On mothering

I watched a movie. The kind I like about the girl pretending not to like the boy, falling hopelessly in love and something happens to separate them and  finally love triumphs. They are re united and live happily ever after. These kind of movies are so predictable. But I absolutely love them because  for at least 90 minutes, they give me an excuse not to think as I immerse myself into this fake world. I also suspect that I enjoy them because I am a hopeless romantic. I would be caught dead admitting that to anyone. In this movie, the mother of the girl told her that it is ridiculous to live for your child and you must follow your heart wherever that leads you. That got me thinking. Does parenting define me? Is there anything else that defines me other than being a mother? A couple of days back, I was in a workshop where the hotel staff place these minty sweets on the tables – just in case there is someone in the room with smelly breathe. I ate one (no, I don’t have bad breathe) and remarked to my workmate that these mints were really minty and should be given to children to discourage them from eating sweets as they were so minty, no child would take more than one. These mints were the kind that bathe your nose and mouth in mintiness and make your face go all cold. The guy told me “you are such a parent”, and I had my aha moment and wondered, does parenthood define me?

This together with the hopeless movie got me thinking. About me and my son and how I want to be remembered. I want to be a good mother and be remembered as such. But I don’t want that to totally define me. I want something else for myself. I constantly fear that I will only be remembered as a good mother and a good accountant! God forbid that should happen. This fear is one of the things that made me start writing. This fear made me want to create something else to define my life. To some extent, I would agree that it is ridiculous to live your life for your child. But I have the sense to admit that it is easier to get absorbed in parenting and forget to follow your dreams than it is to follow your dreams and still be a great parent. Whenever I think of motherhood, I always think about the sort of mother I want to be and the sort of mother my own mother was and now is to me.

I want to be a mother whose love liberates and emboldens . A mother who will make my son fearless to face the world because his mother told him he is fabulous and he actually believes it ! I want to be the kind of mother who physically demonstrates her love. Through kisses and hugs and occasional tears. At this stage, I also want to be the kind of mother that is more of a parent  than a friend. I’m saving my 50s’ for the friendship phase but at this time, I must be a mother first. I want to be his inspiration. The person he looks up to for direction. I also must be a happy mother. Happy mothers inspire their children to search for their own happiness and  find fulfilment. A happy mother is fulfilled with  her own life and that is why I must pursue the things I want from my life. I know it would be foolish to hope that I am this saintly perfect mother. I know for sure that I will make many mistakes .But I must try.

Whenever I think of the type of mother my own mother was to me in the first 20 years of my life, I think stoic. I think parent. I think intolerant. I think disciplinarian and judgement. In the first 20 years of my life, I never had a moment of reflecting  on my mother’s love. Perhaps because the mothering was such that I never  had the courage to question it and the way it was handed to me. My mother was a mother to me in very different circumstances to those I am a mother to my son and maybe because of that, we must mother differently.  I wish many things about those first 20 years of my life. I wish most that my mum had loved me more openly. Yes, with kisses and hugs. I am vain like that. I also wish my mother’s love had emboldened me. In the last 10 years of my life, my relationship with my mother has slowly shifted. To something  with space for more emotions and certainly ,more hugs. Something drifting towards friendship and less judgement.

No part of me faults my mother for mothering me the way she did. Because I know she did the best she knew how. I also know that there is a world of difference in her circumstances and mine. And for this, I must consciously be the type of mother that I wish my mother had been and  try to validate some aspects of her mothering in my own. Like the discipline.  I would not be so daring as to tempt fate by saying that I am a better mother. But I can boldly say I am a different mother from my own mother. For me, that is enough and I find some strange comfort in that.

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Accra

Off course, I must start with the Nigerians.

I was hanging out at the hotel lobby waiting my for my workmates so that we could head out to town for dinner and then a night out in the Accra clubs and this Nigerian girl (one of the participants in the training program) comes up to me and tells me, “you  wearing flats? I say “yeah” somewhat bewildered as to what was the point of her observation on my footwear is and she says “oh, I assumed everybody goes dancing in heels”.  I and I told her “please send me the ISO standard on footwear for every occasion”. In my head off course. Strange Nigerian.

On our flight back,  due to a ticketing  error, I was allocated the same seat as this dangerous looking Nigerian woman who had her brood of 3 children with her . I got seated on the plane before her and was just settling into my seat and looking for something to read when I notice Mrs. Nigeria with her brood in tow hovering over me and she asks me “What is your seat number?” and in my firmest boldest  tone and shoulders straight (you know what they teach about intimidating your adversary  with your body language) reply “8A” and show her my ticket. She then proceeds to inform me that she also has 8A and since my number is 08A, I must have the wrong seat. In addition, she cannot be separated from her brood. Therefore, I should vacate my seat and ask the flight attendant for another seat. Excuse me? I told her I aint moving an inch and she should be the one asking the flight attendant for an alternative seat.  I then proceeded to pretend to read my book all  along expecting a smack on my head. I have heard many things about Nigerians and I was ready with an attack and flee strategy. To cut to the chase, I got upgraded to business class, from where I am writing this. To the ignorant, business class and economy is the difference between driving a Nissan Wingroad and a Mercedes.

We landed in Accra at around 7pm and I was too tired to notice anything. I was pleasantly surprised though not to be hit by a wave of sweltering heat as I had been warned that West Africa is always boiling. On this night, it was breezy with just a hint of light humidity in the air. I was later informed that this is the coolest part of the year in Ghana and we had been lucky not to travel in the Harmattan. The season where lips crack, hair falls and skin burns from the wind and  dry heat.

For breakfast, I ate  (among other things of course), the sweetest mangoes and pineapples that I have had. I was later to learn that Ghana imports most of its food including pineapples and mangoes and the fruits I indulged in had been grown in some tiny west African country called Togo. Where is that again? It’s a total shame that Ghana , Africa’s rising star cannot grow pineapples and mangoes to nourish its people. And what’s with serving beans and rice for breakfast? Aish.

And the  main dishes ? I had only read about jolof rice, gari , fufu  and deep fried plantain in the Nigerian novels and never tasted these. I give it to them for variety . I also give it to them for peppering everything. I was travelling with this group of Kenyans with very bland taste buds . Every taste of food was met with “too much pepper!”. And every time I heard this, I wanted to scream, shut up already and enjoy something different!  One girl even said that pepper was making her nauseated. Seriously?  How now? My favourite was the jolof rice and deep fried plantain.  Oh, and they do sell peeled oranges on the streets. I thought Chimamanda had made that up in her novels. One Kenyan even asked, “how come they sell peeled oranges?” and I promptly replied “ because they understand the concept of after sales service”.

First trip to the Accra Mall and all I can see for at least 30 minutes is fleshy chunky chocolate coloured thighs of Ghanaian girls. From my extensive travels (in East Africa off course), they wear ridiculously short clothing.  I bet you no one would walk on Nairobi’s streets in skirts that length without the layabouts  baying for blood. Once I normalised  and internalised those thighs ,the next thing that struck me was the African print. This country is obsessed with African print. Dresses, trousers, mens suits,  purses, sofa cushions and even bikinis !

In this country, people go out to the mall to hang out. I don’t do that and I imagine most Kenyans don’t.  I go to the mall to buy milk, buy medicine and take out cash from the ATM. Here, the girls in the African print mini dresses and the boys in the African print jackets – the Sauti Sol kind which I think is so fashionable– but then again, fashion is not  one of my medals – go to the mall to hang out along the hallways  with earphones in their ears as they sip on their soft drinks. Yes, like we see them do in the American movies.

Next thing I notice is the English. The average Ghanaian asking for directions will say ‘excuse me ma’am, which way to Independence Square?”. I bet you the average Kenyan does not even know the difference between “mum” and “ma’am”. Ghaniaans have a better grasp of the Queen’s language. Perhaps because English unifies all ethnic groups and they do not have a Kiswahili equivalent. Maybe, if we also did not have Kiswahili, we would have wider vocabulary.

Drive around Accra and they is a very Pan African atmosphere in the city. They are all these bigger than life (in its literary sense) portraits of prominent Africans. Off course starting with the father of the nation Kwame Nkurumah and others such as PLO Lumbumba and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. I don’t quite grasp what Pan Africanism stood for so I must save myself from that discussion as I do not want to loose your respect. Though someone did mention that it was African socialism.

The city is far cleaner that Nairobi. Traffic can build up though I don’t think any Nairobian got anything on the Acrra city residents as far as traffic goes. My good friend Mia, if you are reading this – I was wrong. The place that stirred something in me was the view of the Atlantic standing near the president’s residence and the Independence Square.  If those slaves stowed away across the Atlantic  had a chance to stand on the steps of the Independence Square overlooking the Atlantic, I’m sure they would surge with pride at the promise of Ghana (please visit

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/…/gh.html ) for its people.  More so,  in the last decade.

Accra also has a sense of art. There are artists and sculptors all across Accra running  art exhibitions. For these many exhibitions, someone must buy the art. Sculptors of half-naked Nubians and abstract art do nothing for me. And it’s not for lack of trying. We went for an art exhibition and I spent 10 minutes searching for soul in the eyes of the half-naked Nubian  woman and I was only left thinking “gee she must be cold standing with uncovered nipples all day long”. But then again, to each his own.

Daddy, baby and Lisa

Early morning drizzle. I join the main road as I make a mental note to buy some decent music other than listen to the empty talk of morning talk shows. Today’s topic is on the very fragile issue of wives who battle their husbands. Wives from Nyeri. Groannnn…can we move on already?

I recognise the car in front of me. Driven by  Lisa. Like me, dropping her son in school then off to another day of sales strategy and business development.
I constantly wonder about Lisa. She lives alone with her 8 year old son. She is one of those high flying marketing executives who drive showroom cars, wear killer heels and travel to South Africa every month. Her hair and make up is always perfectly made and there is never a chip in her nail polish. Where does she get all the time to be so put together? I suspect its because she always wants to make the rest of us look unkempt.

She appears to have no male companion in her life. I haven’t yet spotted the old potbellied man driving a dark Mercedes sneaking out of her house at 11pm. Or the drunken late 20s kind that lounges on the sofas of these type of girls every weekend for a ticket to sex and free booze. Or the normal 8 to 5 accountants that drops into the apartments of these type of girls every weekend with the hope that the girls will one day marry them. No, haven’t spotted any of these kind and that is why I constantly wonder about her. And that is why, I must fill up the empty horizon of her life.

Lisa is one of that rare breed of girls that has a relationship with her daddy. She calls her daddy every other day and they even text each other. Imagine? Her daddy always calls her “mami” on his texts. They are tight. They talk about almost everything – well with the exception of period cramps. Work, family , friends, boyfriends , the whole works. You see, Lisa was brought up by a single dad. Her mama passed away when she was 3. She barely remembers her. For some reason, Lisa’s dad never remarried. He took on the task of raising little Lisa single handedly and boy, did he struggle? It took him almost five years to get a nanny that he could trust with his little Lisa and one who did not think that he wanted to marry her or worse still, turn her into his sex slave.

As Lisa grew up, she noticed the exceptions in her upbringing compared to those of her friends. For one, she did not have a mama to constantly warn her of the impending pregnancies if she continued to play hide and seek with boys. Her daddy was different. He dropped her to school every day, took her swimming every weekend and occasionally, on the days that he had on a dazed look, he gave her a peck on her forehead as he dropped her to school. Later, when she was in her early twenties and her relationship with her father was slowly evolving into one of a deep friendship, he would tell her how his heart bled for her at the reality of not growing up with a mother. The reality of Lisa not knowing her mother. And this became harder and harder as Lisa grew into the spitting image of her mother.

It was Lisa’s daddy who talked to her about boys and men. And insisted that she takes all her friends home to meet him. And by doing this, Lisa was unable to ever keep anything from daddy. When she started dating, she introduced Joe to daddy. The day Joe visited Lisa’s home, daddy dug a whole into Joe’s forehead by staring so rudely at him. That relationship with Joe ran its course.

When Lisa turned 20, daddy told Lisa that she did not have to abstain. She just needed to be picky with the men she gave her heart  to and always use protection.  Because he wasn’t yet ready to be a grandfather. Which type of daddy is this? You see, Lisa’s daddy was practical and he clearly remembered the hormone filled days of his youth. Then Lisa met Matt in her final year of University. He was not good looking. But he had the presence and demeanour that filled a room. So filled a room that Lisa wanted to him to fill her with his essence. First time Lisa spotted him at her Sociology class, she wanted to be his. And she pursued him unashamedly. And their relationship blossomed and they made love every day. And she introduced him to daddy. And this time, daddy did not bore a hole into Matt’s head, he engaged him,  man to man. And soon, it was a tight peculiar little triangle of daddy , Matt and Lisa.

And then something happened. Around the time when Matt and Lisa were planning their wedding . And Lisa had just discovered that she was pregnant. What joy they shared at the prospect of being a complete family? At last, Lisa would have this. Matt, Lisa, daddy and baby. And now  Lisa’s family is now just baby and daddy. Daddy has now retired and moved upcountry. Lisa and baby visit him every month. And call every other day and text all the time.

From Kenya with love

Its winter in Kenya. That time of the year between June and August when the day time temperatures average  20 degrees and the night about 14. All conversations start with, “its so cold”. If you are stuck in the lift at this time of the year gazing at the empty space between your boss’ ears,   “its so cold” is a great conversation starter. True story.

Needless to say, Sunday was a cold day. The cold was made worse by the huge mugumo tree outside my house that was blocking off the weak sun that appeared torn between shining and hiding behind the clouds. To ward off the cold, I decided to take a walk outside – about 2kms to the estate main gate and back. After my walk, I sat on the step outside my house to catch my breath. Yes, I am that unfit. But before you go on and start judging me, I have just recently completed mapping out my running route. Do I hear an applause? Mr. P came to join me and as I was hyperventilating trying to catch my breath. He gently chided me about why I needed to start exercising.

In front of us, at the parking area, a group was gathering. Two white couples with an assortment of kids – some white, some black. And the head of the group , or at least what appeared to be, politely asked Mr. P to take a group photo of the rainbow nation of white adults and a speckling of black kids. Not a speckling really, there were actually just two black kids , toddlers to be precise. As they gathered around for the picture, I stared at them with that half cooked smile that says – I know you are nice, I see you, but this is no invitation to come for dinner at my house. I stared and wondered what this group was about. As I have often wondered for the last year we have been living here. You know these guys. The scruffy rough around the edges white couple. Who wear tshirts and cargo pants all the time and those ugly shoes called crocs – even the adults do! They walk to Nakumatt. Sometimes in their blue bathroom slippers. The kids also look a bit rough but always well feed and happy. Occasionally, you catch them holding hands as  they take their evening walk and exchanges looks that say ‘are we really in erotic Africa walking under the moonlight? Aren’t we the luckiest?’. They could really be any white couple on a 6 month budget trip to experience the wonders of Africa and email their friends about the spirit of the Kenyan people and were the poverty and disease levels just apppalling? But what really makes you notice them is the 3 year old black baby girl that they carry and sometimes push on a baby stroller. The girl you have heard them call Imani.

Every time I look at them I wonder about Imani. Who is she? From whereth did she cometh? Who is her mama? Who is her papa? Is she a Luo or a Kikuyu? Does she remember her birth parents? Is she happy living surrounded by these white people? And what the bloody hell are these people doing with Neema? Could they not get a baby of their own?  And they certainly appear capable of birthing considering they have two of their own.

Off course I guessed that Neema was either adopted by Mr and Mrs White or stolen. But not likely stolen since they would not be so daring as to steal her and walk around with her proudly perched on their hips in broad day light. And that guess left me with more questions. What motivates you to travel to black erotic Africa to adopt. For sure, it takes a certain level of courage to make that trip and try to understand the Kenyan adoption baby market. And what will make you do this? These were the thoughts going through my mind as I stared at Mr. P take the group picture and a stared at the people posing for the picture. From my eaves dropping, it appeared like a goodbye picture. Some memento of their time in Africa.

Tuesday 12 .27 pm, I was doing what most employees occasionally do. Steal from their employers by going onto Facebook during working hours. To my defence, it was just around that lazy dull hour before lunchtime when you get onto FB as you try figure out whether you have the stomach for another lunch with Jane  and hear what her husband got her for the their 46 month anniversary or you should just order  fruit salad and work through lunch. It was an easy win for the fruit salad.  Because on this Tuesday, if I heard one more word about Jane’s  husband, something would give.

 I recently joined a FB page about mums selling things. The postings usually read something like “expat leaving sale, items 50% off”. It’s a totally useless FB page to me. I don’t even know why I joined. Maybe because I am vain and I needed to know what items one can get from a expat leaving sale. What caught my attention was this lady advertising for Canadian food items because, yeah, you guessed it, she was an expat leaving. She had quoted the name of my estate as the pick up place. And because the fruit salad was late, I clicked on the link to her FB home page and who do I  see smiling back at me? Mr and Mrs White and their black baby Imani. Coincidence? A couple of clicks later and after looking at lots of pictures with giraffes and acacia trees in the background, I got onto a blog about Mr. & Mrs Whites story of adoption.

Mr & Mrs White are from Canada. Two kids of their own and were considering having a third and the Haitian earthquake happened. You recall all those images that flooded our screens of suffering Haitian babies orphaned by the earthquake and with no one to take care of them? Those images planted the seed of adoption in Mr & Mrs. Whites heads. To cut to the chase, they somehow considered adopting from Kenya and evidently, this brought them to Kenya and baby Imani completed their family when a  judge sitting at the children’s court in Milimani declared  Imani legally theirs to  ship back to Canada.

I wondered about Imani. Off course its no brainer that she will have a far better quality life in Canada than she could ever have dreamed off had she remained at the orphanage in Kenya. She will have more choices, go to university and have the luxury of taking a year off living in her parents cabin in the woods , to decide what to do with her life. Something she would probably  never have even conceived possible had she remained in Kenya.

That part, I did not wonder about. I wondered about what kind of adult she would grow up into. Growing up in a predominantly white country with skin the colour of chocolate and hair that does not fall when you comb it. Would she have any memory of Kenya? Would she grow up to be one of those adults with identity issues? Maybe there would be a black and white place in her brain. The black, the place to accommodate images from the time before the adoption and the white, to accommodate the light after her adoption. Or maybe there would be none of these. Just a long happy fulfilled life occasioned by intermittent far between waves of a passing unexplained cloud. That she would never know to be fragments of her memory of her time at the orphanage in Kenya.  Best of luck to Mr & Mrs White and off course, Imani. May life be kind to you.

Corporate Kenya

The courtroom where I get judged . For my jungle accent, the length of my skirt, the shade of my skin colour, the lack of  gait in my step, the length – or lack thereof of my hair (I once cut my hair and was summoned by human resource for a therapy session because they thought I was having suicidal thoughts).

 The place where impressions  sometimes matter too much. Certainly more than the brilliant thoughts in your mind that nobody knows because no words have yet been formulated to articulate this brilliance. The place that makes you want to brush your teeth when you see the little boys making stiff climbs up the corporate calendar for something mostly to do with their gift of the gab.

If you work in place like I do, the place I see little boys and girls transformed from awkward 24 year olds in ill-fitting cheap suits with jungle accents to accessorize , to arrogant 29 year olds talking of present value of GDP and fiscal cliffs. The place I see Kamau stop wearing safari boots  and a shirt with ugly prints on casual Friday to hush puppy loafers and fashionable polo shirts.

This is also where I met for the first time – that breed of little boys and girls who had grown up all their lives in Nairobi, went to Universities abroad and only came back a couple of years back because mummy fell sick and they wanted to be near mummy. You can tell these ones a mile away. There are the ones with no jungle accent, the ones who say  “absolutely!” to agree with you. The ones who hold their own in a conversation about atrocious aircraft food. The ones who ask you where to you are going on holiday when you take two days off to visit your sick grandmother in Nyeri. The ones who ask you out for lunch to Java and Artcaffe and whose parents live in Westlands and Kilimani. Visiting your parents is a 400km journey to be carefully planned and budgeted for.

This is also where I  painfully saw a version of myself through the lives of others.  I saw my awkwardness, desire to fit in and  ultimately,  the triumph of my capability to summon all my physical and intellectual capabilities to gain recognition. Take Leah for instance, she wears an ill-fitting suit accessorised by a vague sweaty smell, has a jungle accent , and can barely make a presentation without having everyone in the room praying that it ends quickly to spare her additional pain. But wait until you see her output, her reports are meticulously written and you can always count on her to work through the night in order to meet the deadline. Because she is aspiring and so desperately wants to fit in the club of young middle class professionals. To do that, she must capitalise on what she has now, intellect to churn out the reports and physical strength to put in the long hours. For now, this will be have triumph.

In another three years,  Leah will be  using “absolutely” in a sentence and having an opinion on fiscal cliffs .That I can attest to.  I mean, I am living proof. I started off wearing an ill-fitting suit (thankfully, it was spared of the sweaty smell as my mama had taught me to use a shaving razor and deodorant).I could hardly make a presentation without wanting to flee. But now, I look my audience in the eye, wear my designer suit with gait and say “absolutely!” to agree with an opinion.

I dare say that to some extent, corporate Kenya reveals a man’s character. It makes us confront ourselves and ask what we really are about. What moves us. Can we draw the line in the sand between self-improvement (and with it career advancement) and betrayal of our true selves?  Something like selling our souls for a plate of food.

A couple of years ago, I was up  for a middle level management position and my career coach told me that the only thing standing in the way of my promotion was my personality.  That I walked into the big boys offices to say hello and chat about the fiscal crisis too few times. That I had my lunch at my desk too many times instead of venturing out into the staff café to socialise. He went on to explain that he wanted to see me in the big boys offices using buzz words like value chain transformation. That I needed to throw myself in the faces of the big boys by looking for things to do in their offices.

This conversation was a tipping point for me . It made me  realise that I needed to gift myself with the possibility of staying authentic to myself and my character. I did get the promotion, as to the authenticity of my character, I am not too certain that I have stayed authentic, but I am glad I had that moment of realisation.

It also the place that you make lifelong friends. You occasionally meet that person that sees through your insecurities and desires and instantly makes a connection with you because they are walking the same journey towards the plateau of middle class contentment. You go to their homes, meet their boyfriends, witness their boyfriends dump them for spending too much time in the office. Share in their joy at engagements and weddings and witness their daily struggle to balance middle class aspirations with parental responsibilities.  Corporate Kenya for you.

This, My Brother Bob

I have a growing fascination with West Africans and particularly Nigerians and Ghanaians. I say growing because everyday, it deepens. This my growing fascination with our West African brothers (and brother here refers to both the brothers and the sisters) started when I read Chimamanda Ngozi’s Half of a yellow sun –  Truly the best book I have read . I loved the book because on top of educating  me about that dark part of Nigeria’s history known as the Biafra War, it exposed to the larger than life Nigerian personalities. I mean, who would not fall in love with Kainene and Odenigbo ‘s self-assured mannerisms. I mean, Kainene is not beautiful but throughout the entire book I am in thrall of her- because she approached the world like its hers,  to pick the little things she wanted from it, like the face creams from Europe. I suspect that there is something in the West African culture that teaches little boys and girls to approach the world expecting to beaten, tormented, spat on – and in return, the little boys and girls must have this larger than life personalities in order to survive.  You can imagine my joy when I learnt that my good old employer was sponsoring me for an all expenses paid trip to West Africa in the unimaginative name of training! But, that is a story for another day. I would like to introduce the topic at hand, the Nigerian way. Nigerians always begin a story with “This”. In Lagos, when asking for the price of a taxi ride, you start with “This your taxi o, how many Naira to Ikoyi”. Ok, I made that up, but you get the drift. So on to the business of the day, This my Brother Bob o!

Bob is my brother. Same mama, but I suspect different fathers. He is 25 this year. I am 32 this year. Which obviously means that I am 7 years his senior. When he was born, I was just starting class 1 but I remember being fascinated by the small yellow looking baby that my mama brought home. When I was 9 and he was 2, my parents, in all their wisdom decided to ship me to boarding school. To this day, I cringe at the thought of shipping of a 9 year old little girl to boarding school. But don’t get me wrong, my parents did this in what they believed were  my best interests. However, my considered view is that I lost something.  Something to do with human contact and parental nourishment by being shipped off to boarding school at such as a young age. I left home at the ripe old age of 9 and never went back home because after that there was High school which was a boarding school and thereafter, University (where I got a room and could invite my boyfriend for sleepovers). And whenever I went home for short school breaks and somewhat long ones at the University, I always felt like a visitor. I lost  intimate knowledge of  our house. Like knowing the corners that always attract spiders and the drawers my mama kept the rat poison.  The contact  with a house that makes it home. That intimacy you develop by sharing the toilet seat with your brother, father and mother.

So this my brother Bob, I barely knew him when I left at 9. My most vivid memory of him when he was a child was this rare evening when we were  having an almost nice family talk and my father asked me what I would like to be when I grew up. Off course I said Doctor and when it got to Bob’s turn he said Businessman. I remember sneering and thinking, how unambitious – this had something to do with the fact that at my age, my only picture of a business was my father’s old dirty retail shop that sold sugar in 250 gram packages and  100 grams of yellow cooking fat wrapped in clear plastic. But now, with the benefit of hindsight, I would say that there is something special about hearing a 6 year old child say they would like to be a Businessman. Right there,  is a seed to be watered. Regrettably, I think my father missed that ship.

So one day, my brother was a happy   and sometimes moody 10 year old, getting injuries from playing football and climbing on the back of trucks and the next minute I check, he is this half grown man, that comes home at 4am leaking of  cheap liquor and asking my poor mama to open up – and almost giving her a heart attack worrying where he might be half the night. But even worse, breaking her heart when she sees in her son, the not so pleasant pieces of her husband. And this my brother Bob, he sleeps all through the next day in my mama’s house, gets up at 6pm, showers, puts on his cologne, gets onto a boda boda and yeah….you guessed it,  he is home at 4am waking my poor mama up. This my brother Bob, has managed to flunk his way through University and is now at home waiting for the University to announce the retakes for the 5 units he will be retaking. This my brother Bob has one steady girlfriend but the whole village knows he is cheating on her and sleeping around – Lord, I pray ameweka condom mpangoni!

I am often called home to talk to this my brother Bob. To dissuade him from his self-destructive habits. To try and hammer some sense in him.  Boy, don’t I hate those talks? Because I know deep down, since I am no trained psychologist that can keep asking him the same question over and over again until he bursts into tears and falls into my arms and tells me about the emptiness he feels inside, I need to have some level of connection and intimacy with my brother for him to open up to me and tell me what ails him. I lost my opportunity when I stopped sharing the toilet seat with him about 2 decades ago. It’s a little too late.

But every time, mama calls, we all troop home like faithful members of her battalion and try to talk but most times threaten Bob into behaving and making life a little bit bearable for the woman in whose house he lives.  And I always leave home, with a heavy heart . A heart bleeding for my mama by seeing the torment that Bob is causing her. Wishing that I could connect with Bob and find out what really troubles him. What moves him. What void he is trying to fill by sleeping around and abusing alcohol. But I never do anything about it. Because I am an emotional coward. Maybe something I lost by not sharing a toilet seat for two decades with this my brother Bob.