On 12th of May, mothers received love from their children. Affection was showered on these women viewed as warriors, guardians, moral compasses and heroines of children’s stories. On the same day, the motherless were not forgotten. Receiving support and love with the “my mother is your mother” slogan.
I celebrated my mother. Shamefully, I forgot my grandma. Forgot she’s a mother to ten children and that she acted as my mother at some point in my childhood. My grandma is the heroine of all my childhood memories. She was my moral compass, my namesake. Through her, my father called me maitù, mother. To him, we were the same person. My grandma is tall, almost my dad’s height. And my dad is tall. They call him mùrevu for tall one.
She still walks straight to today. I always view it as a sign of her strength. My grandma’s face, that’s a face that’s etched in my mind even after not seeing her for close to a decade. She has this laugh lines that are at the edge of her eyes, running close to her temple. And her lips, almost always smiling. When grandma laughs, you laugh too. It is so infectious, so earthly, like she understands that laughter is medicine for the soul. I don’t remember ever seeing her hair. But I remember seeing her fingers working at her headwrap so expertly and leisurely, while talking to me.
So I wrote her an emotional piece, tears spilling from my eyes. You see, grandma raised me in a cocoon where I knew everything I had was enough. Lying on her bosom was enough, running around barefoot was enough. Sitting beside her in the kitchen watching her stir porridge was enough. Wrapping my hands around a mug of hot porridge was enough. Having streaks of dried porridge on my cheeks and nose was nature. My grandma brought me up when innocence was all I had.
One of the memories I had of living with her was posing outside her house, of strong timber painted black and blue. And there was lightning, I’d stand still, smile, hands akimbo, letting God take photos of me to put in the book of life.
I remember mum struggling to scrub off a huge black stain on my foot, resulting from stepping on a snail on one of my escapades.
I remember father making me those toys, za ndege… Using the sugarcane’s dried sheaths, and me running around, “piloting” my ndege around her compound with my cousins.
I’ll never forget grandma tucking me by her side, under heavy homemade quilts in bed, ready to sleep, right after reciting the Holy Rosary. I couldn’t sleep anywhere else. I wouldn’t want to, she wouldn’t let me.
I remember grandma taking me with her to the shamba. She’d be constantly talking. God, she never stopped talking. I never wanted her to stop. I wanted to hear her laughter, her gossip, her endless stories. I wanted that dip into her well of knowledge. I learnt so much through her, became a strong woman through her. I learnt less can be enough, you just have to find that peace with yourself. You just have to find happiness in the small fortunes. I learnt to pray to God, to treasure the rosary, and to understand Faith is a healer. This she proved by tirelessly praying for me everyday, till my sight became clearer and clearer. Grandma taught me literature, narrating stories old and new, weaving them with such beauty, pomp and colour I was always entranced.
Grandma wasn’t always so sweet with me though. For all my innocence, I was a naughty kid. Growing up in the low areas of Eldoret ensured that. My naughtier cousins from Nairobi didn’t help matters. Oh, the ear pulling I got, the spanking when I erred, I never wanted to repeat those mistakes. Not if it would have my grandma’s lips drawn in anger and disappointment. Not if it would lead to me burning in hell.
Till today, calling my grandma feels like a meeting between my past and present. She receives that call like I’m the twin she can never let go off. She’s ululated and sang once. She’s ran to my grandpa to give him the phone, she’s asked about me, how I’m holding up. She’s told me God is with me, because she prays everyday.
My grandma is my biggest cheerleader. She’s so proud of my meager achievements that she’s bragged about me. Me, a girl who’s so insecure. Me, a girl who doesn’t see her worth. My grandma has told whoever asks I’m at the university, not just any university. I’m at Kenyatta university in Nairobi pursuing a degree. And that I’ll be a great person. Her Wambui will shake the earth. She tells me that, that I’ll be powerful. And that restores my confidence.
I walk different after talking to her, laugh different, see different. Who has that power if not a seventy sth year old lady whose life is lined by rainbows? Whose grandchild is also her hero?No one else has that power on me. She makes me believe I’m royalty, deserving, beautiful and intelligent.
But even when I’m appreciative of what she’s taught me through the ages, I’m ashamed. So deeply ashamed. Mainly because I have let go of a lot of what she taught me. I lost my rosary. I have to drag myself to church. I think of myself as weak, letting small things bow me. I forget to appreciate nature, to appreciate myself. I disappoint my grandmother, and I’m ashamed of showing her this dark side that she worked to keep out.
I want to go confess my sins. But not to Father Emilio, or to any other father. I want to kneel at my grandmother’s feet, lower my head to her worn ngoma rubber shoes, and pray. I want to tell her, “Forgive me mother, for I have sinned. I have walked so far away from the road you directed me to, and I want to find my way back. I’m lost, and I need your hand leading me back. I’m weak, and I need your strength raising me up. I’ve sank to the lows of the lows and I want to sit on the royalty seat you sat me on. I need you cùcù. Only you can take me back.”
Maybe as she prays everyday, she prays that I remember to pray. But even when I forget, maybe I can use these words to remind her that a part of me always remembers.