I have always had a dream. Just like any kid out there, I had a dream and knew I could be anyone in spite of being raised in an ambience where kids were rarely told they can be anyone they want to be. In fact it was until recently after Lupita Nyong’o’s Oscars Award that we started noticing a shift in “parental mindset”.
“When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid – Lupita’s Oscars Acceptance Speech.”
Now you are likely to hear a Kenyan parent somewhere in some village such as the one I was raised in whispering to their child to continue kicking that soccer ball and be like Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. It’s amazing nowadays you can hear a Kenyan rapper say that he’s being supported by his parent. No more doctor, pilot, lawyer or engineer programmed parents. Absolutely amazing!
When I was a kid, it was just me, my siblings and an over-worked mama. Dad was at the step-mother’s place – still there — and rarely came home, not unless there was an emergency. Sometimes he came when there was a land dispute between us and our two stubborn neighbors that needed to be solved.
Odongo, the man who sold grandpa Madekesi that land we call home is always moving the sisal that separate the lower side of our land from his. I think he get pissed we have more land than his, forgetting he is the problem. He should clip his large appetite for fast money and stop further fragmentation of the remaining piece of his land. Dad came but only after mom had send Ben, my elder brother to fetch him.
So as you can see my parents barely had time for us. No one to keep reminding you how special you are, or how you can be anyone you want be be under the sun. Mom is busy around the clock playing both mom and dad. We had to eat, dress and go to school. School was especially expensive putting in consideration that I always was in need of a new uniform. My pair of shorts always got torn at the buttocks and it used to make mama really mad.
So sometimes when she had had enough, she would patch them up with pieces of cloth that didn’t match. And it was hand-sewed so that it looked ugly enough with the hope that the embarrassment will make me more careful and save her the trouble of having to buy new uniform every now and then.
But I had a dream, and anyone would’ve noticed if only had cared enough to to look close. Had they looked in my stuff; the hope in my song lyrics and the poetry I wrote, the visions in my drawings and the talent in my school compositions.
My teachers saw it but didn’t care. They let their hatred for my wayward half-brothers cloud their judgment. Just like the brilliant others before us will just pass, sometimes the teachers openly said. Now you’ll be left wondering of what business they had being teachers. We should maybe blame the system that made those teachers who they were.
You are just there because you needed a job. Come in the morning, in the evening get home to your loved ones and at the end of the day get your salary. Let the poor kid figure out his own destiny.
But beside all these negativity was a determined kid. A kid who was well aware of the hardships of his family, his people. A kid who felt her mama’s struggle and the pain that came with it. Had a dream of one day taking away part of it. To give her eyes back that lost spark. I wanted her to smile again. I will do anything to make mama smile again. She’s still beautiful even with the wrinkles that are starting to creep on her face.
I wanted a better life for my family. Mama and my siblings, especially my elder brother Ben deserved much better. Ben had to take most of dad’s responsibilities at a very young age. It wasn’t fair because he had a life of his own, but I guess that’s what you get for coming out first.
He had to drop out of school to help mama raise us. Looking back at some of the decisions he had to make on our behalf, just makes me respect him even more. Ben was more of a father figure to us than our real father was. At one time he had to physically tussle with dad at my step-mama’s home trying to ask for my sister’s school fees.
It was so bad that dad had resorted to chasing him out of the compound with a machete and Ben had to defend himself. He armed himself with a rock the size of Matiangi’s – Kenya’s Internal Security CS – head. But thank God no one died that day, and none of them got injured either because Ben restrained himself. And it did move dad a little because at the end of the day he had to part with some cash.
That’s my brother Ben. Always on his bike — the one he purchased from the money he earned after tilling somebody’s sugarcane farm – trying to help mama get something on our dinner table. Sometimes in the bushes setting snares to trap guinea fowls or in the river early in the morning checking on his fish traps. I feel nostalgic thinking about all that now.
He dropped out of school but still knew the importance of school. More than once he had told me that school was the only way of us ever elevating. Get educated, acquire financial freedom and make our home habitable.
And it wasn’t just him alone; all of my siblings did their best to make our life better. We understood our situation, the poverty we lived in and had to be responsible if we really wanted to see light at the end of the tunnel. We couldn’t afford to be like our half-brothers who lived like rich kids, Partying and moving from school to school. Too much was at stake.
It did help because as I’m writing this, my brother Chris the other family drop-out (hope he won’t read these. But he’s a born-again Christian, he will forgive me I’m sure) and the guy who taught me how to swim across River Sio for the panya-route to grandma’s place when shit got really tough at home, is doing even better. Who ever thought he had such an entrepreneurial mind! But come to think of it, marrying his wife, the mother of his two beautiful boys, was the best decision he ever made. Even players have to settle down at last.
I too just like my siblings had a part to play. From an earlier age I knew I had a responsibility, just like each one of my brothers. I had a dream. Mama had to grow old in a decent home. Maybe a glass house, similar to the one I read about in Savages, that novel I read years ago, where she would just sit in the evening and watch the sun sink down somewhere in Uganda, her motherland or on the other side, bask in the morning sun.
One evening when I was about seven, a group of seven – what a coincidence — white bikers called on our home. They were probably tourists, couldn’t tell from which country though. You see earlier on that afternoon it had rained cats and dogs rendering all the roads impassable. During that time the Moi government had abandoned our region and we had only one tarmac road, the Mumias-Busia road which passed through our sleepy town, Nambale.
So for the white people, the red, muddy road proved hard to maneuver on bikes. They were not used to such a hostile road so they were forced to find somewhere to leave their bikes and leave on foot to Nambale where they had left their vehicle. And luckily for them, our home was just adjacent to the Nambale-Butula road, the one the white people were traveling on. It was in a forest of trees and couldn’t be missed.
When mama answered the door I remember I was at that oval study table writing a composition for the class assignment. I remember some of the guys bending over the table trying to take a glimpse of what I was writing and how I felt afterwards after one of the two ladies in the group said I will be a writer. At the time I didn’t understand what she meant. I never thought anyone could just live of writing. To be completely candid, I never thought writing was a profession at all.
The tourists left their muddy bikes in our house and left, coming back with a truck to pick them up the following day. I remember how mama begged them to stay for dinner but they couldn’t. Said it was late and they had a long distance to walk, or maybe they were not just sure of what mama was calling food.
Sitting here today, I think the white lady was right, I was meant to be a writer. In high school I started writing a novel, and maybe what might have been my first novel with a proper support system (maybe my excuse), but I gave up along the way.” Fate or Bad luck”, was the title. Maybe one of these days I will have to get back on it.
Growing up around all these, I had a story to tell. All I needed was an avenue, a platform to reach the masses and I think a blog was the answer. And here we are! A blogger with a dream! Not even the sky is going to be my limit. I will even write beyond it if I have to.