Look at the moon. What do you see? Campfire stories and life lessons from my grandparents.
Look at the moon.
This is a colletion of three stories, as told to me by my grandparents. One of them encouraged me to shift my mindset. One of them inspired me and one of them is hilarious. At least to me. I hope the reader finds at least one of them interesting.
On friday evenings after school. Me and my cousin would rush off to my grandparents' house. Sometimes we would argue on the way there, mostly about him calling me doc marten ninja and sometimes, we got along just fine.
In the summer months when the weather was good. We would camp in the backyard and in winter, we sat indoors around the fireplace.
The family that lived down the street from my grandparents, occasionaly joined the camp in summer. As always the tents went up and we had dinner around the fire while listening to my grandfather.
He would sometimes speak about his personal experiences during the war, the triumps, the trials, the pain and the frustrations of it all.
He also recounted, his personal struggles trying to set up his own business while desperately trying, to convince his future inlaws that he was a perfect suitor, well and capable of providing for their daughter. If only, they could give him and his good family a chance.
According to him, society was never designed with fairness in mind. It was designed to keep the ones at the top right where they were and those at the bottom, exactly where they were.
It made things cheaper for those at the top if there was a guaranteed supply of cheap labour even though they could probably afford to pay better wages.
By keeping those at the bottom where they were, it created an artificial reliance on governance and an unnatural need for those at the bottom to look up to those at the top to make critical decisions that in reallity, they had no business or first hand experience to make.
One day, I thought to remind him that not everyone in leadership positions came from a wealthy background.
"That may be so, but the way I see it. It's an overdue cycle in desperate need to be broken, when those from the bottom of the ladder finally reach the top, first of all they are eager to finally get the respect that they feel they have worked so hard for.
So, in order to appear respectable, they feel they must be agreeable and in their quest to be agreeable, they tend to agree with whatever decisions are being made.
In the long term. They lose that which drove their need to succeed. Their desire to seek change. Sometimes, while they think they are negotiating on behalf of the masses, it hits them then, that they are in the lion's den now. Therefore they must tread carefully, if only just for a while.
They hope they will stay amongst the lions long enough to implement change. But alas, the lion's den has its own set of rules. They now find themselves playing ball just to get along and slowly but surely, their once powerful voice of reason becomes stiffled.
Soon enough, they become a new bird of the same feather. They become another one within the flock so to speak. Their fight for change now turns into a fight to keep their coveted seat at the lion's table. From belting out a bass tune in front of the fed up masses. You now find them sitting comfortably, amongst the Sopranos.
One more fallen angel. One less opponent. Hence, for millenia, it's been a cycle. Like I said earlier it's still very much a cycle.
The only way to break that cycle is by refusing to conform. Be the oddball that the world needs. I saw a young man once with a slogan on the back of his shirt. It said, "If you can't beat them. Join them." What a tragedy!
For you young ones, I'm saying if you can't beat them, perhaps what you need, is to think outside the box. Sit still for a minute, and restrategise.
Don't ever join them if you are trying to beat them. Remember the reason why you wanted to beat them in the first place."
What do you see?
This story is an experience. The question came from my grandfather during one of the camping summer nights when me and my cousin had been arguing for a while. "You are both right." Said my grandad. "Get inside the house, in the kitchen, the top drawer next to the sink. There are pens there and a notebook. Bring all of the pens and the notebook."
A few moments later, my cousin was back with a bunch of pens and a notebook. "Everyone, tear off a page from the notebook, grab a pen. Now, I'm going to ask you a question. Just remember to be as honest as possible.
There is no wrong answer if you are being honest. Don't tell me the answer, just silently write your answer down. I want you all to look at the moon. Really look at it. The shapes, what do they represent to you? What do you see?"
"Now, I want each of you, to read out loud what you have written. Starting with you, young man." He nodded to my cousin.
"I see a boy, he is on a bicycle." Said my cousin.
Me, "I see a wolf. I think it's howling. Looking up at the skies. Awoooooooooooo.
My grandma " It's a witch on a broomstick."
Uncle Billy the neighbour, "It's father christmas, with his reindeer."
Uncle billy's Ghanaian wife. "No, Its a woman. She is carrying firewood on her head. And a baby on her back."
My grandfather, "As for me, all I see is a bunch of grey and uninteresting rocks."
We all looked at him, most people around the camp unanimously said. "Noo".
" I was only trying to make a point here. It's very simple. You see, my point is, it's possible for a thousand people, to look at exactly the same object and yet not come to a consensus as to what it is they are actually seeing. It happens. All of them could be correct even though they disagree. I wanted to use your views about the silhouettes on the moon, to prove this theory."
The tale of two snakes
Once upon a time
There were two snakes in the animal kingdom. Of the two, one was small and meek, she was the only herbalist left in the kingdom. The other was big and loud. He was the village drunk and everybody knew that his best friend, was alcohol.
Everybody adored the meek snake for she was ever helpful. Whenever the snakes were ill she was the herbalist that everyone relied upon.
Despite his size, the big snake was jealous of the little snake's charm. He was the bigger one, therefore he deserved all the admiration that the small snake always received.
One day, he decided to follow the little snake into the forest. There, he planned to end the little snake's life once and for all. Finally, he was going to get the respect, that was due to a giant like himself.
He slithered on and on. Stopping here to catch a breath. He slithered on and on. Stopping there to catch the shade, making sure not to make a sound, while keeping the little snake in his sight.
He was about to shout and tell the little snake to stop right there, when the little snake stopped. He saw it reach for the top of a bush and pluck out a leaf. It bit a portion of the leaf and chewed it.
"I knew it. I knew there was something strange about you." He said. "What kind of a snake eats leaves?"
The little snake turned around and said, "Wait a minute. As you already know, I come from a long line of herbalists. So, whenever I feel weak, I eat a piece of these leaves. They make me feel strong again." He grabbed the little snake by the neck then and said, " FYI, I've been aching to do this for a very long time." He picked up a rock.
"Wait, before you kill me, at least let me show you the different herbs of the forest and how to use them so you can take over my place."
"Why in the world would a giant like myself want to be a stupid healer. Huh?" He hit the little snake on her head but the little snake kept on talking. "Look, if its about the leaves, all you need to remember is to only eat half of a leaf at a time.
Make sure you only pluck out the top ones. They have a slightly different colour so they are easy to distinguish. Also, never ea-"
The giant snake got impatient and hit the little snake once more, ending her life.
He stood over her and decided to taste the leaves for himself. They tasted so good that he couldn't stop eating. The more he ate, the hungrier he felt.
So he decided to go through the entire forest eating every single leaf in sight. What the little snake had tried to tell him, was that the middle leaves, if he ate them.
They would make him increase in size, and the only way to stop his constant growth was to dig out the same bush and bite the roots. She had tried to warn him to never eat the bottom leaves because they would give him an insatiable hunger.
It was too late for the giant snake now, and he was growing bigger by the minute. The bigger he grew, the hungrier he felt. He decided then to slither away, from his home in search of food. He came accross a pack of wolves and ate them. He grabbed every bird that flew past him and ate it. Anything in his sight, he ate.
After a while the forests and their inhabitants were either eaten by the giant or they had died from a lack of food. He looked around him, and realized that where there had been forests, new deserts were begining to take shape.
Soon enough, the rivers started to dry up and the rain stopped raining. There was not a single bird or insect or animal in sight. He began to realize then that the familiar sounds of a forest full of life had been a source of comfort to him all along.
Too late for the giant.
He kept on slithering and came to find himself on the other side of the world. "He couldn't believe his luck when finally, at the top of a dune, he bumped into a fellow snake.
He was about to pick up the snake and throw it into his mouth, when the snake mentioned that he was a chief from a village not far off. Amazed by his size, the local chief invited him back to his kingdom to meet the locals.
"In the name of my queen," the giant shouted, "I have been sent here to taste every single one of you." Upon hearing this the locals laughed and believed him to be speaking some kind of a giant lingo.
They soon realized however, that the giant hadn't been joking when he grabbed a few of them at a time, and started eating them one by one. Before you know it he was now sitting alone with neither food, nor company, for he had eaten everything that he had come accross.
At that point he decided to slither back to his own kingdom and upon getting there and realizing that food, was now scarcer than when he had left, he decided to eat the older snakes first for in his mind, they had had a chance to live a little and besides, they would understand that food was now scarce.
Before you know it. He ate everyone from his friends, his family and eventually, he told himself he had no choice but to eat the baby snakes as well. He reasoned, they now had nobody to look after them, and besides, he was no natural at baby-sitting therefore, they were better off eaten.
Before you know it, he decided to eat his own tail and soon enough, he had cut himself out piece, by piece and reached his own waist.
Before you know it, he decided to eat only his right side for he reasoned, his heart was situated on the left and he reasoned, if only he could stick to eating his right side organs, he would be able to keep his heart pumping for a while.
Before you know it, his right side was finished save for the head and before you know it, he ate himself to death.
My grandma's childhood tale.
I think every person on earth has at least one friend, or relation. Perhaps an aquaintance that you know they just weren't blessed with a scary bone.
My grandma was one of those people. In my granddad's own words. "She couldn't scare a fly to save her own life.
Nevertheless this story was meant to be scary but I honestly remember it leaving everyone around the campfire in stitches that night.
It went something like this.
"When I was a teenager, life was tough. Parents were much stricter than they are now. Being Anglican, alcohol was never on our family's shopping list.
No one at home ever mentioned dating. Back then, if a boy liked you, he had to tell his parents first, if he was lucky and they didn't already have another girl in their minds. They would then approach the girl's family. That was another challenge in itself.
Once, there was a funeral of a Reverend in a town quite far off. Everyone who was an adult and Anglican from the local parish went off to mourn the passing of the good old man of the book.
Having been left to look after the house. I quickly wrote a letter to a boy that I fancied from my town. I invited him over because frankly we hadn't had a chance to catch up for a while.
He had only recently, returned from the front lines a few days before. I sent a few more invitations to a few more personal friends and family friends who were around my age group.
The invitations were carried off by the ever so kind neighbour William, who had also recently come back from the war. To thank him, I felt it only fair to invite him too.
That night, with a tiny budget and armed with my cooking and decorating skills, I had an impromptu party in mind.
The guests soon arrived one carriage after another. Some from wealthier families, arrived in motorcars. It was a big deal to own one then. Being the hostess I went to answer the door, I would welcome my visitors, take their coats and introduce them to the other guests.
As the party went into full swing, William, the boy I had invited from next door came to me and politely asked if there was any alcohol around. I realized my mistake then and offered to go and buy some from the local pub.
I had never bought any alcohol before that day but I thought it would be an interesting challenge so off I went. Sneaking out of the house having only told William my plan.
I pondered as I went off in the direction of my local pub. What was I going to say to the barman? Was the money I had in my pocket enough? How much of the alcohol was enough? What about the other people at the party?
Did they all drink wine? Was it church wine I was supposed to buy? Was there a difference? I knew my grandfather thought Irish whiskey was the best in the world.
I thought of going back to the house, to ask everyone what they would drink. But then again, I was halfway to the pub by then. So I kept on walking.
My worries were abated when I walked into the pub and saw the lady at the counter. We chated for a while and she helped me pick what she believed was the best of the best for a group of young people.
As I walked out of the pub, I now realized that the moon, being a heavily cloudy night, was no longer visible.
I kept on untill I saw a group of people, walking in my direction. I decided to sit on a bench, and wait for the group so we could walk together.
I sat there for a while, waiting for them to catch up. It must have been around twenty minutes later when the strangeness of that moment hit me.
The group was still walking briskly towards me, but this time around, I looked up at them and realised that no matter how briskly they had walked all along, they just weren't reaching where I was. Judging by the distance between us and the pace with which they walked.
They were still about a hundred meters from me. They were exactly where they had been the first time I saw them! The hair on the back of my neck went up, It hit me then.
These were the ghosts of the infamous highwaymen! I dropped the drinks in their bag and ran off.
I didn't touch alcohol until our thirty first anniversary. The boy William in the story, is this William, your grandfather."