I detest family gatherings. Let me rephrase, I detest family gatherings that involve extended family. Not for anything, apart from the fact that my mind can only handle so many conversations and personalities.
Family gatherings that involve extended family remind me of being kicked out of my room to make room for an uncle or aunt. At 11 in the night. They remind me of chapatis and lots of Ugali and chicken, but also the need to wash all the soiled dishes. Traumatizing for a child. It’s so bad that if I now do the dishes in my home, the missus knows that I must have been up to some mischief.
And so, when my mother called me from her farm to say she would be in Nairobi and that she will be hosting a family gathering at her Nairobi home to celebrate her retirement, I was as enthused as white paint. Besides, this lady retired like 5 years ago. Anyway, there’s no time like African timing I guess.
Needless to say I made up things to do when the day for the gathering came round. You don’t want to arrive too early, lest you get sent on errands. To buy sodas, salt or maybe cooking oil. You also don’t want to go too late and miss out on the awesome chapatis but yet have to say hello to all those uncles and aunts who you’ve been avoiding. The one’s who send you those text messages asking you to hook one of the village folk a job.
He’s just finished college and is ready for the world. Si umtafutie kitu hapo ‘Narobi’?
Surely, I too am looking for ‘something’, heck a lot of things, in this ‘Narobi’.
But of course you feign ignorance and offer those usual excuses.
Aaaaah. Anko! I’ve been so busy. Nimeshikana sana na job. Si you know how Narobi is. Kupambana kila siku.
Why we’re always battling and pushing in this city, I’ll never know. Kupambana, Kuskumana. Never just living and enjoying life. But I guess that’s a post for another day.
Relatives can also be unbearable at times. Another reason I’m not a fan of family gatherings. There’s always that buxom aunt who will look at you, smile and declare that your wife is doing a good job, obviously in reference to that Tusker t-shirt that hugs you like its life depended on it. Seams barely holding the garment together.
No. That’s not health. I’m fat. Overweight. In fact at my age, according to Google, in danger of many lifestyle diseases.
This same aunt will then say hello to the missus and give her that quizzical look, poking her tummy.
Ehe? Bado? Kwani what are you guys waiting for? We need grandchildren. We’re not getting any younger.
Then you have to have that awkward smile and pinch the missus arm before she says something unsavoury.
Pole pole auntie. We’re still on honeymoon; you’ll quip, trying to dilute the tension.
Of course, you realise you’re better off playing with you’re young nephews and nieces. At least they don’t judge. Except for that one niece who points at what you call a chest and laughs out loud saying ‘Haha. Anko has nyonyo’. Those nieces aren’t cool. Yet you’ll still buy them Queen Elsa and Princess Anna dolls and such like.
Don’t ask how I know these things. Frozen is a cool cartoon.
Family gatherings aren’t too bad though, there’s some reprieve. There’s that one cool uncle who will hang out with you and your cousins. The one who will say he has a bottle of Johnnie Walker in the car (or his suit) and you’re all invited for a sip or four. The one who’ll say the family gathering is boring and that we should leave for a nearby nyama choma joint or bar or both.
Then of course there are the cousins. And the divide; the cousins from up country and the cousins from Nairobi. The fun cousins. The quiet cousins. The cousin who says Wesley Snips instead of Wesley Snipes. The cousin who just got off drugs. The cousin who’s the same age as you but got married at 19 and has 4 kids, the youngest who made a quip about your man boobs. You don’t like that cousin. He seems to know everything. Then there’s your cousin who was young and awkward last you met and now she’s blossomed into a curvy lady. You bumped into her and her pals in the club a few weeks ago and ‘turned up a good one.’
This family gathering was different though. It was in her honour anyway. But that wasn’t it. It was when her siblings got up to speak. And said all these amazing things she did for them. How she sacrificed going to college (despite getting good grades), to join secretarial school so that she could get a job and put her siblings through school. And she did, take them through school.
How she housed, clothed and fed her younger siblings as they went to school. How she used the money that she and her young husband had saved for a baby cot for their first born child to pay school fees for her brother.
How she was and continues to be the big sister that they cherish and adore. The glue that keeps the family together. Slow to anger and quick to assist where she can. Her needs put aside until everyone is well catered for.
I knew my mom was awesome. I mean, who doesn’t think their mom is awesome. But I was taken aback with tribute after tribute. I almost shed a tear. But the chief spotted me, and that tear crawled right back where it came from.
When it came to her turn to speak she, characteristically, said few words. She thanked God. She thanked her siblings, her parents, her children. And her husband. The chief himself. I think I spotted a blush, from him. Ok, he grunted. But it was a blush grunt. If ever there’s such a thing. She said that above all, she wouldn’t be the person everyone said she is, without him. Without his support. His love. More blush grunts.
I learnt a valuable lesson that day. So the Chief is capable of love. And support. And all those mushy things. No wonder mom was awesome. Is awesome.
Happy mother’s day to mom; wife of the Chief. And may the Chief and I and other men support these wonderful, strong women in our lives to be the best they can be.