Africa · Anxiety · Childhood · Cows · culture · Faith · Family · Farming · Fear · Goodbye · Grief · Memoires · Military · Parenting · Prayer · Relationships · Separation · Spiritual · travel

Together Forever – Thwarted

goodbyeI.

Today the Rancher separated the 3 calves from the mothers to wean them. They are across a fence from each other. The mothers moo forlornly for their young who are frolicking carefree in the next field. Even while they chew, the heart-sick mother’s moo. It’ll be a long week hearing their pathetic bellowing.

Curly

II.

Precious family friends bid farewell to their dear son today. He joined the US Army. They dropped him off at the recruitment center, were able to stay only a few minutes, and that was goodbye. He was instantly distracted with protocol and procedures, his eager heart racing as information and orders were flung at him in rapid fire. His life will never be the same. Thank you for serving our country Dustin.

usarmy

They must be reeling. Was it a silent ride home. Unspoken fears. Is anyone even able to  complete a sentence? What a long ride, everyone engrossed in their thoughts… Their world now plays in slow motion, pauses and rewinds erratically. They are transported to a new existence without him.

Parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles are all breathing deeply and sensing an undefinable loneliness. Their faith and love hold them strong. They know he will be strong. They know he will be used to be a source of encouragement and strength to many. They know he will hurt, and grow, and serve, and grow. They pray they will see him again. The tears flow freely.

 

It will never be the same.

III.

lufthansa

It’s midnight and I sit in my airplane seat athwart the aisle from an excitable lady who speaks loudly to anyone who will listen. She sits and stands several times, each time taking down her massive luggage from the overhead bin, retrieving an item or other, then asking the next person walking up or down the aisle to return it for her. Each time she held her hands in Namaste at them and bobbles her head in gratitude. She would settle in and get comfortable but in no time, she was up again. This was going to be  a long trip!

It was my first time in an airplane and here I was flying clear across the world. I looked out of the narrow window at the twinkling lights way, way below. The engines whirred in the background and my ears hurt from the pressure. I saw my face in the reflection and I remembered my dear family at the airport, noses and hands plastered to the other side of the cold glass when they’d taken me as far as security allowed. I’d touched my nose and hands to each one, and we mouthed our farewells. So close, yet so far. My mind swirled with mixed emotions as I clutched my blue carry on-luggage with BOAC written on it in large bold letters. My dad had owned that bag for close to twenty years and took it on all his oversees travels.

I couldn’t believe I was leaving. Where was I going? Weren’t there colleges back home? How does one even navigate an airport. I would be navigating 4 international ones in twenty four hours. How would I know if I was flying the wrong way? What was I doing? Who’s great idea was this? I had turned back to see them for the last time. Some were crying, some where covering their mouths in shock, some staring in disbelief. I pulled down the white plastic window cover and tried, in vain, to get comfortable in the small seat. I fiddled with the the seat belt and watched the safety videos studiously.

Dustin leaving today make me think of what that drive home, twenty four years ago, must have been like for my family. A couple of quick decades and a child is ready to take off on their own into the big wide world? What on Earth!

Did they say much in the crowded car? Did dad try to break the silence with bad jokes that fell flat and they returned to the strained silence? I remembered my parents’ words: Find God’s people and you’ll be okay; you are strong; the Lord is with you. I knew they were praying and that was like their collective arms around me, blessing me, sending me out into what was unknowable to them but part of a beautiful plan of an all-knowing God for my life. And He could be trusted.

What was it like to pull into the gates at home? I know how it’s been when I pull into the property for the funeral of a family member. Even the air feels different. It’s just not right. A huge piece of the whole is missing. What was it like for them to walk into my mostly empty room? I’d given most of my stuff away and packed my essentials into a green and black plaid suitcase dad gave me. Did their hearts feel like my sparse room? It’s like an empty shell after a critter molts and leaves it.

In the words of Ritu Ghatourey, “Goodbyes make you think. They make you realize what you’ve had, what you’ve lost, and what you’ve taken for granted.”
And life is never the same…
Africa · Childhood · Drunks · Kenya · Kiambu · Memoires · Short story · We've All Done It

A letter to Miki

Happy birthday Miki,

I remember when I turned 8, a long time ago.

I didn’t say much to adults.  I learned not to attract attention and to try and stay out of their way. Children weren’t supposed to say much. I was a wee little thing, the smallest in my class. I loved my friends and school and laughed a lot. They called me fun-size!

At the Four Corners that marked the halfway point of my long walk home after school was an open air market. Women spread out their  lesos on the red dirt and laid their wares on them, mostly succulent tropical fruit.

I carried a huge orange backpack that my brother Mick had given me and wore braces on my teeth. People stared at me and shameless women would say, “Look at that minikin with a massive bag and wires in her teeth.” One loud woman said it every day! She was enormous and wore a dirty wrinkled headscarf to contain and hide her lumpy unkempt hair, which stuck out the edges as though it was trying to run away from her.  Who could blame it? She chewed on sugar cane and loudly slurped its sweet juice. She stared at me unabashedly and unintelligently, the way a black cow stares vacantly at passers by beyond a fence as she chews the cud.

I would never buy sugar cane from her. Not this minikin! Her space was dirty and unkempt like her hair. She spit her dry sugar cane fibers right on the ground and the ants had a party. With the shilling that mum had given me that morning, I would buy a mango from the lady two lesos down . If Jane Munio walked home with me, we would stop at Mrs. Kimana’s grocery shop and buy a strawberry sweet to suck on the rest of the way home. We would lick our dry lips with the delicious syrup and slurp our sweet at the annoying lady.

“Greet you mother for me,” Mrs. Kimana would say with a warm smile when I stepped up to the worn concrete step, gawking and salivating at the row of pretty sweets in large glass jars. I stood on tippy-toe and streeeetched to hand her my shilling when I made my choice.  She always gave me an extra sweet. A cheap one with no wrapping on it. I would eat that one first. Sometimes she’d say, “That’s a very big rucksack for a small girl.” I’d smile and cover my mouth in a futile attempt to hide my braces, that were as discreet as I had the orange backpack in my mouth. She never said I had wires in my teeth. I seldom remembered to greet  mum and Mrs. Kimana would chide me gently when she came to visit mum and learned I didn’t deliver her greetings.

Sometimes it would rain hard and Mrs. Kimana would let us shelter under the canopy at her shop. The monsoon rain only dumped for a few minutes at a time. Like a sudden plague of frogs, people would scamper in all directions, jumping over puddles that formed in the potholes in the street. Stylish women strutting down the road one minute, set aside all dignity at the first raindrop and scurried as if for their lives to find cover so their hair didn’t get wet. Some even took off their tight high heels, grabbed their skirts, and ran to join the crowd under a tree or Mrs. Kimana’s cover. I weasled my way to the back of the crowd to make room, though I didn’t occupy much, and to avoid statements like, “If that little girl didn’t have such a big bag we could fit two more people here.”

Jane and I would looked at each with glee as we relished our sweets. Sometimes we took them out of our mouths and held them in our hands in joyful disbelief at their intense goodness. Such goodness as had to be tasted AND seen. We showed them to each other in wonder and studied each others. Sometimes we looked at each other knowingly, wide-eyed, and without words, traded the sticky mess in our dirty palms. More wide-eyed our jaws dropped at the intoxicating blend of flavors. We finished off the sacred ritual by licking the remaining syrup on our hands. That. was. amazing!

When the rain abated, we would thank Mrs. Kimana and attempt, unsuccessfully, to walk  lightly on the red mud and not get it all over our light blue and white checkered school uniform. Little rivulets would flow and we hopped over those and the puddles, giggling delightedly. I still remember the fresh smell of the charged air. Sometimes thunder would roll in the distance and Jane and I would scream and bolt when the loud lightning cracked.

We held sticky hands and crossed the busy road then unconsciously slowed our pace and stopped. We leered curiously at Mr. Washington’s property. At the front was a small butchery. The butcher hacked away expertly at the carcass that hung from the hook in the rafters, his long sharp machete  glistening like the lightning, and flashing back and forth as fast. His torn white coat was covered in black and red blood stains and he didn’t bother to shoo the flies feasting on the goat meat in the afternoon heat. The sticky tape on the ceiling was dotted with mostly dead flies, like raisins. Some were still buzzing, determined to get away from the trap if they had to leave their six legs on it.  He held a thin home-made cigarette in his mouth and sang loudly through the side of his mouth, like Popeye, accompanying music from a static-y bright green radio behind the counter.

Beyond the butchery was our real object of interest. Loud rhythmic music was coming from a bar. It was a large, dimly lit room from which the odious stench of stale beer emanated. It was a smell we knew was putrid but couldn’t help raising our noses to get a small whiff of. It was horrid, just like the day before. It was helped only by the waft of roasting goat meat.

We leaned in and saw people in various stages of drunkenness and ogled at what they were doing. We stretched our necks wondering who we might recognize. We were especially entranced with drunk women. Patrons staggered about, their eyes at half mast. We thought it was so funny to watch their bobble-heads lolling sluggishly over their limp bodies, their eyes tracking four seconds behind as they ordered yet another Tusker. Their speech slurred and incomprehensible like they had rocks in their mouth.

We lived to see a drunk person staggering out of the building and maybe falling. Or to hear one attempt to give a speech, their wagging forefinger pontificating in slow motion. This was to punctuate a very important point which they surprisingly forgot partway through their discourse. They stood in a stupor, leaning too far to one side and swaying dangerously,  hoping the important point would come back to them. It never did. “Anyway,” they would say, their heavy head suddenly jolting forward, opening their eyes very wide and staring at their hand that was still in the air, as though wondering what it was doing up there.

“What are you looking at?” the butcher would shatter our shenanigans, scaring us out of our skins. We screamed like little school girls and ran, scared silly, as though all the drunks were chasing us, and I would think, “I really need a smaller bag.”

I wonder what kind of mischief you’ll get into on your short walk home, Miki. Eight is a wonderful age. Cherish your friends.

I love you dearly,

Aunty Hannah.

In memory of my precious bosom buddy Jane Muniu who died too young. I thank God for your sweet short life.

Tusker

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/wrinkle/

African · Anxiety · Autobiography · Childhood · Corporal punishment · Daughters · Family · Fear · horror · Kenyan · Kids · Parenting · Short story · Spanking

Panacea for Bashful Pupils

Image result for 1973 GTV FREE IMAGE

I bolted towards dad as soon as I saw his car in the parents’ parking line at Muthaiga Primary School. There weren’t any cars left. I hopped in beside him and settled into the edge of the seat with my massive orange rucksack still on my back. My feet barely touched the floor and my fingers braced my little body from slamming into the dashboard.

I was full of information and it was a while before I noticed he wasn’t talking much as he wound around the scenic road on the way home. “What’s this for?” I asked, making conversation, pointing to a straight green twig sitting on the dash.

It all started innocently enough. School got out at 3.15 pm and the huge mass of kids spilled out of classrooms. Those that were being picked up from school gathered behind the yellow line several meters from the main gate. Beyond that, parents were to park and walk through the gate to pick up their students. It was a great time to catch up with friends and always a little sad to watch them leave one by one. It was always best to be picked up somewhere in the middle. That way you had time to play but weren’t last to be picked up. The line monitor was a strict teacher with a huge belly. His belt seemed to hang on to the straining hem of his shirt for dear life.  He marched back and forth along the yellow line, looking for errant feet to whack back with his yard stick.

This Friday afternoon, a spectacle unfolded. A bright shiny red sports car sped past the parents’ line, revved its engine and squealed past the gate. Its driver impressively spun a tight U-turn  in the compact space, kicking up rocks and dust before coming to a screeching halt. The line monitor had to duck for his life but he composed himself and walked up to the car, obviously to tell the driver this was not the place to wait for kids. I watched with bated breath, expecting him to whack the fancy car with his yard stick. I noticed him talking to the driver who stepped out holding a rag and began to proudly buff the car. Pretty soon they were chatting it up and a small crowd gathered around the beauty to admire it, all thoughts of rules and yellow lines now out the window.

I swallowed hard and my eyes threatened to pop when I caught sight of the driver and realized it was my uncle Steve. This was terrible. He was beaming and showing off his new 1973 GTV. I wanted to die and must have shrunk to half my size with embarrassment. My heart was pounding in my ears and I feared I would faint. I swallowed hard and ducked behind a small group of taller kids when I saw him panning the crowd. I knew he was looking for me.

I was transfixed, cemented to the ground, the pounding in my ears getting louder and louder. This was the worst day of my life. What a terrible thing to do to a ten year old. What was I going to do? One thing was for sure, I couldn’t walk out there and very well get into that car. I tried, I stared at my dirty shoes, that just this morning I’d polished till they shone. I willed my tiny two-ton feet to move, but they were cemented to the ground. I looked bashfully around me and noticed with horror that, with time, the crowd was getting smaller and smaller as kids were picked up. I studied and memorized every crevice in every nail on my trembling fingers.

After what felt like an eternity, I jerked my head up in surprise as I heard the infamous engine roar to life. I mechanically tilted my head 2 degrees to the right and about screamed for joy as he peeled out, leaving his admirers in a cloud of dust. I breathed a full breath and my feet came to life, breaking into a happy dance. ‘Thank you Jesus!’ I muttered, ever so grateful, oblivious to  a small gang of boys beside me driving their imaginary sports cars, screeching as they shifted their gears.

After another eternity, just a handful of kids stood behind the line. No cars lined the parent parking line. I’d never been there that late. This couldn’t be good. I was hungry and very tired. ‘I hope I don’t have to sleep here,’ I thought to myself, looking around for where I might nest if I needed to. All of a sudden, my heart leaped when I saw dad pulling up. I’d never been happier. I grabbed my dusty cardigan off the ground and flew past the yellow line before he could get out of the car.

I hopped in beside him and settled into the edge of the seat with my massive orange rucksack still on my back. My feet barely touched the floor and my fingers braced my little body from slamming into the dashboard.

I was full of information and it was a while before I noticed he wasn’t talking much as he maneuvered the scenic road on the way home. “What’s this for?” I asked, making conversation, pointing to a straight green stick sitting on the dash.

“Did you see your uncle Steve at the school?” He asked quietly.

“Ya.” I answered quickly.

“Did you know he was there to pick you up?” He persisted.

“Ya,” I said less quickly.

“How long was he there?”

“A long time.” I murmered, going back to studying my nails.

“Why did you not go to him?” He was getting quieter and slower in his speech.

This was not going to be good. Needless to say, the stick was a switch, fresh-picked just for me. I jumped and screamed to the rhythm of a sound whipping, punctuated by, “This,” Whap! “Will,” Whap! “Teach you to hide,” Whap! “When-I-send-someone-to-get-you,” Whap! “And-waste-my-time” Whap! “Having-to-stop-what-I’m-doing-so-I-can-come-get-you-myself.” Whap, whap, whap!”

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/panacea/

Childhood · Finger Sucking · Humor · Tactile

The Finger-Thucking Wrethler

The Finger-thucking Wrethler

James is my cowboy ninja. He is fearsome and bad to the bone. His favorite thing in the whole wide world, as they say, though he hardly knows what lies beyond “them hills”, is to wrestle. He makes feral noises while he leaps across furniture, flying through the air and swiftly kicking down doors. He is a deadly weapon. And a study in contradictions

James’ body is a formidable STSD (Soft Texture Seeking Device). His eyes, the Ocular STSDs are highly trained and skilled in this sensory operation.  They are on the frontlines of The Mission. These  binocular STSDs swiftly scan a room upon entry to see if any soft textures lie around unappreciated. They summarily divide the room’s height, breadth, and width,  and visually locate  subjects, a rare and difficult sciart(combination of a field that’s a science and an art) called oculocation. At this stage, his body enters a trance as it responds to the irresistible lure  of the subject. This trance state allows all system energies to be funneled to the STSD.

His left forefinger and thumb make up the Digit STSD. This DSTSD is the principal confirmating feature of The Mission and has astonishing prowess and accuracy. It is intricately tuned to the nanounit and serves as the final test of approval. He can be found on the couch sucking his finger while he fondles dad’s hair or in my closet drawers tracking down satin. For years now he has worn his pants and underwear with the tag facing forward. Reaching back for tags might compromise system security, not to mention it is less practical when one is lounging on his or her back. Needless to say, he doesn’t wear just any pants or underwear. Not only do they need to have camouflage print but the tag has to meet stringent STSD standards.

Unfortunately for him, around the age of three he had to stop reaching down women’s shirts. Women had difficulty  cooperating with this aspect of The Mission.  He even tried warming up to them and getting them to adore him before doing the Stealth Dive. Their eyes expanded to an unnatural size and every last one made a visceral whelp. Even rather large women jumped to astonishing heights when he executed this maneuver.  They were surprisingly predictable. They took it personally. Did they not fathom what softness laid yonder awaiting confirmating?  But I digress.

His older brother and I are planning his wrestling career for it is a promising one. We can see it now, his opponent, let’s call him Thunderwear will come walking towards the wrestling ring, the crowd gone wild. He has gnarly scars on his face, and a proud snarl to go with them. Grossly bulging arms are held by two women who are almost dressed. He has won many a match and inspires his opponents to piddle their pants, but today Thunderwear is visibly alarmed, and has reason to be.

The massive doors swing open and the frenzied  crowd is stilled to an ominous hush. Even the commentator is speechless. James’ eyes are narrowed. The mob steps back to let him pass, melting in fear. A spectator passes out, overwhelmed.

As soon as he gets on the ring, the drums roll and the  crowd rises like a pulsating chanting monster. The fight lasts but a few minutes. It is painfully predictable, much like the women down whose bosoms James thrust his 3 year old hands. The paramedics strap Thunderwear’s limp remains to a gurney. The crowd pays its respects then thunders to life as James leaves the ring in his signature stance – sucking his right forefinger and fondling his underwear tag with his left hand. He hardly notices the cheers. It’s been a good day in the ring.

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