While I was growing up, many of my age-grades ran away from home.

There was this particular girl, Uduak. We attended the same church and were in the same choir. Uduak had a good treble voice but that didn’t stop her. She may have run from home at least 10 times.

I could never understand why she did.
Her mum wasn’t strict or a disciplinarian and even though they were broke, I always felt she got everything she needed.

When I think about it now, perhaps I may have been too contented as a kid.

Anyway, this girl started running away from home when we were only 14 or thereabout.

The first time, we were all worried. We thought she had been kidnapped or even killed.
Her mother wailed and almost ran mad.

Most of the parents especially my mum became extra careful. What would she say if one of her kids just went missing?

However, after 2 weeks of immense torture, for Uduak’s mum, Uduak was back.

“Abu I go my friend place” I can still remember my mum telling us her response many years ago.
My poor mother was so pained we thought she would have a heart attack. Talking about crying more than the bereaved.

Uduak’s mother was torn between beating her or just holding her. Uduak was once lost, now she was found, the mother of the prodigal daughter didn’t know what to do.

After a few months, Uduak disappeared again.

This time, people were not that worried but her mum was devasted. People blamed her for not beating her when she returned the last time. Rumors had started to spread that the only reason Uduak ran away from home was “preek”.

When Uduak’s mum argued that it was “Ufok -Ette” loosely translated as Father’s house no one paid her any attention.

The mother strongly believed it was Uduak’s father’s family that had cast a spell on the daughter and this spirit forced her to always run away.

People mocked her both secretly and openly. I used to really pity Uduak’s mother. Like my mum, she was a widow, she was her only daughter and she used to be really nice to me.

Till today, I cannot really tell why Uduak used to run away because even during rehearsals one time when I cornered her after her 3rd episode and asked her, she could not even meet my eye.

And you know, that is why it was hard to believe that it was “Preek”.

Uduak wasn’t the smartest kid in the church. Okay, that is me understating. She was the dullest.

She wasn’t pretty and neither did she dress in any particularly alluring way.

During Church Vigils which was quite a lot if not too much while I was growing up, she would sleep throughout.

Uduak would still sleep even when the choirmaster told her to stand up As punishment. As in open her mouth and drool shamelessly.

Uduak was already easy to laugh at so when she started running from home – oh well!

But it wasn’t funny to me. I always had a special fondness for Uduak, it is not unconnected to the fact that she was fatherless like me and I knew that her mum had it bad.

But she didn’t care or maybe she did.

After the 6th runaway series, it became a usual affair that no one cared anymore and that was when Uduak came back home with a giant pregnancy.

Finally! The proof of preek!

Her mum, thoroughly disappointed still took her in and cared for her until she had the baby. I believe that is the longest time Uduak had stayed home since she started her running away venture.

But Uduak didn’t wait to wean the daughter to run away again.

One day, she woke up and left, abandoning the child.

We left that church so I lost track of Uduak’s runs but there was another girl in our compound who used to run away too. Like Uduak, Orowo had a child after running from home a few times and still ran away from home afterward.

Orowo had both parents and seemingly intelligent but that didn’t stop anything. Perhaps poverty was a factor here but we had an Uncle, Uncle Ebu who lived Surulere and was a big man at Nigerian Customs whose daughter kept running away despite his wealth.

For the record, I remember that boys ran away too. Most just fell into drugs while the girls mostly fell pregnant.

When I did this poll many people said they thought of running away when they were disciplined as kids, but changed their minds mostly because they were afraid of hunger.

Did you run away as a kid? Share your stories…

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