There had been rumours all around. The tension was almost impregnable and you could feel its tautness even in our young bones, or should I say in my young bones since I was the toddler among my aunties and uncles?
Despite the rumours, this was home and whatever came would find us right here. I mean where else would we go to no matter what happened? Let us for example imagine we could run away, the nearest semblance of a town was another 10 to 15 miles off. Walking all that distance was a nightmare when my aunties and uncles, uncles, no, I don’t recall them at this moment. My aunties were only budding teenagers for the eldest and the other two just a little say one or two years older than I was.
Granny was never home as she enjoyed her drinking sprees, thinking about it now, I think the little cham made her sane for a moment.and in her moments she was untouchable and no one could speak ill of her beautiful poor kids. They were her inheritance after all and you didn’t feed them either so what did you have to say about them, huh? And she had all reasons to be proud since her eldest daughter was on a bursary in secondary school. That my dear treader would be my mum.
She was far away in school and wasn’t here to witness what was about to transcend. Thinking about it now I actually can feel the qualms within her heart and pangs in her belly as she imagined her 4-year-old son out in the harsh world without her presence and her two helpless hands to help him. Must have been terrible as even the school authorities bundled them up in a dark room and told them the school grounds were safe for them and no harm would reach them. Were you in her shoes dear treader what would you have done?
Maybe you are thinking my aunties would have boarded a commuter matatu right? As we all understand by now, that was like this dream I always had of coming to Nairobi,the capital city for all my childhood. I mean, that was a reserve for the wealthy in society at those times. And this they did well as we would later hear narrations of a city made of tall escalating buildings with beautiful glasses, the same that inspired the gorofa(storey) dress designs for the little girls back in the villages. Little did we know that even those who got the same privilege we so yearned for of visiting the city didn’t live in much affluence as we so imagined, but they too strained in the slums of the same to make an image for when they came back to our little village cum town.
Well, if not to lose you as I so often do dear treader, let us get back to my little aunties and I.If they found out I called them little in these sketches yet I was the toddler they would sure give me a spanking same as what mama threatened me with last evening when I sent her an honest Umoja slippers throwback meme.
She is still the loving yet disciplinarian mum I have always known since I stopped crawling and started being sent to the shops for mkate(bread) ya bob,blueband ya kadogo(Small-sized margarine) and tea leaves of three shillings plus change. you would think my little mind would remember as I ran singing the same recitations of Mkate ya 5 bob,blueband ya kadogo,majani ya 3 bob plus change.
Guess what? I was back to ask what she had sent me to get in 2minutes since I had forgotten, when she raised that sandal slipper from Umoja that was knotted at the toe end with a blue polythene strand,I remembered it all and went out running to the shops.
Well then, I am sure while in school and with us out here this night, her tummy was in pieces literally.
Having hung around waiting for the worst that could happen to befall us, my aunties found their feet stronger than they had prior imagined when the wails from atop the hills flowed downwards to our small town. Arrows had flown and in the distance through the heavy dark it was easy to see flames of fire dance upwards in a mock sooty wail. It was here now and the truth was that mercy knew no remorse tonight. The clang of machetes was clear through the dark and pain of blood flow evident. It didn’t sound like an ordinary raid but more of an anger wrecked invasion.
My aunties fled to the nearest police police post a mile away,the same place we would later go to enjoy a roadside film years later followed by a stream of raw eggs whirled into the air after the show,humans…….
As we rushed to seek refuge at the police post, the air was thick and stinky with fear as most others accompanied us to the same. We were to later huddle close together at the police post grounds like sheep. Covered in whatever blankets or tattered sheets they had carried along. None of that covering really mattered as long as we were further away from the havoc as possible. At this point it didn’t hit me where grandma could have been by then. I doubt anyone would bother with a stupored old lady who was nothing but abusive, right?
At some point I think those abuses were hurled as a defense from thugs or night wanderers and she was rarely even drunk, only she would ever be able to tell the truth of this but too bad she is long late and rested. But above all she was an amazing and loving granny that oldie.
Morning came and we waded our way back to the little shack we called home. We was glad to find it still nicely grass-thatched and untouched as the rage from the night previous passed over. This all looks right now like the Israelites in Egypt’s Passover night when the angel of death rained death upon the Egyptians.not to mention, the distant villages on the hilltops did not come out unscathed.
As I later came to learn, these were the 1992 clashes I had survived, and on this eve of my birthday the memories flood at the strike of midnight. My sleep eludes me as I want to call mama and ask her if any of this was true. Getting off my bed to pen it all down the memories run fresh and am sure mama would have said non of it happened. Sometimes I wonder why they are always so overprotective, mothers, I guess that is their blessing but not tonight.
Tonight I relieve the 28 years gone since my rescue from the night rage as I realize I am blessed. Not only with life but the beauty of these sketches that come flooding back through a dreamy glimpse into my past.
It is dawn already and time has rushed to afternoon as I am seated on this balcony staring at the heavy clouds that always visit my view. Am humbled to be sitting on this balcony within the same city I so yearned to once visit but only did so in tales and narrations of others. As tears itch the edges of my eyes, my heart is filled with nothing but gratefulness. It is the 12th of May and with it my birthday has dawned and am not any better than anyone else reading these sketches but equally as blessed: equally blessed since all of us are filled with sketches that could fill an ocean with flows of gratitude.
At this very moment am reminded that it does not really matter what we have been through in this life, however difficult or impossible it seemed or even seems, all that matters is that despite all we have been through, are going through and are yet to come across in the future, we have one who is ever-present and will be with us through all storms and turmoil. He has our sketches in place and at one point we will rejoice about His goodness with tears of gratitude just as I am right now.
Your past really doesn’t define you but lays the bare foundations for the present.
Happy birthday PePa.