I met this man who used to visit a hotel where I was a vacation employee.
With time, we struck an acquaintance and on my birthday he offered me dinner.
At table, I told him how I wished I had his kind of job which made him travel all over.
His tongue now loosened by wine, he began to let me into his lonely life.
He told me how he had become a serial trekker by default.
He had been married for over 25 years and was blessed with four grown-up children.
He said his own wife had turned his children against him and life at home had become so hostile.
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Being at home was to him worse than being in a prison. Over time, he had found staying outside of his home more fulfilling.
In short, this has become his new way of life. He goes to what he once called home, occasionally to receive the bashing from his own wife and children. His advice to me was candid and straightforward: a big house does not guarantee happiness.
As we parted company, I kept pondering over his predicament and in my young mind concluded that it could only be a fabrication.
What even made it difficult to take was his revelation that their two-storey house was located at the Airport Residential area.
As I grew older and the scales fell from my eyes, I have come across several people whose experiences are not different from the serial trekker.
For some, certain factors have made life in their homes unpleasant and uncomfortable.
For such people, home is not the sweet home that Edna Ogholi, the Nigerian songstress, fondly sang about.
For instance in some homes, the father is the alpha and omega. As the head of family, only what he says counts.
The children cannot feel free to even play in their own home when he is around not to talk of bringing their friends to the house.
He is fond of using the possessive and everything is his.
Don’t sit on my chairs, where is my remote, this is your water (Pure water), don’t touch my bottled water.
Where are my car keys? The children cannot chat freely in his presence.
Even in terms of nutrition, he must eat the most nutritious parts of the food and can store the best in his own fridge.
The effect of this is that school becomes safe haven for the children.
For those in boarding schools, coming home for vacation is an unpleasant experience.
I have seen parents dressed to kill while their children are in tatters.
Extended family and friends are brought in without the courtesy of informing anybody.
Father’s vehicle honks at the gate and everyone scatters shouting “Kakai is here”, as they run for cover.
The female version is usually christened Maame Gyata by the children.
She will start her nagging right from the gate and continue her ranting deep into the night and by morning the man feels even more stressed than the day before.
There are several people who are never excited to go home and would pretend to be working long hours in the office just to while away time, cutting down the number of hours they would have to spend in their homes because of what awaits them.
Some would stop at drinking spots to buy time and charge before they go home to meet their Maame Gyata and a hostile environment, sometimes created by themselves.
Through the experiences of life, I have learnt that it is not the location, size or number of cars, domestic helps and designer clothes and others that make a home.
A home should be a place where you are eager to return to because you feel warmth. The fun, the teasing, the laughter.
Even when there is little to eat, managing to share that little adds up to make a home.
Home should be a place you can feel free to air the troubles you face outside and get kind words of comfort, support and solutions.
A home should not be the source of worries but a place to find succour. The irony of it all is that it does not even have to be a mansion to feel like a home.