If your mum used to be anything like mine, then she loved winning. No, the right phrase is, she hated losing. It’s almost as if all our mums back then were wired to win arguments and nothing, not even the truth, would make them accept defeat. Like when I was young and restless (hehee, the hell?) and water was my number one enemy, followed closely by books, and work, and waking up early, and the only friend I had was called “Play & Chapati” I was always in trouble. I hated taking my shower so much that my mum had to whoop my ass as a reminder that taking a shower was not optional for any of her children. It happened so often that when I happened to take my shower on my own accord, I would still be in trouble.
Because I would pass where my mum is by accident, it had to be by accident because I always steered clear of her way, and she will look at me and the next thing will be, “Brian kuja hapa.” And with my hands folded behind my back, I would tread to where she would be seated hand sewing a sweater and then she would ask the one rhetoric question she would die if a day passed without her asking, “Wewe lazima nikukumbushe ati unafaa kuoga ndio uoge, sindio?”
And I would reply, “Nishaoga.”
Her eyes would widen as she scans me and on when noticing that I was actually saying the truth, only that I forgot to oil myself and now my legs are looking as white as a sinless baby’s heart, she will declare that all I did was kujipaka maji and nothing else. Obviously it would end up with her asking me to go and take a proper shower, “Enda uoge uache ujinga. Ka umeoga na miguu inafanana ni ka umejipaka unga, venye ulikuwa hujaoga ulikuwa unakaaje?”
The day you will see me seated with my legs on top of the table, lounging with my head thrown back on the couch, hand holding the phone to my ear, smiling and laughing and enriching Safaricom, I will probably be talking to my mum. She is about the only woman that I ever talk to on the phone for the longest time and each time, I have to tell her, “Hold on, let me call you back,” and then buy credit and call her again and the cycle will repeat for at least 3 or four times.
And I know it’s easy to sink into the normal cliche when talking about one’s mum because everyone is saying how they are proud of their mums and how if they had a chance to choose another mum they would still choose her, and all that brouhaha that everyone waits until it’s Mother’s Day before flooding their timeline and other people’s timelines with. But it’s okay, because even though we do not say it as often as we should, our mums and their prayers remain the sole reason we remain standing on this earth.
And my mother, particularly, remains the only reason I want to do more with my life. I remember this one time when the whole family had relocated to shags because my dad was out of job, and we had nothing but shame in our faces because now we were that family that had lived in the city for long and came back with nothing, we came face to face with poverty. And you do not know poverty if you have never been forced to chew sugar cane for dinner. Or when you are lucky, eat a proper meal at around 4 in the evening so as it can serve as both lunch and dinner. During that time a proper meal was no longer a basic need, it was a luxury we could not afford.
Yet at that time, it was suicidal to be found eating at a neighbour’s place. My mum found you eating at the neighbour and the ugali in your hand would freeze. The one in your mouth would lose taste and you would struggle to swallow. She would smile at you but at home, she would tie you to a tree, whoop your ass and leave you to spend the night tied to a tree because you needed to learn your lesson. Eating at a neighbour’s place was a taboo. It brought shame to the family. So even when the pangs of hunger chewed your intestines, you did not dare look in the direction of the neighbour’s kitchen.
And you know when you are poor, bad things just keep happening to you. So one evening the rain poured in sheets and the wind blew with the fury of the angry Nigerian gods, and for its trouble, our roof paid the price. But before the wind claimed its price, my mum tried her best to hold the roof in place using this rope that she hang on one of the frames but for the first time, she lost. And at that time the rest of us were trying to hide under the sofas screaming our lungs out.
Those were the dark days of our lives. Thankfully, it did not last for long. One day brother luck came knocking on our door and as we opened, the dark cloud in our house used the window on its way out. And my mum is doing fine. Her children are doing her proud, I believe. And she remains my number 1 woman. Well, number two, that is if Mama Natasha will read this (hehee).
But even then, it never hit me until recently that I have never, ever, had a photo of my mum in my phone. In fact, I don’t remember the last time she and I posed for a photo together. It must have been when she came for my Prayer Day when I was still in high school millennium ago. And yet I still feel close to her. I have never felt like my love for her is any less. Or that the economy will collapse. Or my kids will start smoking bang and twerking at the age of 12. Which is why we should all stop this fuss ob taking photos aimlessly with captions reading `Bae This’ Or ‘Bae That.’ Plus it’s really embarrassing having to delete all those photos from social media when Bae finally disappears to wherever they came from. And Oh, they will disappear.
So cheers to all Mums.
PS. Plus soon I will start to write about motherhood, hehee, I know. But it won’t be boring, I promise. I do not mean to brag but boring is not something to be found in my DNA.