Most families and individuals start from January to plan how they are going to spend the Christmas holiday but Christmas celebration or any other festivity is not a big deal for my family. We already know what we are going to do so we never had to make any arrangement or decision about it; and of course, we don’t travel. This year was not an exception. Nobody had talked about Christmas in terms of us celebrating as a family even though it was 23rd already. Usually, the routine was: Go to church, See 1 of our family friends (they’re always around), come back and stay indoors till the next day. That was our yearly ritual. I forgot to add that the menu was always the same: Rice, Chicken stew and vegetable salad. Sometimes we prepare fish as well because dad prefers it to chicken.
I was tired of the humdrum. I’m adventurous by nature, routine kills my vibes. So, because I have had 22 years of this simple boring Christmas, I decided to suggest something different to spice up the day. I wanted pizza for Christmas! But I wasn’t going to run straight to my parents’ room that morning to spill it right away. I had to be tactical about it; I needed allies.
In our house, Christmas is the only time of year when we have a democracy over some petty issues. For the majority to be granted their request, one of the supporters must be over 20 years old. I picked up my phone and dialled Esther (lil sis), the craziest and most fun of all of us, ‘Bae, what’s up?’ I asked. ‘I’m okay,’ she replied. ‘This one you called me, it’s like you’re missing me. I’m coming home this evening with Peter.’ I had been unsure of when they were returning home so I was elated at the news. I laid out my suggestion readily. ‘I want us to eat pizza for Christmas this year’ ‘Wow! Pizza? Are you serious?’ I could hear the excitement in her voice. ‘Yes o. I want to make the proposition this evening. You better vote so we’ll buy this thing.’ ‘No p, I’m in all the way! What of bro? You know he’s a lot like daddy. He’s not into this kind of stuff’ ‘Ah! Leave Peter to me, we know how we roll.’ With that we exchanged pleasantries and I hung up. The next person to call was my brother, Peter, the youngest of us and the most studious. I called him and, like my sis predicted, he wasn’t impressed with the idea but he reluctantly agreed to it because I offered to buy him a wallet. I was so excited that I couldn’t contain myself. I had to though; I didn’t want to give myself away.
After the calls, I started some chores in the house then, I watched movies. Soon after, I looked at the clock. 3:30 pm. Where had time flown to? I was surprised but glad as it meant my siblings were going to arrive shortly. I rubbed my palms together for a minute and smiled in anticipation. My plan was going to work!
Thirty minutes later, the two fishes arrived. Sis was looking so beautiful in her a blue long top on pink trousers while Peter just threw on a long- sleeved green shirt on denim trousers. I was really pleased to see them both and hugged them in turns. I took their bags into their rooms while they went to greet dad and mum. They settled in quickly and unpacked a few things. Then, they came and met me in the parlour where I was rounding up a movie (The Martian). Little bro bought cheese balls for me and some bananas for the house; He’s nice like that. We had a bit of catching up then I told them that I wanted to continue the movie; it was almost at the end.
When the movie was over, I left for the kitchen to start dinner. It was served at about an hour later. At dinner, everyone was chattering animatedly. It was our first family meal in the last quarter of this year. Midway into dinner, I voiced out my suggestion, ‘Let’s buy pizza this year instead of the normal chicken and fish. Mum answered, ‘mm.., Rachael, you and your weird proposals!’ Dad’s reaction was, ‘Pizza is overrated. It’s just baked flour with tomato, meat and spices on top. Let’s eat healthy food instead!’ I was undeterred, my idea must be implemented. ‘I really want it, please, please, please,’ I implored. My dad opened his mouth to object but I interjected, ‘Let’s vote. Those for pizza raise your hands.’ We raised our hands gallantly. Daddy just shook his head, ‘Alright, but you will have to make it yourself!’ Mother laughed, ‘You don’t have to. How much is it?’ ‘5000 naira,’ I replied with a cute don’t-refuse-me kind of smile. My mother looked at me like I had sprouted horns on my head! I quickly added, ‘I’ll bring 2500.’ So, it was settled then; we were having pizza for Christmas, Yay!
My siblings and I went to a well-known restaurant by afternoon the next day and ordered a big-sized chicken pepperoni pizza. As we went home with our trophy, I felt so accomplished! I couldn’t wait to show my parents what we had bought. When we got home, we took turns taking “selfies” with it. It was like a dream come true for me. My first Different Christmas! We were all euphoric till sundown. We had a lovely dinner, said our family prayers and headed off to bed.
In the middle of the night, I was awoken (as it were) by the gentle tap of a supernatural being, an angel. As soon as I opened my eyes, one word came to mind. PIZZA! I wasn’t last person to pose with it for a “selfie” so I became curious, all of a sudden, to see where it was kept. I got out of bed, put on my slippers, grabbed my flashlight and walked out of my room towards the last place I had seen it, the 2nd parlour. As I walked through the passage connecting the room and the parlour, I noticed a few scattered dark spots on the ground here and there. I didn’t bother about them. It was probably our little unwanted flatmates. Seconds later, I was in the parlour. I flashed the torch around to the table. It wasn’t there. Then, I moved further in and I saw our Christmas pizza. It was on the settee and had been left open; the cover was lying just beside it. However, it wasn’t alone. There was a large rat digging in and munching away. I screamed in terror. I hate rats! Even the idea of them sends shivers down my spine. Usually, rats respond to this human reflex panic behaviour or any other type of noise for that matter but I don’t know what specie of rat this was! It just ignored me and continued feasting on the pizza that I had put in so much effort to get. I have never believed in possessed animals but clearly this was no rat! I left the parlour in a bid to get something to hit the rat or at least scare it more dramatically. The nearest place to this parlour was the pantry so I dashed in frantically and started looking around. There were brooms, dustpans, and some mops there in addition to bulk foodstuff and grains. I grabbed a mop and rushed out. Not wanting to scatter the pizza (or whatever was left of it); I hit the mop handle on floor warningly. The rat didn’t seem to get the message. I could almost feel it making faces at me, daring me to hit him and destroy our prize meal. I started thinking.
My heart was racing. Here I was, faced with an enormous “demonic” rat eating our 5000 naira worth of boundless happiness and I didn’t know what to do. I thought of spraying “Baygon” or “Otapiapia”, (a type of insecticide and a type of rat poison respectively). But No! That would just render the pizza toxic and our entire hard work futile. Suddenly, I had a brainwave. I went back to the store and got a machete! It was the one that my dad used regularly to skin coconut. I picked it up and advanced towards the rat shouting, ‘Leave my Food ALONE!’ I hit the settee, on which the rodent was, furiously with side of the machete. I think I must have hit the tail because it got the idea immediately and fled! But the pizza was a mess now. The rat had eaten it in an untidy fashion – it had bitten off every corner and the some part of the middle too. It was an eyesore!
I picked up what was left of my different Christmas and covered it properly. I got an empty tin of milk from the kitchen and placed it in a bowl of water. I put the setup on the parlour cupboard and kept the pizza on top. With great sorrow, I dragged my feet back to my room, climbed my bed and willed myself to sleep.
I woke up around 6:00 am and ran to my parents’ room to wish them Merry Christmas and tell them what happened to the pizza. I left the details out because I was ashamed to talk about my encounter. It turned out my sister already told them and my dad decided that we would bake pizza for the Christmas. I managed a smile and feigned excitement so that my parents wouldn’t feel bad but deep down I knew that this was going to be an experiment! We had never done it before!
I got the recipe online and we put a few ingredients together and baked the most scarcely topped pizza I had ever seen in my entire life! We used tomatoes, sardines and scent leaves as toppings. As we dug into our homemade pizza, I realised that I didn’t need something extraordinary or expensive to be happy. I looked around from mum to dad, Peter to Esther; everyone was full of smiles and laughter because of the product of our teamwork. These four were my joy, my gift, my amazing Christmas and I was grateful to God for them. With a heart full of joy and contentment, I raised my piece of pizza to make a toast to our lovely family.
As soon as I opened my mouth to propose the toast, I felt someone shaking my leg vigorously. I frowned, this wasn’t right. I opened my eyes and saw my little brother, Peter, sitting at the edge of my bed. ‘Merry Christmas, Sleepyhead,’ He said. I rubbed my eyes and pinched myself. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was in bed, covered with a cosy blanket and under a mosquito net. I pushed the cover and the net aside and left the room without a word to my brother. I walked straight to the parlour to check the fate of the pizza. I scanned the entire second parlour and moved on to search the next. I saw Esther in the passage. ‘Are you okay?’ she enquired. I nodded and added, ‘Merry Christmas.’ I didn’t wait for her reply, I quickened my steps. There was no sign of the pizza in the other parlour too. Then I went to greet my parents. After saying good morning and Merry Christmas, I asked, ‘Em…. What are we having for Christmas?’ ‘Er… what else now? Rice, Chicken Stew and salad,’ replied Mum. Dad added, ‘Fish.’