False Piety

by Olufunmilayo

About once every three years, our vicar would visit my family.

Usually, it would be a Sunday afternoon around 5 p.m, long after the church service has ended and when my whole family is relaxing. My mother would usually be napping, wearing a one-piece wrapper on one of the two three-seater chairs in the parlor after eating a heavy lunch and two glasses of sangria. My father would lie shirtless on the second three-seater, watching his second or third Africa magic Yoruba movie of the day while still sipping his punch – a mixture of Guinness, some red wine, and coke. My siblings, cousins, and I would be sprawled across the living room, either drinking some punch, reading, pressing our phones, or half-heartedly watching the TV, enjoying each other’s company.

Suddenly, we would hear the shrill sound of the electric bell – prrrrrinnnnnngggg!!!!!! – signaling the arrival of an intruder and a break in our harmonious Sunday. My mother would wake up abruptly, opening her bloodshot eye, look at me like a hawk, and ask me to go check who is at the gate. As the youngest child, I would rise very reluctantly, silently cursing and wondering why the intruder could not stay in their house. At the gate, I would peer through the wall to peek and see who it is. Panic grips my heart as soon as I see the vicar’s driver. I would politely greet him and tell him I need to go get the key to the bigger gate so he can drive-in. I would run back as fast as I can to inform my whole family that the vicar was around.

As soon as everyone hears the news, they all jump up. My father grabs his punch jug and runs to dump it in the kitchen and heads to his room. My mother runs to her room with her wrapper almost falling off her body. The rest of us clear other bottles and cups from the parlor and rearrange it quickly and run to our rooms to get dressed. I grab a scarf to cover my head as I run back to the gate and open it for the vicar to drive in. As the vehicle drives in, the vicar waves at me from the back seat of his SUV. I smile politely and curtsy. When the car stops, I run towards where the vicar is seated in his car. I curtsy again and smile. The vicar in his pure white cassock and collar then steps out of the jeep in pomp and smiles at me while loudly announcing – “Peace be unto this house”.

I would then lead him to the parlor.

While the vicar sits, my father, fully dressed in Ankara, would saunter into parlor and half-prostrate while greeting the vicar and laughing too pretentiously as though he were very excited to see the vicar. My mother would follow closely fully dressed like a virtuous woman and kneel for the vicar. Then one after the other, all my siblings and cousins would trickle into the sitting room, looking very gentle and pious, genuflecting based on their gender. The vicar will respond to each person with, “God bless you, my child”.

The vicar would then begin a short exhortation about how exemplary our family is. How pleased he is to be in our home. How he sees the glory of God over every one of us. We would all sit quietly and nod solemnly as he speaks. He would proceed to tell us to continue to serve God and mutter some other religious spiel which I cannot quite recall. After this, he will ask us to rise to pray. We begin by singing one or two choruses, and we will all raise our voices in gusto and sing. Then we transition to slower worship songs, and we sing like a very holy family. The vicar then declares some blessings on our family as he prays for us.

When all the singing and praying is over, my mum looks at me and I know it means I should bring some light refreshment for the vicar. I silently hope that all the chilled soft drinks have not been mixed into the punch. Luckily, I find something in the refrigerator and present it before the vicar. The vicar would feign surprise and protest that it was not necessary to offer him anything. However, he would take a sip or two as he chit-chats with my father, while my mother grins meekly the whole time.

Then the vicar would rise to take his leave, and my father would slowly slip a slightly bulging white envelope into his right hand. He would profusely thank my father as he exits the parlor.

We all trudge silently behind the vicar as we escort him to his car. My father tips the driver who is very excited and grins while thanking him. We all wave like robots as the vicar’s car drives out and he waves back at us, smiling. I lock the gate and turn back to face my family – we burst out laughing and sigh in relief.

We keep laughing as we walk back into the house and we joke at how coordinated we were at pulling ourselves together for the vicar’s unexpected visit. We all head back to the kitchen to grab our drinks and back to the parlor. Someone turns on the TV. My father removes his shirt and takes a sip of his drink as he settles back into his couch. I remove my scarf and toss it to the corner. My mother goes to her room to wear her one-piece wrapper. The rest of the family resumes the earlier configuration.

We are a very pious family😊.

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