“Your father is coming,” the guard across the road shouts. Everyone heads into the house as per the Swahili saying, “miguu niponye” which translates to “my feet, my salvation “. One person runs to the master bedroom to switch off the radio while another is in the sitting room switching off the television. .Sooner than later, the man of the house walks in with a smile on his face and goes to his bedroom without a word. These cat and mouse games are what characterised our childhood and I think my dad used to enjoy them. It is no doubt he’d always smile when he walked into the house because he definitely knew what we were upto. After all a duck doesn’t give birth to a hen nor does a snake to a millipede.
Whenever I share my fruits with Sandbaby, I reminisce over holidays rendezvous with my father. As a child these were the only times I felt close to this man. I spent all my primary school December holidays upcountry. My home, Seme, is known for it’s juicy mangoes and this was what would draw us together. At the break of dawn, birds chirping and the grass wet with dew, I find my way round my grandfather’s Shamba. I would gather mangoes of all types, “dodo”,”amita”, “nyaluo” and others that I can not name to date. You see my great grandfather was a reverend and travelled around the country gathering all these varieties. With my collection I find my father seated outside our hut where I place my find as I now know the drill. I go to the kitchen for a basinful of water and a knife. I take the spoils after my dad has chosen the ones he likes, find myself a place on the grass and enjoy myself dirty. Yes, dirty, from all the juice that I cannot control from dripping on me. Some, I throw of course ,thanks to the rots which is exactly why dad uses a knife.
For so long I thought my dad didn’t know I existed since I thought we were too many for him to keep track. You see my parents were the typical African couple trying to live to the societal expectations of having a son. A son they got, but at the seventh attempt, he compensates for the sons my dad probably wanted. I experienced my dad’s full attention and generosity when I was admitted to the university.All along my primary and secondary education I would be sent home for lack of school fees just as would happen to my siblings. It therefore came as a surprise when my dad decided to pay for my admission on an accelerated program instead of waiting for the normal September intake. The fees for a semester was thrice of my high school annual fees. And he paid.
As an adult I have come to realise my dad knew me just too well, at least from the bits and pieces I pick from my mum and my own memories. From an early age he knew I was not going to be much help in the house and ensured I attended tuition from as early as age six. He’d tell my mum, ” Let her go to school, that one doesn’t like house chores,”. As long as I was the one in the kitchen the staple would be rice. I’d say my dad instilled in me a calling he didn’t know. Back in the days, when trust was in abundance,my dad used to enjoy at both the shopkeeper’s and the grocer’s. We would take things on credit for my dad to pay at the end of the month. The shopkeeper had his debt book while I kept another one and come end month it was my job to reconcile and do the summation. When we moved to another estate, he now gave me money and a shopping list. In the evening he’d be waiting for his change and the breakdown of expenses.
My dad was not perfect but he was very respectful and liberal. His only goal was to make sure all his children, eight girls and a son, got educated. All of us were given lee way to choose our own courses and colleges to attend. He never tried to impose his own wishes on us when it came to our education. As long as we understood that, as long as we stayed in His house, then we needed to follow His rules. “Work hard so you can buy your own televisions” or “Don’t work hard for me, I will not ask for your money” were his favourite quips. I think I was the only one who got away with watching telly under the pretext of reading. Back then most soap operas were slotted after prime times.Half the time I was reading my novels but he never checked, I think as long as I had a book it was okay.
I am hoping to be able to replicate some of these things with my daughter. Be there for her, but also let her find her own path.