It always surprises me how fast time goes by when a group chat I had muted for a year suddenly starts lighting up my screen.
There I was, whiling away a Monday afternoon as Monday afternoons in the office are wont to be done, when a series of notifications pull me out of my reverie. I look at my phone and notice the notifications are from a WhatsApp group I always have on mute. For a moment I think these are replies to a funny meme I sent earlier and feel a small surge of pride at my shotgun popularity. Till I look closer and realize that the messages have no relation to my meme and it hits me that my group chat is no longer muted.
“Haiya, it has already been a year?” is the first thing that comes to mind. How very Kenyan, posing a statement as a question. My mum was such a pro at that.
“Mummy umefika?” she used to “ask” as soon as I got home from work in the evening. My bedroom was right next to hers, so unless she was in pain she always called out for me the minute she heard my keys. If she was in the sitting room she would call out as soon as she heard the main door close. I loved it, except when I was trying to sneak in wasted. Lol. I would go to her and there she was with the biggest smile on her beautiful face, and for a few minutes any shit that happened that day did not matter. When she was still walking, she would be the one to open the door for me.
“Hi baby girl. How was your day?” she would ask as she hugged me.
Provided she was not in too much pain, the expression feels like coming home was my everyday reality.
I moved into my first home away from home on September 23 last year. I call it that because my mum would have me call the place I grew up home, referring to my new place by its name. She used to say that where I grew up will always be home no matter how many other houses I had. The first few weeks were cripplingly silent. I had lived with my mum for 30 years and it was quite the adjustment coming home to nothing and no one. It made me really sad and lonely. I had trouble sleeping and would call my mum constantly. I would often swing by my mum’s after work before heading to my empty apartment. Till I discovered I could smoke up anywhere at any damn time then I started to appreciate my own space. Lol.
Last year on move day my mum was helping me shop for essentials for my house. She identified the supermarket I would use and got me a loyalty card as I would rack up points. The only thing I had bought before moving was a dozen Olivia Pope wine glasses. A girl has gotta have her priorities. Lol. Sadly towards the end of the afternoon she was in immense pain. She went home as soon as I had paid and sorted the warranty on my electronics. 365 days later she is no longer alive.
It makes me sad that, among other things, my mum and I never got to prepare a meal at my first apartment. I wanted us to make her beef stroganoff, fish in coconut sauce and butter chicken. I cooked them with her one time and did not think to write the recipes down. Now none of the recipes I find on the internet come anywhere close to hers. She helped me buy all the utensils in my house, but we never got the chance to use a single one. We viewed the house together, but after I moved in her cancer came back. I would give anything for her to see how I furnished the place in person and not just via the pictures I shared.
I bought sugar the other day for the second time since I moved in. That packaged one you find in a kiosk for KES 80 is what takes me through the whole year. I mentioned it to the shopkeeper and she was shook. She just could not wrap her head around the fact that I use that little sugar for over 365 days. I have black tea for breakfast on weekdays at the office and do not take it with any sugar. On weekends I usually wake up late enough to have wine with my brunch. So I only need sugar when taking coffee or if a recipe calls for it. For most this is nobody-cares-news, but it is definitely something I would have been able to call my mother and have a conversation about.
I celebrate everything, big or small. I believe it is important to acknowledge and appreciate achievements of any kind. I get it from my mother. She was always so enthusiastic about my accomplishments, nothing was too minor. So last month on September 23 I celebrated one year of living alone for the first time in my life. I celebrated alone. I did not mention it to anyone so I had no company on the day. My people are fantastic, this has nothing to do with them. It is just sometimes some things, like the sugar, feel too trivial to share with others. Except for my mum. Nothing was too trivial for her. I would give anything to be able to call her up and tell her I am toasting to 365 days of living on my own.
Grief is a lonely thing.