He had long noticed how her forehead wrinkled and mouth frothed whenever he talked about his mother, but he thought nothing of it. Or if he did, he said nothing of it. Why would he when not even once had a kangaroo court been convened to settle a feud between his wife and mother? Why would he when he and his wife slept and woke up under the sometimes moody sometimes bright Nairobi Sky, while his mother yawned all the way in Shinyalu, wrapping her head with a white wrapper before milking her cow, Rose?
He decided not to fix something that wasn’t broken until last December when she told him she didn’t want to tag along to Christmas in shags. He was in the shower when she said this. At first, he wasn’t sure she was talking to him so he stopped scrubbing his buttocks and, with squinted eyes, asked, “Are you talking to me?”
“What did you say?”
“That I am not feeling this idea of going to your shags for Christmas.”
He opened the bathroom door a crack and stuck his lathered head out. He watched her with squinted eyes as she was squeezing paste on her pink toothbrush, dressed in nothing but a baggy white T-shirt with the words, ‘African Princess’ printed on the breast area.
“I think it’s about time I spent Christmas with my folks.”
“But Christmas has always been in my shags,” he whined.
“I want to do something different.”
“We can’t break family tradition just like that!”
“Whose family tradition? Yours or your mum’s?” she said and started brushing her teeth.
“Babe, do you have a problem with my mum?” he asked.
She shook her head no and started brushing her teeth. He locked the bathroom door to finish his shower. They later had breakfast together and he noticed how much attention she paid to their eight-year-old daughter, asking her questions he was sure she had asked her before just to avoid talking to him. After sipping his last he rose and kissed both of them before leaving. As he stepped out the door, he made a mental note to stop kissing his daughter in the mouth because she was too grown now. That, and to ask his wife for the last time whether she had a problem with his mother so he could send her packing (his wife, not his mother, haha).
“I just don’t understand it,” he said later that evening before getting to bed. He was unbuckling his belt before stripping down to his boxers. “My mum likes you and for a long time I thought you liked her, too.”
“That’s true,” she said, sitting up in bed. The left strap of her nightdress had fallen to the side and now he could almost see her boob. “I am however convinced that you are too attached to your mother. It’s harmless now, but I am afraid it will soon turn to something toxic.”
“What? I am not too attached to my mother. What we have is a normal son-mother relationship.”
“You think so? Who do you call each time you have a common cold?”
“First of all, mine is never a common cold. Mine usually comes from hell, sent to wipe me out the face of the earth. That this ‘common’ cold has not killed me is down to my mother’s magic prescription.”
“She always prescribes Celestamine and I don’t know what.”
“Works all the time, no?” he climbed onto the bed.
“If I hadn’t stood my ground,” she said, “our daughter would be called Rose, you know. That’s the name your mother was strongly proposing.”
“And what’s wrong with the name Rose? It’s a beautiful name, too close to Roses.”
“Rose is your mother’s cow. Your mother wanted us to name our daughter after her cow!”
“A beautiful cow that has given us milk since time immemorial!”
She shot him the look.
“Enyewe you have a point,” he said, worrying that he won’t be allowed to access whatever it was the wife was hiding under that night dress. “I suspect mathe had unknowingly smoked weed when she suggested we name our daughter after her oldest cow.”
“And you remember the afro incident?”
“Oh, don’t tell me you hated that I shaved. You hated the afro!”
“Yea, I did. But you only shaved because your mother said she hated it too.”
“That’s not true,” he said, though there was some truth in it. “Anyway, are you in a way saying that I am a Mama’s Boy?”
“I did not say that.” She turned off the lights and slid under the sheets. He followed her inside the sheets. “I am not a Mama’s Boy!”
“I am serious. I am not!”
“Now who is arguing with you?”
Haha. He brought this matter before the council of wisest men to ever walk this earth. Men who tread this earth firmly, unlike the men in Chinua’s Arrow of God who go to the market on market day clutching fowls under their armpits while their mates drove herds of cattle. Men who do not wipe the tip of their penis with a tissue after they are done peeing. This council is made up of yours truly, some boisterous chap we are going to nickname BF–Boisterous Friend— and the man who brought the matter… let’s call him TC—The Complainant.
“Wewe Kwisha,” CF said, sipping his beer. “The next thing you’ll hear is that you should only be calling your mother once a month and visit her only when she’s nursing a hernia.”
“No way,” TC said.
“This is not a laughing matter,” CF insisted. “Kwani she wants you to spend Christmas in her shags? To be brushing your teeth in the morning while your mother-in-law is side-eyeing you?”
“BM, you are the most sensible person here, what do you think?”
This was someone’s mother and wife we were talking about. Perhaps the only two people, other than his daughter, he was willing to go berserk for. So I had to measure my words.
“As long as she’s not asking you to choose between her and your mother, I see no problem here.”
“But she actually is,” BF protested, leaning too close to our faces.
“Actually, she isn’t,” TC said. “But, what if that’s what she’s driving at?”
“Look,” BF leaned back to our relief. The alcohol smell was beginning to irk me. “You should never have to choose between your wife and your mother. Si kila mtu ako kwake? Kila mtu ako no role yake? I am sorry to say this but the only woman you should never, ever, play with is your mother.”
“Not all mothers are saints though,” I said.
“Mine is. And I know TC’s mother too and I can vouch for her.”
This discussion went on and on. Between our wives and mothers, who comes first? I was of the opinion that none comes first. Or second. That it is evil to pit them against each other. But the pertinent question we all had to answer was, when it came down to it, who would you choose? I said if your wife wears a mother’s union, surely, she should not be surprised if you don’t choose her. It was a joke, but the other folks frowned and cursed and I had to retract my sentiments.
So jana after my shave, I asked the charming lady washing my head, “Who should have more say in your life? Your husband or mother?”
“I don’t have a husband.”
“The question is hypothetical.”
“Well, men are dogs. You surely don’t expect me to pay more attention to a dog, do you?”
“Haha. Who hurt you?”
“My last boyfriend.”
“What happened, did he call off an engagement?”
“No. He was an asshole, that’s all. Other than his looks, there was nothing else to him. Useless, that’s what he was,” she paused. “Now I know too well that character and not looks, matters.”
I chuckled. We were way off the topic but I loved her serious expression. She placed a really hot towel on my face and I almost jumped. “Whoa, you want to kill me? You clearly need to get over your boyfriend issues!”
“It’s not even that hot.”
It is not something we talk about because, you know, few of us can be honest. But I know too well that most women will choose their parents over their spouses when it comes to it. I also know too well that the current mother and daughter-in-law dramas we are witnessing are nothing compared to what’s coming. I swear our generation will produce the worst kind of mothers-in-law because the babas we are raising will be coming home to suckle even after hitting 35. You wait. They will neglect their wife’s breasts and soon war will break out. Coded messages will be exchanged on Facebook now that both mother-in-law and daughter-in-law will be on Social Media.
Hell is coming. You wait.