One day, back when I was about twelve or thirteen years old, my parents travelled to Uyo. Before leaving, my mother asked me to prepare Edikang ikong soup, so she and my father would eat when they returned.
As soon as they were out the door, I commandeered my siblings to prepare all the ingredients, cover them up and leave them on the kitchen table.
In those days, my nickname was Ekpe Mbre. Loose translation – Lion of Play. If playing was part of the Olympics, I would’ve won gold for Nigeria, back to back.
Anyway, with my parents away and no adult supervision, my siblings and I did the only wise thing to do. We played our hearts out.
Climbed trees. Hunted grasshoppers. Played football. Watched TV. Scattered the house.
Now, there was a certain knowing we possessed. Without seeing it, somehow, we were always able to tell when my father’s car was coming down the street.
And it came to pass, that the hour of parental return drew nigh and the children of Ette were still at play and the soup was yet uncooked.
Then my sister, I think, ran into the room while I was lying in front of the full length mirror my parents’ room, in the middle of birthing my baby, the fruit of my fake and unusually gigantic bedsheet pregnancy.
“Daddy and mummy are coming!” she screamed.
See enh, magic wands have got nothing on a bunch of Nigerian children with soon-to-be-home Nigerian parents, who have scattered the house and are putting it back in order.
The house was set straight in seconds. Nanoseconds sef.
My eyes widened with horror as I remembered the single most important thing I’d been asked to do.
At the thought of what my mother would do when she walked in and there was no soup, I felt a little pee leak in my panties.
I dashed into the kitchen, yelling for my brother. He ran in and like headless chickens, we gathered the ingredients, put water for garri on one cooker burner and the soup pot on the other.
By now, I could hear the car engine idling outside, in the parking slot. We always go to the door to welcome my parents when they get home, to this day. Anyone absent from the welcome committee, often gets a query.
I sent my siblings to go welcome my parents, and inform them that I couldn’t come to the door because I was cooking.
From the kitchen, I heard my mother’s loud complaint.
“Ideghe afere anke bogo anye abok tungho isua, k’enye atutungho idagha m?
Literal translation: “Isn’t that the soup I asked her to cook since, that she’s cooking now?”
Life translation: “I’m going to kill her.”
My brothers and sisters, there are special demons that wait around for when a soul is desperate.
One of such demons was on its way to Balogun market, when it heard my mother screaming. It sensed that someone may be in trouble. So it made a detour and landed on my left shoulder.
“Is it not just soup?” it said, stroking my head with its scrawny talons.
“It doesn’t matter what time the ingredients go in. Just pour everything inside the pot at once, turn it and voilà!”
As my mother’s voice and footsteps neared the kitchen, I was beyond desperate. I could actually see the hooded figure of Death, standing near the fridge, giggling.
So I took the demon’s advice. Quick as a flash, I poured everything; pumpkin leaves, crayfish, fish, meat, waterleaves, periwinkles etc into the pot and stirred.
My mum stepped into the kitchen a second later.
“Ah, Mummy welcome o,” I said, adding salt and pepper to the mixture.
“Sorry about the food. I was actually timing your arrival, so the soup will still be hot when you return. Don’t worry, by the time you’ve finished undressing, food will be ready.”
All this, I said without pausing for a breath, in that fast, glib manner of lying children who have sucked the devil’s left breast.
She gave me a long, suspicious look and walked out of the kitchen.
Fifteen minutes later, food was ready and served.
That soup tasted like exactly what it was: an abomination!
I could almost hear the spirits of my great-grandmothers groaning in their tombs.
Every good cook knows that each ingredient has a different cooking time and shouldn’t be added to the pot all at once. If that is done, one would ruin the taste of the food.
So it is with life.
Our individual success stories are made up of different ingredients based on nature and nurture, time, hard work, talents, God’s intervention etc.
If you’re in a hurry to achieve something because your contemporaries have, you may find yourself using the same ingredients, but failing to achieve anything good, because you wanted to have it all at once.
Give time, time.
It is good to read autobiographies of successful people and long to be like them. But take your eyes away from the success for a moment and look at the time and effort it took them to arrive where they are.
Good things take time, and no matter how hard you wish, a pregnancy will only be full term at the end of nine months.
Don’t be like Eketi.
Allow life and time cook you at your own pace, adding maturity, wisdom, self-control, discipline and success at the right moments. Trust me, at the end, you’ll come out delicious.