Day 12: Hail Mary; Holy Mary

“12 Days of Christmas”: Day 12/12 –  Hail Mary; Holy Mary.

Dear Diary,

December 24, 2023.

Today, I want to first express my gratitude before I talk about my ‘Hail Mary; Holy Mary’s’ punishment.

Having just completed a challenging defence, the prospect of diving into my thesis loomed over me like an insurmountable mountain. Writing felt like a burdensome task, and I found myself unable to put pen to paper even 12 days post-defence. However, in acknowledging my truth, I understood the necessity of embarking on this solitary journey, serving as my own mentor, adviser, cheerleader, and challenger.

Recalling Ify Okafor’s analogy, I envisioned myself as a rubber band. Just like stretching it continuously results in permanent expansion, I aimed to grow and embrace more capacity. On December 12, I made an impromptu decision to embark on a 12-day writing series, allocating 2-3 hours each day from 8-11 pm. The catch: I had no predefined script. But I chose to trust the process.

I’m proud to declare that I fulfilled the mandate I set for myself. It became evident that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to, regardless of size. I don’t need to figure it all out because that’s already in God’s hands. The process wasn’t always smooth, and there were moments during the 12-day series when the temptation to quit writing by 8 pm was strong. Today, I even started at 5 pm to finish early and join a friend for dinner.

Reflecting on this journey, I’m grateful for persevering. The diversity in how I penned down each day’s diary entries revealed the depth of creativity we possess when we choose to stretch our rubber bands. It sparked the realisation that I can explore new horizons, perhaps delving into fiction or children’s books, as a friend suggested.

As I conclude this entry, I am not only grateful for the year’s lessons but also for the friends gained and those who, regrettably, parted ways. Each encounter, whether joyful or painful, contributed to the tapestry of my growth. The 12-day writing series has been a testament to resilience and the unexpected beauty that unfolds when we trust the process.

Looking ahead, I approach the future with hope—a hope that tomorrow holds the promise of new opportunities, fresh insights, and a continued journey of self-discovery. May the lessons of the past year pave the way for a brighter and more fulfilling tomorrow.

With heartfelt gratitude and a hopeful spirit,

Olu Abikoye.


Now, let’s dive into today’s post – Hail Mary; Holy Mary.

Have you ever pushed your parents to the brink of insanity, where your parent even considered a career change from parenthood to escape your madness? Brace yourself for a short tale – I promise it won’t be as painful as my punishment.

Once upon a time on the 24th of December, a day when chaos reigns supreme in preparation for Christmas. In my world, Christmas isn’t just a celebration; it’s a full-blown one week event. It doesn’t end until January 5th or so. So the house must sparkle differently, the food stockpile could feed a small army, and oh, the most annoying we always expect visitors that multiply faster than rabbits. But here’s my own problem with it all – I despised the dreaded errands.

So, on that fateful morning, my dear mother, in her infinite wisdom, decided to keep us busy with chores. Now, I never understood the logic behind turning simple tasks into Herculean labours until much later. Then our aunties, the unsung heroes of chores deliverance rescued us from our domestic duties and for some reason joined my mother who had embarked on a shopping odyssey of epic proportions.

Left unsupervised, my genius mind concocted a plan. Armed with my two younger sisters as obedient minions, I decided to transform our home into a Christmas wonderland. My brother, the art prodigy, had a treasure trove of drawings. What better way to use them than to cut, paste, and redecorate? I think I was about 10 or 11 at that time. I destroyed all my brother’s drawings, wasted his colours, cut all his papers and books into decorations and above all, plastered them uglily all over the house side by side all the Christmas lights and all.

The house turned into a masterpiece, or so I thought.  The first to get home that day was my brother. As soon as he stepped into the house, he screamed T.O.Y.O.S.I A.B.I.K.O.Y.E. He was so horrified by it all, that he dropped his bag and left the house like he didn’t see anything. He, wisely, distanced himself from the mess so my mum wouldn’t make him an accomplice to this crime.

The next to arrive was my mother and her sisters. Exhausted from Christmas shopping in the chaos of Lagos, she returned to a house turned upside down. Then, my older brother rang the bell at the gate showing he just arrived and had nothing to do with it. Then came the moment of reckoning.

My mother saw my sisters adorned in paints, and I, proudly acting like I deserved a Nobel Prize for being the Picasso of chaos made my mother so close to tears. In a fit of frustration, she muttered the ominous words, “I know I will run away one day. These children will drive me crazy.” And then, the dreaded command – the three of you –  kneel down, raise your hands, and close your eyes.

Just as the African mother drama was about to unfold, my father arrived. I was soooo happy! Upon seeing the spectacle, he stood still wondering what happened and then committed the cardinal sin of parenting – he burst into laughter. I, in turn, forgetting that I had committed a crime, joined him in nervous laughter, even though we didn’t dare to stand up from the punishment.

A heated debate between my parents ensued, and in the end, my father took his son and left the house, leaving us in my mother’s hands. I knew I was done for when my father didn’t save me. But I must say, my father was also punished because those “decorations” stayed put until the new year, witnessing a parade of parties he hosted during the holiday. She would say to his friends that ‘His precious daughter had become artistic.’ It was a terrible sight, but looking back now, I am very grateful I did that nonsense.

Now back to us. My mother left us kneeling but rescued her two youngest, leaving only me guilty as charged in the mud. I begged, pleaded, and promised never to repeat my artistic exploits. Unconvinced, she told me I am always in the habit of making promises and never fulfilling them, so today, she wasn’t going to listen to any of my pleas.

Then she took pity on me and said I should punish myself. I said I would say the Hail Mary. Little did I know, it would turn into a marathon of devotion. Normally, I expected her to ask me to say three to ten Hail Marys, but she brought out those beads and asked me to say five decades. I cried because then five decades felt like five million decades. Then she asked me to choose between going back to my kneeling spot to say the rosary or being beaten. I collected the rosary, went to my kneeling spot, and began. My soul was in pain, and I hadn’t even finished the first ten sets.

So, I devised a plan to say only the first two words in the twin prayer chain. Just like this: “Hail Mary; Holy Mary,” till I finished. So, I started my chant – “Hail Mary; Holy Mary” fifty times, and I was done. I stood up in about seven minutes and said, “Mummy, I am done.” My mum was shocked. She increased it to fifteen decades. I did the same thing, but I was reluctant to go to her that I was done reciting the rosary that was my punishment. So, I waited a bit, then went back, “Mummy, I am done.”

She said, “How did you say it?” I looked at her and said, “Like we used to say it.” She said, “OLUWATOYOSI, don’t compound your problem. I want to hear how you said it.” I knew she had caught me. Tear-streaked, I chanted it out loud, “Hail Maryyy; Holy Maryyy.” She then asked, ‘Is that how we say it?’ I said, ‘No, ma.’ Then she said, ‘Why did you say it like that?’ I said, ‘To make it faster.’ She said, ‘Okay, go back there and say 100 decades, and I want to hear it from across the room.’

People of God, I chanted “Hail Mary; Holy Mary” till I had no more tears in my eyes. My spirit was broken, and I succumbed to a slumber of defeat. Come Christmas morning, I emerged as the most humble child in the world. I never did any mischief again, and to date, I don’t like decorations. And thus, my friends, this concludes the epic tale of my artistic escapade – a cautionary Christmas story for the ages.

Did you ever perform any mischief before Christmas as a child?

If you made it to this point, Merry Christmas, my dearest friend!

Hail Mary; Holy Mary

For episodes in this 12 Days of Christmas series see:

Day 1/12: Spit-proof Grace:

2/12: My Mum – the unbeatable champion of all time:   

3/12: Were you a truth-teller as a child at:   

4/12: Can you pray?   

5/12: My ode to fear:   

6/12: Mary’s breakup line to St. Joseph:

7/12: Tower of Babel:

8/12 – The Non-Whisperer: 

9/12 – Balcony People:

10/12 – What would you do?

and 11/12 –  Grumpy Old Lady:

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