The other day, I had an important question to ask my dad and when I found him at the dining table busy on an architectural drawing, I had to swiftly think of the ultimate conversation starter. So I asked him about the project he was working on. You should see how his face lights up whenever I ask him about his projects. Sometimes I think that he wanted me to be a contractor like him, but you see Physics and Math didn’t like me because I can swear that I tried loving these two. Before I got my current job, I was my dad’s personal assistant. I accompanied him to a lot of his site meetings. It was a fun job. My JD included the following:
- Update the boss’ WhatsApp whenever it expires. (He freaks out when it expires and it’s just an app………sigh)
- Watch funny videos on WhatsApp with the boss after a long day of tiresome site meetings and work.
- Check and respond to his emails and always confirm that his PDF reader is functioning.
- Cram and remind the boss of his email password. (This was the most important task in this job)
- Listen and laugh to his funny stories on our way to the site. (I cannot authenticate the accuracy of those stories, but they were downright hilarious)
- Compliment the boss whenever he is well dressed for a site meeting. (He sure knows how to accept a compliment, although at times he was just fishing for them)
- Prepare and serve the boss a sumptuous breakfast on site meeting days.
- Jot down measurements at the site on the notepad provided. (Despite the technological advancements, we still preferred pen and paper)
- Remind the boss whenever he forgets to carry his glasses, architectural drawing or any other important material needed at the site.
Anyway, after he had explained to me the drawing (with great detail as if I was the structural engineer), I gathered the courage to ask him:
“Dad can I ask you something?”
“Sure my dear, ask.”
“What attracted you to mum?”
He went silent. I could feel the discomfort lurking in the air. For a second I felt horrible for making him uncomfortable. It was the last thing I wanted. You don’t just ask your African father such a question out of the blues! He adjusted his glasses, shifted slowly in his seat and smiled. That smile gave me hope that I was going to get an answer.
“Just that?” I asked eagerly
“And she wasn’t proud. I really liked that she was a humble lady.”
“Plus she laughed at my jokes” He chuckled. OK I lie, he didn’t mention his jokes, instead he changed the topic thus bringing my interview to a sudden halt. Find more of how they met or rather my theories of how they met, here
This post is really special to me because today is mother’s birthday and I can’t help but remember how she raised us. So forgive me if my thoughts are a bit all over the place. Where I come from, we give women names to pako (praise) them. At times, it is derived from their clan and English name. For instance, Jane becomes Ajeni, Regina becomes Aregi etc. My mum is called Rose and she is from the Umira Kager Clan so her pakoing name is Arosi Nyakager. The last time I called her Arosi she frowned and told me that the only name I can call her is mum. You know, it’s an African parents thing.
Growing up I never really understood her language of love. One day she would be canning us (Nyawanda and I) mercilessly and the next day she would be spoiling us rotten at Wimpy. By the way what happened to Wimpy? I remember how she always dressed us in matching outfits which we hated, even more than the mboshoris that she made us wear to school. When I asked Kavevi (our lastborn) if she remembers mum’s beatings, she said that mum only canned her once, most of the time she received (still receives) her sermons. Kavevi was so lucky to have come at a time when mum was tired of physical punishment, because Nyawanda and I can’t remember a day that would pass without her canning.
Most of the school functions were attended by dad because mum’s job was really demanding at that time. But despite everything, she always made time to escort us to the school bus in the mornings and spoil us on weekends. I always loved the fact that unlike dad, she understood (still understands) the importance of ice cream in our lives, even if it means more trips to the dentist hehehe! Arosi diligently supervised our homework, especially compositions and inshas. I suspect that this was mostly to see what we said about her or if we had boyfriends. We hated those Saturdays that she was around because they meant that we would spend the entire afternoon in the bathroom being scrubbed from head to toe while our friends were playing outside. All this was done in the gentle serenade of country music, Dolly Parton and Don Williams to be precise. You see why I don’t listen to country music? I heard more than enough of it as child. This thorough cleaning session special moment when a mother got to impose her will on her children. For Arosi, hygiene was (is) non-negotiable.
All my life, I have never seen my mother cry. I don’t know how she always manages to stay calm even during hard times. Mimi, I cry when I have to. As in, saa ya kulia ni saa ya kulia. How people cry up, is beyond me because when my tear glands are provoked, issa El nino my fren! When mum lost her eldest brother some years back, she didn’t shed a tear. I remember telling her that it was OK to cry but she told me that she had to be strong for her siblings and mum, being the eldest girl. When Kavevi had to undergo surgery at a tender age of 3 years, we all freaked out, but she was calm. It was like God had already reassured her that everything was going to be fine. Surgeries had a really bad reputation at that time and my friends filled me with horror stories of how they knew someone who died during or right after surgery, si you know how kids can exaggerate stuff they don’t understand! On the day of the surgery, while my dad was pacing up and down in the waiting area and unable to eat, Arosi seemed unperturbed, she even suggested that he take a cup of tea to calm down.
I remember telling her that I wanted a small brother. As if brothers were just granted upon request. So mum took in our cousin Fili and raised him as her own. But you see in almost every family, there are always problems that arise when it comes to the custody of an orphan and our family was no exception. Fili was the little brother we never had and we were so sad when mum had to give up his custody because she couldn’t take the drama anymore. She later told me that she was happy to see how we related with our brother. The people who keep telling me that I don’t resemble my mum one bit and that I look more like her younger sister Aunty Liz (a huge fan of this blog, thanks Aunty) have not noticed the sexy legs I got from her. Enyewe blindness is real and I don’t blame them. Arosi must be having wahenga’s blood flowing in her veins, because she is always coming up with new similes. You will hear make statements like, “Mbona mnafuatana hivyo kama kumbe kumbe?” or my personal favorite, “Kwani utatembea kila pahali na iyo ndoo ni kama ni kibeti?”
During the 2015 December holidays, Dad and his structural engineer (yours truly), decided to go to shagz to supervise the building of our house. OK, he was the contractor, I was the head chef for the mjengo guys and together, we did a pretty decent job. Ask those mjengo guys. All was well apart from this stubborn one who decided to masquerade as their Atwoli and kept complaining all the time. Enemy of progress! When we came back to Nairobi January 2016, we both had malaria. Mum took a short leave from work to take care of us. Here is the thing, my dad and I are the most annoying patients ever. Apparently, sickness awakens our inner demons and we become needy and obdurate (by the way old man, we need to change this bad habit), but mum took care of us without complaining. Of course when we got better, we received a lengthy sermon on the importance of sleeping under a treated mosquito net, complete with a tutorial.
Every year when the month of August approaches, I always think hard of what gift to buy her and the other August babies like Nyawanda whose birthday is tomorrow and Nyangi. Honestly, I don’t know what gift to offer to a woman who has worked tirelessly to make my life and that of my sisters better. A woman who calls me in the middle of the day just to find out how am doing. A woman who has loved my sisters and father unconditionally. A woman who is always thinking of a solution when the rest of us are panicking. The very same woman who is always challenging me to do better. The woman who I ran to when I had my first period and even heartbreak (yes we are that tight). The woman who I confided in when I couldn’t keep up with the changes that puberty came with, lakini adole! A woman who taught me a lot, like how to cook, clean….. A woman who has always told me to calm down and trust in the Lord’s providence. A woman who has shown me love in its purest form from the day I walked into her life. I don’t know what gift could befit her. Happy birthday mum. May the good Lord grant you your heart’s desires.