No place like home
Today, I leave for my village in the Kano Plains, 399km away to go and bond with the family. The fresh breeze of Lake Victoria draws me home to the land of my birth. It is not a small family. The whole village is infact my family as we are bound together by culture. I must shake hands with every villager that I meet or else I shall be declared proud for nothing and if I happened to die, people may just refuse to participate in my funeral.
I have so many cousins, uncles, aunties, step-mothers, step-fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, nieces, nephews…sometimes I lose track of their names. But they are family and family they remain and such is the fact.
So many funerals of my family have happened and I did not get a chance to attend any. So then, I will have to visit all the graveyards and say a prayer in solidarity with the bereaved. If I had a special bond with the deceased and loved them, I can still weep and wail loudly as if the death has just happened. This is important because then I will have goodwill from the deceased’s family and the village too. I have to buy a Kg pack of sugar for every funeral site I visit just to illustrate my condolences to the bereaved.
I have to be polite and have a sympathetic ear for all the villagers who want to share with me their problems so that one day they may say nice things about me at my wake. I must avoid wearing a pair of trousers throughout my two week stay because in the village, a woman wearing trousers is considered loose in morals and adulterated by the modern world.
I need to pick all the coins in my house including my piggy bank because some of my family are very poor and will ask me for bathing cum laundry soap, salt which goes for KShs 5 a table spoon, a box of matches and for some tobacco and unga (maize flour) for porridge. Nobody will ask me for sugar as the word is history and a luxury we can hardly afford.
The cows, goats, sheep, chicken, rabbits, birds, cats, dogs, rats are part of the family and must all be treated with respect…as family. The neighbours’ animals are family too and when they stray into your farm and spoil your crops, you simply handle it as a family issue…no hard feelings, please. When you want to kill a rat that has sneaked from the field and made itself family, you do it ever so gently. Use a rat trap or get the cat to do it in their own secret time. Just don’t be part of the murder plan and watch as the rat dies, its just not family.
I was so excited last night I could hardly sleep. I tossed and turned and made coffee at midnight as I Face-booked and Word-pressed hoping by the time I finished it would be morning.
I will be bonding with my 83-year-od mother, who is probably waiting for my arrival and sitting on her chair next to the window, although I am still a whole eight hours’ drive away.
She has probably made the family 4 o’clock tea by now in the biggest kettle in her kitchen, against our culture that encourages one not to make anything until the guest arrives. I know she has already prepared a pot of chicken stew and kept it in a corner of her bedroom and she will only serve it late in the night when all family has gone to bed.
My darling mother she spoils me! Of course the big kettle of black tea is for family who have probably started arriving now to hear more about my visit from the city. But I know mother has kept the smaller kettle in her bedroom, under the bed so that she can give me my tea in the evening. My little kettle also has some sugar in it. Family will have finished the tea in the big kettle before I arrive. Mother is wise and she knows it.
I know I will have to be on my best behaviour when I get home…no sleeping in the whole day, chatting with uninvited guests and fond relatives who have missed me and want to find out the latest in my life. The most important thing will be whether I got me a husband, how many children I have and how rich this husband is. I do not have a husband yet but mother will answer all those questions on my behalf.
I will have to wear a long skirt and a reasonable top and cannot dare wear my boxers around. I will not also try to go out dancing late in the night. Dinner time is immediately followed by discussions and analysis of the day’s events, short choruses either Christian or Secular and of course, prayers. I do not like to pray loudly because somehow, the words usually disappear and my voice cracks making my siblings giggle. This embarrasses me. So tonight I hope mother will pick my cousin Julia to pray…she is an expert anyway.
But the happiest of them all to see me will be Happy, the family dog. He will wag his tail and run up to the door and back and try to hug me with his paws as he tries to walk on his two legs. Some of the family will chase him away. He will go round and find its way into mother’s kitchen then wait until the arrival prayers start. Happy will sneak into the room and lie at my feet, quietly. In his wisdom of animal language and having stayed many years with mother, he seems to know that people close their eyes when praying and that during the prayers everyone is kind and no one will dare chase him out. I know that Happy wants to lick my face but this cannot happen when family is around. But the clever dog will somehow find his way into my room and show me all the love he has kept for me when I was away.
Home, sweet home. I cannot just wait to eat mother’s specialities: groundnut soup and sweet potatoes, maize and millet ugali and mto, sour milk, fresh fish stew, and the sour fermented millet porridge. Although some of the family will still be holding grudges, mother will have forgotten and forgiven all the crimes I committed during my last visit…like the dozen new glasses I broke while washing the dishes. But above all, I just can’t wait to receive mother’s special smile, just for me and her warm hug so gentle and kind as she welcomes me home. “Welcome home, my daughter, welcome home.” Kano Plains, here I come!
Copyright Omwa Ombara, 2012.