The very grey house down the hill

Ekabosowo Takon
6 min readMay 18, 2024

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A rare picture of our “family friend” group when they came to Lagos one summer for a get together and send off.

The grey house that stood on Olayinka Street was my second permanent childhood abode. It was a three-storey building with an underground house, which was super cool. I’d never forget the cream walls, because my mother made us scrub them now and then, neither would I forget the blue carpet that graced the living room and my parent’s bedroom because even after sweeping, there was always a thread hanging on for dear life.

THE STORIES OF THE LIVING ROOM

The living room was big enough to have the whole family take each corner without disturbing anyone — it had a balcony that we were forbidden to use except on days when we needed to clean it, so true to form, it was blocked with a couch. My parents positioned their bookshelves as a demarcation between the relaxing area, and the dining room.

In my early years, I had a love-hate relationship with the dining room because, whilst I struggled to master cutleries usage with my breakfast or lunch in front of me, the bird that sang the ugly song, what my siblings called “örio orio” almost always lurked about.

It was also at that dining table that I bonded most with my dad, It was where I told him about my day at school and the highlights of it all — as he ate his dinner and listened with rapt attention. He asked questions when he needed to, and affirmed me when he thought it right.

The dining room was also the place where most of my curiosity bubbled because my sister had secured a designated spot where she drew her comics —’ right beside the bookshelf that securely carried the encyclopaedias, dictionaries, and heavy-duty books.

It was there, very close to the bookshelves that I nursed my curiosity for things that weren’t written in fiction books. I had a favourite spot behind one of the couches that leaned on the wall, it was very comfortable and hidden.

The living room always had the latest stereo set — my dad was somewhat of a fan of those kinds of things. There was almost no time when music wasn’t playing in the house, and on evenings that felt like bliss, we turned on the radio volume high enough till my mum called us to order.

On very nights, before the generator came on, I hated the living room so much. The door to the left that led to the guest quarters often made me feel like the ghosts of all the dead people my family had known were around to hunt me. The door swung so much and so loudly, that it was hard to think good thoughts when I was around it.

MEMORIES OF MY PARENTS’ BEDROOM

I loved my parent’s bedroom so much, it was the one place that felt like home even when other places didn’t. The smell of my mother’s clothes when I rolled around their bed on days when I was sick or not, the lingering scent of my father’s aftershave, the way sunset pierced through their louvres, the consistency of the position of things on my father’s reading table, the baskets that carried the magazines that introduced me to long-form non-fiction writing, as well as comics and their different illustration styles, the drug container that held medications of all sorts, the workout bicycle that was more for fun that “exercise” for us kids, my mother’s grey round table that was like the center of everything that happened in the house. It was where she administered drugs to us, where she shared goodies, where she called us from, where she did almost everything.

MEMOIRS FROM GIRLS’ ROOM

More times than I can remember, I have heard stories about the “girls’ room” being the center of things in the household, and ours wasn’t any different. Fortunately, the room was built for that kind of drama — 10 cupboards, 5 up, 5 down, filled with different kinds of things ranging from books to toys to clothing, then to any other thing else.

It was in this room I got my first “I love you” — I remember who it was and how tight my chest felt when I heard those words. It was in this room I earned my first pay from my dad for doing my chores dutifully as he had instructed in the paper on the wall of our bedroom. It was in this room I nursed all my dolls and toys and tried out a calligraphy pen for the first time.

My mother taught us the bible after church on Sundays, with some bible cards, and we learned to love fiction thanks to the small library my father created for us right beside the door that led to the balcony. Oh yes, the balcony.

The one that held the “open secret” of our recorded disobedience towards our father’s instructions to desist from Midnight call. It was like a drug that had us young people in a chokehold, and my dad found a way to get ahead of us by placing a voice recorder on the louvres of our room to know when we had defaulted. Nothing aside from threats to make us submit our phones before going to bed were made.

It was on that balcony that we watched the whole street live their lives, and lived vicariously through them. We named the people that we couldn’t get their names from, one young woman who lived two houses away we named “Fashion” because she was always dressed to a T or looking in a mirror. The balcony was where we played with our legos, ended up having our meals as we got older, and had some conversations about life as kids.

It was on the balcony that I learned about cars and grew my little interest in them. It was there that I stood with my favorite uncle (now late), as we stared into the environment and wondered why everywhere was vibrating that Sunday evening in 2001(Bomb Blast).

THE LOBBY HAS TALES TOO

The lobby in the house was the smallest but the narrowest place in the house. It hosted the general dresser that contained my father’s abandoned sketchbooks, which I came to discover later, the PC that we the kids used to play games and learn new things, the washing machine, the ironing board, and the gas lantern.

It was there in the lobby that my brother and I chanted, sang and marched to the songs we composed by mere chance. It was our mini playground.

THE KITCHEN HELD THE TEA

The kitchen was also a favourite destination, especially when serious meals were being cooked, however, there was something that my siblings and I had noticed from the kitchen windows and our parent’s windows alike.

The house was an old, supposedly abandoned shoe factory that wasn’t meant to be occupied, but for some reason, at night we saw light in one specific area of the building almost every night. It became a mystery, my siblings and I monitored till we moved out.

THE ENVIRONS THAT RAISED ME

The underground house was sometimes occupied and sometimes not. It had fungi-riddled stairs that led to it, then down to the clothesline where we dried clothes and observed life from ground level.

We weren’t downstairs a lot, so we learned to use most of it when we were. Like the time I followed in my brother’s footsteps by playing with the car lighter and ended up burning my finger and developing a Wicklow that lasted a while, or the times I played with lizard eggs out of curiosity.

One too many things happened in all the years that my family and I spent in the grey house on the hill. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to talk about all of them, but gladly they will also be a part of me.

I hope this inspires you to think about the fond memories you have of your childhood and cherish them like you’d cherish precious stones.

Till next time,

Love,

Enya 💕.

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Ekabosowo Takon

Who knows if I’d ever write a book again — to me this is my memoir. A legacy sort of , a compilation of my life in a sense.