Refuge by Kareem Tawakalit

” The difference is made with the people that flank a person in all the pictures life can emulate. The ink of time will scribble on the slates of our lives, turning the future into the present. ”

I could see the happiness on his face. It was evident, like the brightness of the sun when it rises from the East.
It has always been like this, you know. On the precipice of the dawn of a new year, my dad was always in a good mood. He laughed unendingly, dancing and smiling like someone who was presented with a ticket to a dream.
He would grab me, my Mom or my sister.
“Omolara, come. Let’s see if you can keep up with your old man.”
Before we could finish the revolution of a complete breath, he would spin us around, leaving us in puddles of laughter. It was not the kind of laughter that just randomly exited from a person. Rather, it was a kind that started, soft and almost unconsciously. It rose from the very core, warming from the inside out before it bursts out in colours of happiness. The motions of his legs were the funniest; the different ways he artfully jiggled them to mime the beat of whatever oldie he had played.
It wasn’t just the undiluted fun, there were to-do lists to be checked and cross-checked, cooking to be done and tons of errands to be run, all the while implementing creative ways to circumvent the ‘banga’-throwing boys and girls actively sniffing out victim material.
My nuclear family isn’t a large one. But there was always an abundance of human bodies on the 31st of every December. There were friends turned family, people whose realities had somehow become intertwined with ours to the extent we had multiple parents, and our parents had multiple children.
This life we’re given was a tabula rasa at its inception. As the tides of time take us on its journey through space, our experiences will, to an extent, shape the persons that we will become. Each of us, wayfarers on planet Earth, will experience life in most of the varying forms that make up its fabric; the good, the bad and the ugly.
The difference is made with the people that flank a person in all the pictures life can emulate. The ink of time will scribble on the slates of our lives, turning the future into the present. It will bring with it a bit of pain, laughter, dreams turned realities, disappointments, joy and sadness. Life is a rollercoaster that will take us round the spectrum of emotions or at least close.
This is a reality that none of us can escape, and yet one that invariably makes the knots tighten, the more life is unravelled. I feel that knot loosening its grip the older I get. The advancement in years came with a herald of appreciating family, the connections I didn’t choose, ones made without my assent or dissent, but those that have consistently patched me up even when I didn’t think I deserved it.
The family is a promise that we will always have an umbrella, a shade. That whether the sun is blazing hot, threatening to melt us in its fierceness or the storm rages around, determined to cast us away into nothingness; it will never be just us against the elements.
It is a promise that we will always have an anchor in the storms of life; a promise that is reinforced day after day, in the little seemingly unimportant ways and the immense ones.
Words do not paint a deserving enough picture. They can’t. Defining the joy that family represents, is like to trying to put words into an artist’s soul and the peculiar ways with which a canvass is defined.
One can only try.
Family, my family, is a benediction that I will never be able to adequately quantify; it is just one I am forever grateful for.

Kareem, Tawakalit Olawumi holds a degree in Microbiology from the University of Ibadan. The medley of words to become something tangible and alive has been a constant thread in the fabric of her life.

She’s in love with Africa, and the people that inhabit her.

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