Welcome to a new month! April is widely known as the month of tales which is why we are introducing the series “garden stories”.
These are stories of people who have had a relationship with gardens and have something beautiful to share with you. The first garden story for the month is by Damilola Ade-Odiachi.
Any book, film, or play about my life would be incomplete without mention of the Frangipani tree in the yard. When I was a boy, every day after school, sometime between lunch and before the dreaded session with the private tutor, Mr Ilori, I would squeeze through the burglar bars that guarded the glass door, like a thief fleeing a crime scene and run there.
It was an incredibly stupid thing to do, but children are not renowned for their wisdom. I would climb its boughs, rest on the sturdy branch, and wonder what my life would have been like if I was the son of one of Nigeria’s most infamous dictators, General Sanni Abacha. We shaped each other the tree and I.
For me it was the scratches on my too skinny legs, and lessons in what my body was capable of. For the tree, it was in stains of blood not very quickly washed away by the rain, and jagged edges where a boy had learned that not every branch was meant for climbing. It is in this way that my life is connected, even if, but distantly to the many plants I have come to know. Flowers and leaves evoke memories that I treasure, not because they are remarkable in any shape or form, but because I would not be who I am if I had not met them.
We moved houses when I was 12 or 13, leaving behind the Frangipani tree in the yard, and the Alamandas in our tiny garden, trading them for a lawn, ficus hedges, a tall fish tail palm, and a flame of the forest tree that only ever flowered on one branch. A lawn meant that we could get dogs, and so we did. My sister got a German shepherd boxer mix we called Sabrina, and I got Captain Reginald, a Rottweiler, the most beautiful thing that has ever walked on four paws.
It should come as no surprise that I loved the Captain more than I did Sabrina. He was a spritely mischievous melancholy beast, much like me when I was young. My Grandma on the other hand adored Sabrina. When she was ill and had to live with us, she sat outside on many an evening, on the lawn shaded by the Ficus hedge; Sabrina, her steadfast ally and companion. We planted an African apple tree at the back of the garden because she loved them. Now that she’s gone we need only go to it to remember afternoons spent plucking their fruits in her house in Opebi.
The dogs followed her a few years after, first Reggie and then Sabrina. When Reggie died, I attempted to dig his grave by the tree but I was too distraught to finish properly. In our garden, there’s a spot where the grass is thin even now. It is the place where he would have been laid to rest.
On an afternoon not too long ago, I went to the place I used to live. The one with the Frangipani in the yard. It is there still. Among the marks that tell the stories of children that came to it after me, is one that’s cut deep. It’s the one that says, Dami was here. The beginning of my autobiography engraved in a tree that will outlive me.
If my life were a performance, it would be incomplete without the plants and the trees. They are the fabric of my story, adding colour and detail where there is only concrete and the unremarkable passage of time.
If you have a story to share, please send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.