Christmas is here (again!) and we Kenyans will start our urban-rural age old migration. This is probably the reason our wildebeests also have an annual migration from their rural areas (Tanzania) to their urban which happens to be Kenya. It might also be that we learned migration from the wildebeests and I get afraid when people say that when societies live together, they start looking like each other and it will just be a matter of time before we start looking like the majority denizens of the Maasai Mara.
This season always brings me the tender memories of yesteryears because chapatti was reserved for it and Easter which made chapati taste better. This was followed by mandatory new clothes and shoes. My shoes were always a size larger (my mom reasoned that I would grow into them before the following Christmas) the result of which was blistered heels for the better part of the festive season and the first quarter of the New Year. It was the same with the dress or the petticoat and on Christmas day we would be looking for a sisal string to hold either of the longer (the dress or the petticoat) – belts were an Adults Only affair. The only thing that fit during Christmas was underwear. It was the only time we did not see the girl-child trying to catch their loose underwear from slipping to the ankles.
One Christmas that will forever remain etched on my mind was one when my mom, decided that I had left the child stage and was now a young woman. So she went ahead and bought me a young woman’s beige chiffon dress and a black petticoat. For those of you who did not experience those yesteryears, chiffon was a see through material. Unfortunately, I was still a girl in my mind and so we went with my cousins as usual with the mischief of girls and went swimming in the river while we were supposed to be grazing.
There was one notorious cow named Wanjiru and she took this chance to look for minerals in our petticoats. Mine happened to be the one that was reserved for Christmas. So when we were through swimming and we were ready to drive the cows home, none of us had a petticoat because Wanjiru had eaten them. We knew this because we saw a part of my cousin’s pink petticoat disappearing into her (Wanjiru) mouth. Eliza, the faster of us ran into the house and ‘stole’ for us other petticoats and brought them and we pretty much forgot the petticoat story until Christmas day. I did not have a petticoat to wear with my chiffon dress! The only petticoat I had was a blue nylon one which clung onto my body because of static. The other nightmare was that the petticoat was halfway my thin thighs and the dress reached to my ankles. I went to church looking like the Secretary bird in a filigree skirt.
Another phenomenon of this season was the hot comb. If there is one inventor I would shoot purely for sport it was the guy who invented it. The damn thing (forgive my hostility towards it) never allowed two strands of hair between its teeth. Apart from leaving me in tears, it also left my nape and hands blistered by hot Vaseline which splattered in every direction. I was usually held down by my cousins to allow the hot comb find its way through my thick hair.
Today, Christmas is fun except for the urban-rural migration. I don’t like it but my mom won’t hear that I am old enough to spend Christmas in the city. As a matter of fact she believes that there is no Christmas in the city. She is also afraid that if I don’t go home during Christmas, people might talk, if you can imagine. I asked her what they would say and you won’t believe this but she said, “That you are pregnant or you ran off with a guy without a proper wedding” hahaha and she means it. This makes me want to stay in the city so they can talk but it would kill my mother and I just oblige and head home.
We pick our mats at Nyamakima and it is always a disaster. Twice I have arrived very early to catch a mat home and twice I have been given a ticket written No. 77 at the right hand corner meaning that I will be boarding mat No.77. I ask a conductor what No. is loading and twice again it has been No.15. What this arithmetic translates to is that I will be at the stage for 8hrs to board a mat and as if that is not enough, the fair is tripled.
Another nightmare is that we have to shop in Nairobi. This is a direct result of supermarkets branding their paper bags. I heard a telephone conversation (this is the truth) where a lady was talking to I believe her mother that she had shopped in all the major supermarkets. Grandmother then sought to confirm with the grandchildren that they had Nakumatt, Tuskys, Uchumi and Ukwala Supermarkets paper bags because she did not want to be the only one carrying green paper bags to women’s meetings. And apart from whole families traveling together and therefore making life difficult already, we travel in mats that are packed with all sorts of luggage in the name of Christmas shopping. Me, I have learnt to lie. Got to. I save all the branded paper bags in tip-top condition, then shop in Nyahururu and repack the stuff in the branded paper bags.
Having exhausted our finances on this extravagant shopping, we start migrating back to the city and since we are broke, we pack the mats with sacks of potatoes and flour and live chicken with kids talking about their Christmas experience and it is like boarding a train to the abyss. I, like the politicians have started to long for 2012 because I will get a break from this Christmas madness.
Merry Christmas to you all in readerland.