The Chronicle Gambia

The Peak Milk Picture Thing

As a child, there were few things I found more fascinating than the picture on the paper wrapped around the tins of Peak Milk.

In the picture, there are people in a canoe, floating on very blue waters. Several coconut trees stand on the shore, and although there are no signs of a breeze in the picture, I heard the breeze rustling through the branches every time I looked at the trees. There is a hill to the side, tall, brown and magnificent. There are hills in the distant horizon, dark forms in the great beyond. 

I, more than anything else in the beautiful picture, was fascinated with the people in the canoe. Who were they? Where were they headed? How were they feeling? I wanted to be with them. I wanted to be part of the adventure, to dip my hand in and slice the water with my little fingers as we rowed through.

 I thought, at the time, that the picture is what heaven looks like, glorious and mysterious. I didn’t know these words then, so I could never explain my fascination. I just looked at the picture long and hard and made it come alive in my mind. This is silly, but I imagined meeting God in there too. She was a chubby, jovial middle-aged woman, with two kinky puffs and a colorful frock. Once, in a dream, when I strayed away from my mum and got lost in a scary place, I found that God from the Peak picture, with her two puffs and her soft, warm body. She helped me find my mum.

Other things I found fascinating when I  was little include the letter E and F shaped metal things I kept finding, which I assumed came from the insides of electrical devices – I liked to play with those using black pieces of magnet I found on the floor in the abandoned Electronics class;

I was fascinated with abandoned rooms, where my voice echoes and rings against the walls when I speak, where it smells like bat poop and the dust is thick and soft on the floors and the long unused desks and chairs;

The lizard eggs, which I found buried in the mounds of sand by the berry tree;

The birds flying home at dusk, in perfect, two sided triangles;

The lazy clouds, taking the shapes of objects they see down yonder, for fun;

The “tach-tach-tach” of prayer beads as my father walked to and fro, whispering supplications I couldn’t wait to end. I remember walking by his side, imitating his step, my imaginary prayer beads in hand, and how, to entertain me, he would abruptly take a step back, or swing around mid step like a soldier. I remember my delighted squeals as I tried to keep up and follow suit;

The dead bird, black and yellow, which I found under the tall ”mentholato” trees, amidst the long slender leaves. I remember the mint-ish smell from the trees and the cold black beady eyes of the poor bird;

The dark green trees on the horizon during a long road trip, which we never reach, even though the journey ends;

The mysterious voices from the other side of the wall, which many years later, I discovered, belonged to a family I came to know and love;

The dead chickens, crushed into the road by countless tires, their feathers remaining long after their flesh is gone;

The vultures who always hung around and by whose grace I came to understand the song from school about the Vulture who eats between his meals and the many physical deformities he got as a consequence.

They are many, the things which awed me, but none of them did as much as the picture on the paper wrapped around the tins of Peak Milk.

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