MAMA’S WORDS – THE FEAR IN ME

By TED

As a kid my mother always told me, “Just continue playing with me and the next thing you know you’ll be feeding on tripe and ground maize meal for breakfast in Migori”. I always thought this was her way of keeping me in check (it did work) because I had truant tendencies. She taught me to always evaluate my answers before responding. Looking back now, I look at the threats and they seem to have rubbed off on me to date.

In my mid-early twenties (it exists), my friends find it awkward that I can’t swim and have no interest whatsoever in learning how to defy God and move in matter that wasn’t designed for me. Don’t get me wrong. Swimming is cool and if I could flap my feet in water my mother would probably be grandma by now. So two weeks ago I had an experience that made me re-evaluate my stand on large and semi-large water bodies (tubs included). Up until last week the reason I gave for not being able to swim was seeing my friend almost drown while in primary school. Well, it is a partial reason but I couldn’t swim even then.

The last straw before I was shipped off to boarding school at the tender age of 9 involved swimming. I lived in an area where friends weren’t a common scene, so when I found friends, I was going to ride or die with my homies. My new friend, Moses, was a light skin boy with a face you’d think was stung by bees. He was light for days and had a really chubby face. He cried a lot in every confrontation and would turn pink thus the bee analogy.

The biggest thing at the time was rabbit rearing and if I kept on going right now I’d be a millionaire or a plenty- thousandnaire. We’d sell our rabbits for double the price we bought them and my mum thought this was the best way to keep me out of drugs (truancy) and teach me about the value of money. For the better part of our trade, I got to understand that money earned must be spent.

During one of our rabbit sales, we had to deliver the furry beasts to an individual that lived near a man-made dam. As juvenile delinquents (I was the Tupac of kids), we decided to dip our feet in the water just to get a feel. In no time, things escalated and we were in the water splashing around like rabid dogs. For the first time in my life I felt one with water. That evening I got home, ashy as macadamia nuts and eyes bloodshot. My mum, thought this was all part of my running around and dust allergy so she didn’t pay much attention to it.

Every time I took a dip in that murky water I felt at one with nature as much as I could feel the weeds frolicking my bottom. I was the king of the self-generated waves and I loved it. I’d always find a reason for being late and my mum probably knew I was fooling around but she couldn’t put her finger around it. These escapades went on for around two months before ego took it all to the wretched ground it came from.

My neighbour’s kid (The loudest hungry kid you’ll ever meet) one day asked if he could accompany us to our liquid state. He was probably four years younger than us so that was out of the question. A taboo of sorts. What did he know about diving in water with nothing but your skin to cushion your splash? Apparently plenty since his school had an actual pool. In my denying him, I didn’t put into account of how he knew we were non-youtube trained swimmers.

So on this day I get home jovial as ever. My neighbour said hi, something she only did when she’d snitched on me. I knew I was in trouble when I could smell fries but I couldn’t see them. My mum didn’t even smile when she saw me (What happened to unconditional love?). I made my way to the bathroom and all through the shower I could feel the belt land on my back. I cried myself to the point of coiling my body at one end of the bathroom.

True to my instinct, she knew about my Olympic training classes. I played it cool and this time, the belt was nowhere in sight. “I can smell chips mum, have you brought me one?” Before I could be directed, I had a conversation in my head on how this was going to play out. I was brought back to earth with these words, “If I ever find you in that water, you won’t be coming back to Nairobi! I’ve packed your things. You’re going to Migori tomorrow.” I thought I’d beat her by crying in the shower but my nasal passage had other ideas. I dry cried myself to the kitchen and sobbed through my fries and sausage.

After spending the week with my grandma, which was surprisingly better than I thought, I made my return to the city. I was sent to boarding school immediately after. For all I can remember, that was the last time I voluntarily immersed over one-third of my body in anything other than a shower. From that one week, I learnt two things. Never respond without thinking of the consequences and swimming isn’t cool.

So on my behalf of my mother I’d like to apologize to every girl that invited me for swimming and the most I did was stare. I’m sorry to any girl that thought sharing a bath tub was romantic and I turned down that chance, I’m reforming. I can do half a tub now. And to my future kids, I’m sorry but you aren’t swimming under my watch and if you go tell your grandma, you won’t even play in the rain. To my mother, thank you for preparing me on Tsunami avoiding tactics.

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