Of Xmas in Africa, Delayed Gratification and Coca-Cola
What was the greatest food or beverage craving of your childhood? Was it chicken nuggets, happy meal or was it grilled cheese? Growing up in the hinterlands of Africa, we did have any of those famous American foods.
There was however one American product that filtered its way into the continent. Without doubt, it captured the imagination of thousands of youth in the country-side and as well as in the cities.
BTW, it was not French fires, nor was it peanut butter jelly sandwich. Far from those items. It was not even a food item. It was a beverage. A famous American beverage that could subdue and suppress any riot in a village.
I will never forget the first time I drank a Coca-Cola! I still remember where I was standing, who was around me, what they were saying, the expressions on their faces and every single detail of what they were wearing that Xmas day in 1980.
Coca-Cola was by far the greatest craving of my youth. The first time I drank it, my mother had bought it as an incentive for us do well in school. Given the fact that all my siblings were doing very well in school, I guess I was the one that needed the Coca-Cola miracle.
Don’t get me wrong, I was doing very well in other non-academic things like: starting street fights, breaking the 9pm curfew, and leading unauthorized swimming expeditions to dangerous rivers.
In the countryside of Africa, we never had any big, fat or fluffy toys. None. That explains why my mother came up with the Coca-cola idea. It was a brilliant idea, but in my viewpoint as a child, the execution was simply a Machiavellian act of terror.
Before she bought the drink, we ‘d heard rumors of it. The kids from the city said it was an incredible American drink. Some said, it got them drunk, the first time they drank it. Others said, it made them feel like they could fly. The rumors were endless.
When my mom brought it from a market, about 70 miles away, we were ecstatic! We were so excited we could not sleep. Not only that, but we made sure every other kid in the village knew about our new priceless possession.
Mind you, it was not just Coca-Cola to us. It was a status symbol. It was a symbol of prestige. It was not just a soda drink. No. It was a priceless bargaining chip, that I used in getting special favors like having other kids do my math homework.
In retrospect, I ‘d say my mom was a genius! Our school grades skyrocketed like never before. Even a “sleeping dog” like me, woke up, and stayed up to study with a kerosene lamp so that I could be part of the Xmas party.
From October when the drink was bought to the Xmas Day, I sniffed, kissed and caressed that Coca-Cola bottle countless times. Every single day after school, when nobody in view, I tip-toed over to my mom ’s bedroom, bent over and clutched the bottle from beneath her bed.
I examined it, admired it with fervent scientific observation, running my fingers around it and dreaming. At times, I tried shaking it and counting the bubbles over and over.
You may wonder, why was it under the bed. Well, because it was the coolest place in the house. I figure my mom used that location also as an improvised refrigerator for chilling the drink. Besides, she did not want to put it in a more tempting place, I believe.
After three months of salivating, Xmas day arrived. First, we had withstand 2-hours of church worship before party time. Everything was very organized. There were tables for kids, tables for adults and tiger-skin stools for VIPs.
Just before I was about to pop open the magical drink, suddenly every kid in the village was rioting to be at our table. Instead of 5 boys at my table, we ended up with 12. Looking over my mom said, “Make sure you share that drink with everyone at your table.”
Needless to say, that was the last thing I wanted to know, but yes, that is how the system worked. Sharing food and drink was the norm. In sharing, I tried my best to tip the bottle a little bit more for the boys with whom I had truces at school. Well for others, not much.
Some kids were livid! One kid said something like, “Kwee-fonitu! That’s barely a drop!”
Another one said, “What is that? I can’t even see the drop!”
One of my cousins Musi, complained, “Everything evaporated before reaching my cup.”
As I poured it out, my heart ached. When I was done, I discovered that I barely like 1/20 of the bottle for myself. I took just three seeps and it was all gone, but then I gargled it for another 5 seconds to enjoy every bit of it. It was so sweet, it so refreshing, it so exhilarating!
Looking back, I ‘d say, it was worth the wait. More importantly, it taught me an invaluable human lesson, “There is always enough to go around.”