one sending down all the gifts. The Father even made a joke about having the program every week so the church remained full. Easy for him to say, he wasn’t giving anything out. All the envelopes were collected and put in one huge box. After the mass, the ushers led everybody to pick a single envelope. One person picked his own number so was allowed to replace it. The number I picked was 53. I hope it belonged to some mimp3 asem person. I tore the envelope open when I got into a taxi on my way home. The handwriting was so scuffy it looked like an octopus wrote it. It read… “All I want for Christmas is Royal Feast Rice.” I turned the paper around. There must have been an error. What sort of request is this? I laughed out loud and the taxi driver turned to look at me. He didn’t even use his mirror. It was that loud. 

I told Paa Kaw about the request and he laughed too. “Maybe it’s something the person always wanted to try out or the person just wants to play around.” He said when he finally caught his breath. I mean, it wasn’t what I was expecting but at least it wouldn’t break my bank. I was scared of that. I went to a shop on my way home from work on Thursday and realized the rice came in different sizes. A handy sachet, a 1kg bag and a 50kg sack. Clearly I wasn’t buying a sack of anything! After all, what I requested for was so cheap. I asked for…no I’ll save it for later. I bought the sachet and rushed out of the shop. It was enough to feed 5 people at least. Well maybe 15 if they were models. Lol, no hard feelings but it’s like models consider air as an addition to their meals that’s why they eat so little. I bought the cutest wrapper ever and put it in an adorable paper bag. It looked so pretty, I wish it was mine. No one would know it was a cheap gift by just looking at it. The message I put in it was simple, it read….. “Hope you enjoy your meal. Merry Christmas.”

Just like the Sunday before, church was packed. This time I went a little early to secure a seat at a very convenient spot (where I could see everything). The ushers took all the gifts and made sure the numbers were attached to each one. I saw the sizes of other people’s presents and felt a little bad about mine. Then again some of the huge ones were as flat as China plates. No flex there. It was even too late now. I couldn’t be bothered. The nine lessons and carols was so exciting, people were singing their hearts out, probably imagining the diamond bracelets they thought they wouldn't receive, ha! There was a lot of excitement in the air. In almost no time at all, it was over and the gift activity was about to begin. The ushers brought all the presents to the front of the church. Father prayed over them and the distribution was to start.
We sang Christmas carols as the numbers were mentioned and the owners went for their gifts. There were smiles on everyone’s faces. Even people I had never seen smile before were smiling. The numbers were not in any special order. I turned to my mother to whisper something in her ear when I heard my number. “Seventeen!” I stood up almost immediately and went for my gift. The usher smiled and handed over to me a box far bigger than I expected. I asked for a pen drive! What was in this? I made it to my seat and met my mum beaming. “A mega make-up set?” she teased. My mum sees me in the vainest of ways. We weren’t allowed to open the presents until we had closed. The distribution was over in less than 15 minutes and everyone who gave something got something. The church even gave everybody chocolate as their gift to the congregation.

 The final blessing was said and the opening of presents begun. Ideally we were to leave before we opened the presents but the suspense was too much for some of us to handle. I sat down and opened my box, like a little girl. Inside it was a wireless keyboard, a wireless mouse, portable speakers and an 8 gig pen drive! My jaw dropped. I then noticed the note which read… “Merry Christmas, I know you asked for a pen drive but I thought I’d add a few more to it to spice up your Christmas. Have a lovely day.” I couldn’t believe it. That was so nice. Almost instantly I started feeling bad. I realized my present was probably the cheapest of the lot. Why was I so mean? Just when I put the note back into the box I saw that adorable paper bag I bought in the arms of a little girl. She was walking with her mum and twin brothers. The girl was hoping and singing all over the place. I quickly signaled my mother to take the lead and trotted to catch up with the family. They got into a tro-tro and it drove off. I grabbed a taxi as fast as I could and went after them. I saw them get out of the tro-tro after a considerable distance and walked off across the road. I made the taxi driver follow them carefully without being too close. Then they stopped in front of a yellow kiosk. The woman took out some keys, opened it and they all rushed in. My heart almost tore into pieces when she came back outside and hanged the clothes they had been wearing on a line on the side of the kiosk. This was their home. 

“Madam!” The taxi driver called. “Yes.” The woman said, coming out of the house. “Please a certain woman from your church said I should give this to you. She was the one who gave your daughter the rice.” He replied. He took out a sack of rice, a crate of eggs and other cooking ingredients. Her face lit up immediately. Her children came out and joined in the excitement. She asked to know who I was so she would thank me properly but the taxi driver said he didn’t know me himself.  As I watched the children dance and sing in joy from a distance, I felt my own happiness increase. It’s true what they say, there’s so much joy in giving. Merry Christmas… 

Don’t be left out this Christmas. Make somebody smile.