Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The year 2013, the ‘damage’ it leaves behind.

2013 came. She approached us shyly, batting her eyelids and drawing circles in the sand with her toes and all. We encouraged her. We yelled “Happy New year!” in unison, with enthusiasm. Slowly she grew confident and took charge. She demanded for a place in our lives and we happily embraced her with unbridled expectation.

Things got real. Along the way somewhere, she shook us up a bit. She gave us laughter with hints of sadness here and there. She gave us new life in newborn babies and yet it did not relent on the deaths and funerals now and then. She gave us hope with a tinge of disappointment from time to time. Now she is done with us. Her time is up! She begs to leave, but she can’t leave us the way she found us, can she? She cannot just up and go without leaving a mark, right?

As 2014 knocks to be let in, I carry with me silt carried from 2013.  Like a flowing river 2013 had to leave some residue in me - its way of engraving the words ‘2013 was here’. The 'damage' is so much so that I feel like a different person. I even feel the need to get re-acquainted with myself.

She twisted my dress sense a whole lot. See, I was a jeans and pants kinda girl. I swore by trousers and never cared for the girly outfits. Then 2013 happened. She waltzed her way into my wardrobe and introduced me to dresses and skirts. How did this happen? Who even let her into the privacy of my closet! She went a step further and replaced me, the leggings hater with a leggings crusader! Miracles indeed do happen! I never could stand leggings before. Especially leggings worn as pants. Look at me now. All I do is gush “Aren't these the most comfortable garments or what!” as I pull a pair of leggings on.

She tested my patience all right. I never realized how much I lack in the ‘patience’ department until 2013 came and shoved into my face the slowest house help in the world EVER! A very nice girl, don’t get me wrong. Very kind. So soft spoken. But too. Damn. Slow. I had to grit my teeth, bury my head in the pillow and scream into it because I could not scream in her face. Did I tell you that she was the nicest girl? I had to be patient with her. It was torture, but I survived. I became acquainted to patience for the first time and ever since we met, I think it is the most underrated virtue. I henceforth swore to take my responsibility as a mother more seriously because I would hate to subject another human being the torture of teaching my grown children the basic life lessons that I should have taught them when they were little.

2013 you! Do you know what else she did? She made me a believer. She took me, an all time skeptic and turned me into a believer of love. A risk taker - come on, who doesn’t think that getting married is the biggest leap of faith one can ever take, huh? I can’t believe this year did this to me. I’m exuding a bunch of emotions that I never could allow to get the better of me. I ask, who is this person?!

I never did admit it before but 2013 made me face the reality. I finally embraced this very unusual side of me. I, Renee finally came to terms with the fact that I infact...do not like cake. Yep! I don’t. I think I had pretended for far too long and the year boldly decided “That’s it! Enough is enough. You have to admit it this minute. You don’t like cake. Now say it!” I had no choice but to repeat “I don’t like cake” with my head facing down. Pretender!

While we’re on food stuff; ironically, she made me a baker, this unpredictable year. Yes she did. She made me a cook. A good cook! (Toot! Toot!) She had me flexing my culinary muscles and whipping up recipes left right and centre. Hailey and Heidi have so much to thank 2013 for because they had their appetites whetted like never before. We sure cooked up a storm!

As we cooked up a storm and stuffed our faces, she made sure that I watched my weight. 2013 introduced me to the wonders of the hoola hoop. It is fun, first and foremost, and secondly, it works wonders on your waistline. I think I almost got rid of the evidence left after carrying two pregnancies, don’t you agree? Anyway...I recommend.

2013 leaves in me an early riser - something I hope to carry well into the new year. It gifted me with twin nephews, what joy! She however robbed me of my cousin. Bummer! She dished me lessons on motherhood by making me feel the pinch of being away from my babies for a while. Then she brought MD back home for good, YAY! (I warned you about this mushy woman!) 2013 taught me to appreciate people more. She restored my trust in both the human male and female species, except politicians - let’s not get carried away now. 

I have learned that for every minute that I breathe (and hence fill these pages), every second that I am healthy and strong, every moment that I get to share with loved ones, that I should be thankful. It is a huge privilege. One that I am not assured will always be there.

What’s more, 2013 drew me closer to God. A very good place to be.

Reading all these, don’t you feel like we just met? I know. I feel like I just met me too! What about you, how much ‘damage’ did 2013 do to you?

Happy new year my friends. See you on the other side, God willing.

Monday, December 23, 2013


It started with a knock on the door. I had to answer it. A knock on the door has to be answered, doesn’t it? Remember the movie Phone Booth?  Do you recall these words at the end of the movie:  “Isn’t it funny; you hear a phone ringing and it could be anybody. But a ringing phone has to be answered. Doesn’t it?” - I loved that movie!

Standing outside the door was a man with an envelope in his hand. I recognized him as our next door neighbour. I had seen him around the neighbourhood a couple of times and we had exchanged greetings in passing.

I was just about to go in for a shower when I heard the knock. I had nothing on save for a bathrobe but I chose to open the door anyway. “I will just peep out and get rid of whoever it is”, was my plan. My neighbour stood at my doorstep. He shook my hand to say hi, and held it for a while longer than was necessary. “This might take longer than I anticipated”, I thought. I was nervous being seen like this. Being seen by him like this.  If he noticed my disastrous wardrobe choice, he did not show it then. He instead went ahead to ask for directions to a certain building in town. He had to deliver the envelope (raises hand to show me the envelope in question) but he wasn’t sure where the office was located in town, he said.

I knew the building he was asking about and I tried to explain to him how to get there. The thing he did not know about me then is that I am poor at giving directions. Scratch that, I am hopeless at giving directions.  Nervous at my outfit (or lack thereof), I ended up not giving him much information. I was like “Go this way, then go that way, you’ll come across such and such a road, ashana nayo. Take the other road instead then go left, turn right, ignore this building, pass through the other road…” I was terrible. Still am. I believe the first lesson he learnt was; never ask Renee for directions unless you fancy getting lost.

He was kind though. He pretended to get what I was saying. He smiled at my nervousness and thanked me for my precious time. He even apologized for, wait for it ... waking me up! He had noticed my wardrobe mess all right! I chose not to correct the wrong assumption. I figured telling him that I had not been sleeping would mean having to explain further the reason why I was not fully dressed - not a conversation I was keen on pursuing at the time. Plus, it was mid morning! I should have been offended that he thought I sleep in that late!

I wasn’t offended though. Au contraire. I had a smile on my face when he left. A smile that lasted a long time after he was gone.  I knew exactly why he had stopped by, and it had nothing to do with directions to some office in town.

Fast forward twelve years later...

Koito is a Kalenjin word which roughly translates to ‘To give away’. It consists of the actual ceremony of giving away a girl to the man who comes with his people to ask for her hand in marriage. The man pays dowry to the bride’s family and there are celebrations thereafter where the two families socialize and get to know each other. Food and refreshments, not forgetting ‘mursik’ - sour milk - are served as they exchange gifts and make merry.

The members of the extended family - uncles, aunts, grandparents - are gifted as well. The women sing and dance with the bride as they bid her farewell. There is counselling too, of sorts, where the couple is advised about marriage life by the ‘veterans’.

My grandmother (bless her soul) enjoyed telling us about her unique betrothal to my late grandfather. She narrated repeatedly, with a hint of nostalgia and a fondness that was almost tangible, about ‘Mwalimu’ - my grandfather’s nickname - a young respectable man (her words for; an eligible bachelor)

What my ingenious grandfather ‘Mwalimu’ did was, instead of going to ask for my grandmother’s hand in marriage, he waited till the dead of night, and stealthily went into my young  grandma’s home. He already knew where she and her siblings slept and so he, together with his ‘hommies’, went for her when everyone else was asleep. I forget whether they knocked on the door, introduced themselves and asked my grandma to go with them, or whether they yanked the door open, picked her up amid her protests, hoisted her up their strong muscled shoulders and off they went. All I know is that they ‘stole’ her (as they called it then) in the middle of the night only to send some elders a few days later to come and inform her parents of their intentions to marry their daughter and to agree on the dowry. That is how my paternal gramps and grandma ‘hooked up’.  

What would have happened if the parents of the girl refused to give away their daughter to that particular man? Would he have to bring her back? I forgot to ask that. Anyone?

Twelve years after the ill-timed knock on the door, I too was given away to none other than MD formerly known as my-next-door-neighbour-with-an-envelope-in-his-hand. And that, ladies and gentlemen is how my neighbour transitioned into being my husband. 

 Merry Christmas everyone. Draw your family closer this festive season. 

P.S: I dedicate this post to my cousin who was called to glory just five days to my koito. He passed on at the prime of life - a call has to be answered, doesn’t it?. Fred, I think of your smile each time I think of you. Rest in Peace dear cousin.