Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Life as I Knew It


Driving on the Left Side of the Road- Part 1

By: Jayne Garrison

Shopping at Kingsway in Lagos, Nigeria during the 50’s was an exciting event for missionary kids, because the success of the trip totally depended upon the recent shipload of goods. The goal was to get there as soon as possible after the month’s shipment had arrived. Nothing felt worse than to run into a friend with some coveted item, only to discover that you were too late to get it.

Naturally, our interests were varied. Mother focused on food. In the Common Wealth years, this was a matter of finding those products which could somehow stand in for substitutes in our American diets. For instance, hot, brown mustard from the Netherlands worked almost as well on hot dogs as the pretty yellow stuff we ate in the States, and dehydrated shrimp chips could be fried into beautiful crispy curls that reminded us of potato chips. Later, labels familiar to our mother such as Betty Crocker and Kraft began to sporadically appear on the shelves, making our early arrival to the shops all the more important.

Beyond foods, however, merchandise was more obscure. No telling when an interesting toy or European garment of some sort might show up. Often, these were beyond our missionary budget, so my sister Barbara and I hoped for little things like china figurines, pretty handkerchiefs, colored pencils, plastic combs or wonderful soaps in interesting shapes---all things that the Europeans were great at producing in those days.

There was one thing we could absolutely depend upon, that my sister and I grew to dearly love---the British comics. These were not like their American cousins, the comic book, which our parents didn’t approve of. British comics were small newspapers full of comic- strip style stories that were almost always dramatic and usually part of a continuing series so that one looked forward to each issue with high expectancy. For a stack of these, we were even willing to baby-sit our youngest sister, Baby Noel, while Mother and Daddy shopped.

We were too young to be left at home alone and so our baby sitting took place in the parked car on the water front with Baby Noel in a carry cot and our two-year-old brother, Chris, bouncing up and down on the seat beside her. None of us would be leaving the car during this time, not even to stretch our legs, because the minute Mother and Daddy disappeared, we became an island in a sea of on-lookers who would want to touch us, play with us, and ply us for money, and while we were not afraid of them, we also knew we did not have the skills to safely maneuver through the crowd. Not that this cramped our style inside the car. As soon as we were on our own, we immediately sprang into action. It was time to drive.
 
The air was now filled with the high pitched sound of our voices arguing over who was first. I can still hear it today.

“You drove last. It’s my turn.”

“No, it’s mine. Remember, you had your chance when Daddy went to the post office.”

Finally, by some quirk of luck, I succeed in convincing my older sister that I should be the driver and take my place behind the wheel. Barbra has reluctantly taken the front passenger seat.

“Everyone ready?” I call out behind me.


I grab hold of the wheel as I simultaneously flick the blinkers and punch all the buttons within reach. We are on our way to an imaginary destination. Of course, we have not been left the keys. But the on-lookers surrounding our car don’t know this and are very uncomfortable with the idea of me behind the wheel.

“Don’t forget to drive on the left side of the road,” Barbra calls out mimicking our mother’s warnings to Daddy.


“You should not be playing with the motor,” a beggar with a twisted leg says.

“It is very dangerous,” chimes in another. 
The on-lookers are pressing in close, actually hanging into the windows, but we pay no mind as we fly down our imaginary street en route to visit an imaginary friend before shopping at the imaginary market.