|40 Chudleigh Estate, my childhood home|
Last Saturday, while I was still in the USA, my family moved from the church manse, which we had occupied for almost nineteen years (short by four months). I returned to Zambia on Tuesday and went straight to the church office in the afternoon to catch up with some work. The church manse is right opposite the office. As I looked in the direction of the house, I felt a sad sensation. This was the home that my family had occupied for almost a fifth of a century. I found it difficult to believe that we had finally parted ways. If those bricks and timbers could speak, I wonder what they would have told me last Tuesday afternoon?
What was even more emotional was that my family moved into my childhood home in Chudleigh Estate. I had inherited it from my parents some twenty years ago but since I was living in the church manse, we had put it on rent. Due to a number of providential happenings, the time had now come for us to occupy it. Our family moved into this home in 1970 and, apart from being away during my secondary school days, I finally only moved out in 1984. When I left that house, I was a young man of twenty-two, and freshly graduated from the university. All my worldly goods fitted into two suitcases. Now on my return some twenty-nine years later, I had a wife, six children, and so much household goods that some of it could not fit into the house. It is amazing how much we accumulate in such a short time in life.
Upon my arrival from the USA, I found that the family had already decided which rooms to occupy. What used to be the girls bedroom was now occupied by the boys and what used to be the boys bedroom was now occupied by the girls. I went straight to look at a spot in what used to be the boys bedroom. That spot holds the dearest place in my heart. It was the place next to my bed where I knelt down on the morning of Friday 30 March, 1979, and repented of my sinful life. It was there that I trusted in Christ as my Saviour. That spot has been to me what the spot of the burning bush must have been to Moses. It changed the course of my life forever! How can a human being ever forget the place where heaven came down and glory filled his soul? Looking at that place again after a long time was a very emotional experience for me.
Another place that caused me to sigh was the sitting room, but for a different reason. It was the last place I ever saw my mother. I was sitting there when I saw dad rush out of the house and then return with an uncle who lived a few houses away. A few minutes later, I saw them carrying my mom who was unconscious to the car. I never saw my mother again. A few days later people began to arrive at our home wailing. I knew she was dead. I was only nine years old then, but the picture of my mom being carried past me in the lounge and out of the house has remained etched upon my memory.
The one room that was not up for grabs was the master bedroom. So, as parents, we are the ones who have now occupied it. I slept in the room that my parents used to sleep in. It may be difficult for my Western friends to understand the emotional impact of the first night in this bedroom. In our culture, your parents’ bedroom is like the Holy of Holies in the Temple. I probably only entered it once a year, if at all! There was an aura about the room. Now here I was occupying it. The message was clear. I am now in the place that was once occupied by my father. I was a Samuel that had now replaced old Eli.
The following morning I took a brisk walk around Chudleigh Estate as part of my morning exercise. I observed so many changes. For one, most of the area opposite our home was once virgin forest. That is where I used to go with friends to hunt for birds, armed with catapults. It was also the forest where we used to go and pick wild fruits. Somewhere in that forest is where my first dog was buried when it was hit by a car. Carey was its name. I know the spot very well and intend to visit it soon. Most likely someone has built a house over the spot.
Apart from the forest being turned into housing estates, I also noticed that whereas previously you could see the houses from the roadside, now all of them were hidden behind security perimeter walls. The sense of community that I once enjoyed seemed to have been lost. Many of the rooftops that I could see from the roadside betrayed the fact that the houses had been extended.
Two houses away from us was the home of the now famous Zambian lawyer, Dr Roger Chongwe. His son, Njalikwa, was one of my closest childhood friends. As I passed that home I wondered where Njalikwa now was. Possibly in Australia, I thought.
I turned into the next street and there was the home that was once occupied by the Kalifungwas. It was in those days, way back in the early 1980s that I first met Ronald Kalifungwa. Whereas Njalikwa soon faded out of my life, upon the departure of his family from Chudleigh, my friendship with Ronald continues to this very day. I count him among my closest two friends, thirty years later.
As I entered the trunk road that leads into Chudleigh Estate from the Great East Road that goes all the way to Malawi, I recalled one of our childhood pranks. We would stand on one end of this long stretch of road and wave down cars that were passing. We would ask for a lift to the opposite end of the road. Once we got dropped off there, we would again wave down any passing cars going in the opposite direction and get a lift back to where we came from. So, childhood pranks are nothing new. A little confession is good for the soul!
As I walked along, I met a number of people—especially maids and school kids—with cell phones. I recall thinking, “In those days when I was growing up here, only Captain Kirk and his team in Star Trek had cell phones.” I still remember the way most of the episodes would end. Captain Kirk would pull out his gadget and say, “Dr McCoy (or whoever was left in charge), beam us aboard the Enterprise!”
The walk brought me pretty close to the home of my first girlfriend and I took a peep in that direction. I will keep her name a secret for now. By that time, I was already a Christian and we talked about marriage. In the providence of God, this was never to be. He had someone else for me and he had someone else for her. Such is life.
Upon retuning home I settled down to some breakfast and devotional reading from the Bible. My Bible reading from the Pilgrim Bible Notes was from Proverbs 19. Verse 14 says, “House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD.” Wow! It was as if the Lord wanted me to realise that he knew what I was going through upon returning to the house that I had inherited from my father. It was a fitting close to my emotional return to my childhood home. I realised as never before that I have had the best of both sides of that verse!