There is nothing as exciting as growing up in a society undergoing change. Such change is reflected in many ways. There are new inventions and consumer products to deal with. I look at the little kids of today and wonder if they know that many of the things they take for granted were not there a couple of years ago. I mean which kid does not know television? We grew up without television. I am certain there was television in other countries but we had never seen it. When television finally made its appearance in our lives, it was the most thrilling of experiences.
Initially, only a few homes owned a set. The boy from the home with television was king. He enjoyed respect and fawning admiration from all. It was vital to be friends with him. The boy also enjoyed protection and the bullies fought amongst themselves to be his best friend. I wonder where those boys are today. How did all that attention at such a young age affect them? The boy chose who could come and watch television at his house.
The lucky few would walk around as if the television set belonged to them. But even then, being invited to come and watch did not mean exactly that. It meant watching through the open windows or door. The guests were not allowed in the house. Those of us who had no time to fawn over the little brat would watch from a distance, across the fence. Back then, television sets were black and white. So watching from across the fence meant all we saw was a flickering screen and barely any images.
But the next day at school, we would also join the conversations about what we saw on television. The boy would not be amused because we watched his television without permission. But hey, his family did not own the street from which we were watching. So every evening the rebels who did not give a damn about the boy would assemble across the fence to take in the day’s viewing. Closing the door or the curtains would mean his invited guests could not watch. The arrogant little brat was stuck with us.
Television was not the only exciting thing. There was the fridge. When a family became affluent enough to buy a fridge on hire purchase it would be the talk of the street. Those fridges hardly ever contained what they were bought for. But the boy from the home with the fridge could invite his friends over to crunch on the ice cubes.
Before month end when they would enjoy the company of some items of food, the fridges stood there, lonely and forlorn, containing only ice cubes and water bottles. Although not as powerful as the boy with television, the fridge owner could decide who could come and eat ice cubes after school.
But there were other things as well, more concerned with image and looks.
There were adults who used skin lightening creams to change their complexion. We aspired to grow up, get jobs and buy those creams which went by sexy names such as Ambit and American Me. We also dreamt of the day we would use our money to purchase the likes of Go Black and Supa Inecto. That was because the most beautiful people sported huge luxuriant afro hair which would be dyed pitch black. What used to fascinate me was the comb they used. It was called a picker. I guess the name came about because it picked up the hair.
Owners of afros would spend lengthy periods of time every morning combing it. The amateurs combed their hair in a forward stroke. But the veterans used a backward stroke. After what seemed like eternity, they would delicately pat the hair down and then face the world. The combs they used came in many varieties. There were plastic pickers which could only be used for small afros. They were cheap and bent easily.
The picker of choice, which happened to be my favourite, had a handle of wood and teeth made, I think, from bicycle spokes. One side of the handle would have a nice little art design or the name of the owner inscribed on it.
The other side would have a cute little mirror. As the owner waded the picker through his afro he would at regular intervals pause, and check out his handiwork on the mirror. It was my wish to grow an afro as soon as I started working. I also knew which picker I was going to buy. I never imagined a cheap, plastic picker wading through my afro. For me, it was going to be an expensive picker with a wooden handle and teeth made from bicycle spokes. I intended to own several of them, all with my name inscribed on one side, and of course that cute little mirror on the other. For some reason, people who had afros liked combing their hair outside in full view of passers by. I too imagined myself tending lovingly to my afro each morning in full glare of the public. However, by the time I started working, the afro was out of fashion. Men preferred to either keep their hair short or bald. Secretly, I yearned for the return of the afro.
Now the afro is back. Our new president sports a large, luxuriant afro. Just the other day I was looking at his portrait and it occurred to me that if the president favoured an afro then I might as well make my childhood dream come true. On closer inspection of his afro, I noted it had specks of grey. Clearly the man does not approve of either Go Black or Supa Inecto hair dye. What a pity.
But in the process of admiring the president’s afro, I also pondered about the type of picker he uses. I doubt if he can permit a plastic picker to wade through his afro. I surmised his choice of picker is the one with a wooden handle and teeth made from bicycle spokes. That is a vintage picker. That is the picker I dreamt of acquiring the day I started working.
Looking at the president’s afro, I could picture him dotingly combing it every morning in the gardens of State House, pausing at intervals to check it out on that cute little mirror on the handle. I wonder how many pickers the president owns. I am sure they all have his name inscribed on them, and without exception, are fitted with that mirror. Thanks to the president; I will soon make my childhood dream come true.
I am growing an afro. I am also placing an order for a set of my all time favourite picker!