Do not Crash-Read! – A Short Story
My mum and I howled in laughter as we watched a rom-com together that fateful Friday night. It was our special routine and it never got monotonous. She is a great movie buddy and since the apple never falls far from the tree, we have similar habits. Like running commentary as the movie plays and pausing a scene to have a good laugh, or playing it backwards to watch a scene over and over again.
It wasn’t a new movie, but the excitement and fun was always new!
A scene played out where a sixteen year old was writing a letter to God as to how she wanted her future husband to look like and as she allegedly innocently went on, it turned out to be an in depth description of the her high school’s basketball team captain. At the realization, almost at the same time, mum and I burst into laughter with popcorns half-chewed in our mouths.
‘Talking of God and future husbands…’ Mum suddenly quipped after our laughter died down.
I turned slightly to her, giving her only half attention as the girl finished the letter, and tucked it in a box inside her bedside drawer.
‘Have you been talking to God about him?’ My mum asked.
My brows furrowed and a light chuckle escaped my lips, I paused the movie and turned to my mum.
‘Mum? I’m just twenty-one. Surely I have quite a bit of time ahead of me before future husband comes along. Or are you tired of me already? You wanna shoo me the first chance you get?’ I teased as wiggled my brows at her playfully.
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She laughed lightly at my tease, and said,
‘Come off it joor! You know that’s not it.’
I knew that was not it, but I didn’t know what it was either. My mum had something to say, and interestingly I wanted to hear this.
My mum who is so protective of her daughter and would sulk if she as much as saw a boy hang around me too long in church during my teenage years, talking about marriage?
This ought to be interesting!
‘So, tell me mum, what is it?’ I said, movie temporarily forgotten, angling my body to face her properly on the comfy sofa.
My mum released a sigh, set her bowl of popcorn on the small table beside her end of the sofa, and turned to face me too.
‘It’s just that I don’t want you to crash-read for marriage, or take preparation for marriage as a crash course.’
‘A crash course?’ I scoffed.
What on earth was going through Mummy Temmy’s head? I couldn’t help but wonder.
‘Yes, a crash course. You know those short term courses you take just to-‘
‘Muuuuummmm!’ I half groaned, half cried as I interrupted her explanation.
‘I’m a penultimate university student, I know what a crash course is and I know what it means to crash-read. I can’t even count how many times I’ve done it in the past five semesters! Can we just go on to the real stuff?!’
My patience was running out and my mum wasn’t helping matters, don’t blame me!
‘Okay, okay. Let me take it from this angle then.’ My mum said as she readjusted her sitting position.
‘Mum, not another angle again, the real deal!’ I cut in unapologetically.
What’s up with mum?! She doesn’t beat around the bush. We shared the impatience trait after all, amongst many other things.
‘Wait now, madam! I’m trying to get you to understand here!’ My mum scolded, her patience slipping too. I wanted to laugh. This was a classic case of impatience jam impatience.
I nodded my head and apologized, asking her to continue, and she did.
‘Okay, how do you compare the exam experience you get, when you’ve been reading a course all semester and you’ve covered the syllabus at least twice before the exam, with the experience of one you took after crash-reading a day or two?’
I pursed my lips, narrowed my eyes at no one in particular and smacked my lips, out of habit. That question wasn’t hard,
‘I feel super confident in the former, fly even, the tension is low and almost inexistent and half the time, those exams are always fun! The latter however, my palms would just not stop sweating, before, during and after.’ We both laughed at that, and I continued.
‘The tension is always mad, and I’m praying as much as I’m writing, and feeling a truckload of guilt for being irresponsible!’
‘Well, there you have it!’ My mum exclaimed, snapping her her right thumb and index finger simultaneously.
‘Have what?’ I asked with a small bemused smile.
‘How do you feel going into marriage with that feeling?’ My mum answered with a question of her own, and I got a pause.
Marriage? With the crash-reading feeling?
Honestly, I hadn’t given my marriage much thought. Even in the campus fellowship when they discuss it, I just tuck snippets in my hearts, every now and then, I used to feel it was for the married and singles of age. I certainly didn’t count myself as one of them. So marriage or marriage preparation talks were usually opportunities for giggling, laughing and feeling like I’m listening to an audio romance ebook.
However, I knew it was serious business. The more reason I never let myself dwell on it.
I always thought I couldn’t concentrate on my studies and meander that maze at the same time. I always thought there would be lots of time to prepare and pray in the future.
The thought of going into marriage with a crash-reading feeling however gave me the chills. Real chills complete with goose pimples.
‘Temmy?’ My mum called gently, drawing me out of my thoughts.
‘Ma?’ I answered.
‘I asked a question.’ She said with a smile tipping one end of her lips.
‘Yes, the question.’ I replied with a heavy sigh.
‘Mum, that would be terrible! Horrific even. I mean, we are talking “forever” here!’
My mum leaned back with a sigh, treaded her fingers together and said,
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‘That’s why you can’t afford to start preparing any later than now.
‘Imagine hon, if you were to get married at 26, and you start preparing and praying now with just the right amount of consciousness, you would have had half a decade to pray, hear God, build your confidence in Him, get clear cut directions and promises and mould your marriage and future family in the furnace of prayer.
‘Compare that with you starting to pray when you get your first proposal at maybe 23, and you’re confused and perplexed. You’ll be tempted to lean on your understanding and it will be like you’re trying to make sense of exam questions you never read for, or never took time to understand and internalize when you read. You’re most likely going to flunk it.’
My brain had a thousand and one scenarios playing in it as mum spoke, and all I could do was nod.
‘Also, you know that feeling that comes with an ‘A’ in a course you prepared hard for? The way you feel it’s an attestation to your hard work and self denial? The way you appreciate it?
‘You surely will agree with me, that’s it’s not to be compared to the feeling of luck that comes with a distinction from one you crash-read for. The memory never lingers, in fact by the next semester, you’ve probably forgotten the course title and half the syllabus, no?’
‘Yes’ I affirmed quietly in the dimly lit room.
‘Well, it’s the same with marriage. Some just get proposals, say yes because there are sparks and he is a good man and boom, they’re saying “I do”.
‘You don’t appreciate that kind of union like one you desired for years, one you prayed hard for, one you spent hours on your knees drenched in sweat travailing for.
‘As a matter of fact, you don’t appreciate a man or woman you never looked forward to having. You don’t really appreciate his/her amazing traits if you don’t remember praying for that kind of spouse.
‘Rather you appreciate a man more, when you can boldly tell him that, “Honey, you’re the man I prayed for.”
‘You’d do anything to make such marriage work. And when the situation is thicker than you think you can handle, you remember the promises God gave you personally concerning that marriage, and you’ll find a reason to forge ahead and trust God.’
I stared at my mum, as though I was seeing her for the first time. This conversation was the first of its kind we ever had and I could almost hear my mum plead in her words and gesticulations.
She really wanted me to enter marriage, sure and convinced of what I was doing and suddenly, I wanted that more than anything else.
Truth be told, beyond thinking it was too early and that I didn’t want to be distracted from my studies, I had real fears!
My mum and dad have the most amazing marriage, I am a product, I would know. I however knew stuff, hear about more marriages failing than working. I hear the slight misery and regret when a relative reminisced her single days and I wonder if my mum and dad’s marriage was the last of its kind.
So, I would rather run from the reality than face it. Some days, I would convince myself that I’d just stay single forever, or that the rapture would take place before I had to get married, but that always allayed the fear only for a minute or two.
I however thanked God that night as we got back to our movie, that He used my mum to give me the perfect solution.
To start praying now. Surrender it all to God. Let Him take away my fears and give me my expected end. If early preparation and prayer was why my parents’ marriage worked so beautifully, I was willing to pray myself to exhaustion.
And that was just what I did.
Now, six years down the line, as I knelt down before her and my dad, tears burning in my eyes at the thought of not being her precious little baby anymore, waiting on them for their prayers as they sent me off to my husband’s house, I stretched, hugged my mum close and whispered in her ears,
‘Mum, I didn’t crash-read. It was a six years comprehensive course. I went through the full process and I have a deal with God. Don’t worry about me, that man over there, is the exact person I prayed for. And more.
‘You were right.’
Sobs wracked both our bodies as she prayed and prayed and prayed some more for me, before letting me go.
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and He shall direct thy paths.
Proverbs 3: 5,6.
The Girl with the Winning Smile,
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