Things You Must Know in Life
There are three things that you must know in life. First is that tea is a cult. I came to this realization the other day when I was having a conversation with a friend about tea; yes, my friends and I do talk about tea. Think about it, everyone who likes to drink tea swears it is the best thing ever; those who don’t like drinking tea swear it is the devil and there really is no in between. I have to say however, that I think this mostly of Western tea. It is bland and uninviting (like most cults) and no one really knows where it comes from or how it ends up in your shopping bag; it sneaks up on you (like a cult).
If you haven’t gathered yet, I dislike tea in general. Yet, at the top of my counter sits a tall jar full of Kericho gold tea bags. I brought the tea with me as is required of any Kenyan leaving the country. I look at it often. Sometimes, I even reach for it and pull one tea bag out of the jar. I have however only had two cups of tea since I got here. Like I said, I don’t like tea.
But there is more to it.
I had my first cup of tea right when I got here. I’d been in New York for about a week and I was feeling so out of touch with home so I made myself a cup of Kenyan tea to soothe my insides. It worked; for a bit. Then the throngs of life hit me and I went a long time without another cup. Eight months to be exact. The second time I had Kenyan tea was two days ago.
The second thing you must know in life is that there is something wrong with people who put spinach in fruit smoothies and juices.
Also, you must know that for goodness sake, white children have no business running away from you. However you will soon discover upon arrival to the US that they like to play games when they see you. At first it will shock you and leave you questioning the dirt on your skin. Then it will infuriate you because how dare these toddlers run away from you unprovoked; in such great terror and with a finger pointed at you. Finally, you will deal with the larger arching problem in the picture and resolve that these children must only want to play with you. So, the next time you see a white child running away from you, you will do the right thing. The only thing that must be done when playing tapo. You will chase after them. The blood in your veins will boil hot and turn you a darker shade of dirty. They will scream as you shout ruuuuuun at them. Maybe someone will show up and pick them up. Maybe someone will ask you what you are doing. If they do, don’t say a word. Point at the child and run. It’s now their turn to chase you. That’s how the game works, right?
The other day, I heard a story of an American white person saying they came to the entire African continent and a child ran away from them saying “ni roho”- “It’s a ghost.” I chuckled a little because religion and colonization did that. I thought you might want to know.
Anyway, a couple of hours ago, at 9:16 pm, I lay on the floor of my New York soap dish mansion with my chest facing the ceiling in an attempt at calming myself down. In. Out. In. Out. I did the deliberate breathing thing and concentrated on clouds and pigs in the sky. Physical distancing has been rough and apparently, Kenya won’t let me come home. None of it worked. I cracked.
I want my mother. That is all. I just want my mother.
It’s mother’s day ati and my mother is all the way across the world from me. You know, I remember Saturday mornings with her. Usually, she would always be up before me; at 7:00 am or something crazy like that. Nine times out of ten, she would be cracking her ribs on phone telling whoever she is talking to that:
“Huyo amelala. Ataamka noon.”
I on the other hand, would be lying in bed, half awake, trying to piece together the kikuyu she was tossing around like the detective I am. She would then get louder and louder until I had to wake up. Usually that would be at 11:00 am because I am not the slouchy person she said would wake up at noon. When she was not on phone, she would be blasting kikuyu jams and conducting choir practice with the pots and pans in the kitchen. On such days, I would wake up at 10:45. No one can sleep through that noise I tell you.
Yet, I loved Saturday mornings in my own way. I loved how each of them was the same yet they all claimed to be unique. Every single Saturday, we did about the same things and at the end of the day, we would ask each other where the day had gone because we surely hadn’t lived through it all. I loved it so much. This is how I know I did: Nowadays, in my box in the sky in New York, I find myself blasting kikuyu songs on Saturday morning and banging together my two utensils. It keeps me sane and feeling like home.
You know, I miss her. So much. Let me tell you the story of when I last saw her:
12:00 am. That midnight saw our household through manic chaos and the taxing and draining process of saying goodbye. It was my last night at home and my throat was dry. My mother on the other hand was handling things like a champ. As expected, I was packing my things in that truly last minute Kenyan fashion at about seven hours to my flight.
So there I was, trying to fit my entire life into two suitcases and a bag. It was going horribly. I wanted to take everything. My mother, on the other hand, wanted me to travel light and take only the things I absolutely needed; sweaters and socks. Funny. Even when you are leaving to go half way across the world, your mother will still ask you if you’ve carried a sweater.
Anyway, she comes to see how things are going. On the bed, I have two suitcases each with a mound of things in them. I know that they won’t close when the time comes. Regardless, I am unwilling to leave anything behind. I have thought through which things I want to take with me and I have resolved that I want to take every single thing in those suitcases. She stands there and looks at me. I can see that she understands what is going on. I also know that she too can feel the rip about to happen. So, without a word, she starts to take things out of the pile.
“Uuuh, what are you doing, ma? I need that blanket.”
“No you don’t.”
“I do. I want to take it with me.”
Sigh. I recognize the way she says no. I know she is not budging yet, that blanket of brown leaves and softness is exactly the comfort I need when I get to New York. I wanted to retaliate but at this point, she has reduced the pile of things in the suitcase to a reasonable one; having decided what I need and what I don’t. I needed the sweaters and socks. I look at her and I can’t believe it. I want to scream and call everything off. I can feel my face growing hot. It was happening.
“You’re being mean! You are being mean to me! I’m going away and I’m telling you that I want that blanket and you won’t let me take it! You are tossing my things out and being rough. You’re not asking me what I want to take or leave. You are being plain mean!”
With that, I ran off to the toilet. To cry. In there, I think about my mother’s absolute disregard for my wishes. I am the one leaving home. I am the one going into strange lands with children with fingers that gravitate towards me. It was all too much.
A while later, I walked out of the toilet with my eyes colored in that red that only my eyes can achieve and go to confront her. In between sniffles, I say,
“Ma, please let me take that blanket. I really want to.”
She stood there and looked at me; her child, about to leave; face full of blood and heat, breathing heavy, red eyed and sore. Then she said, “Okay.”
I hate the fact that in those last moments we succumbed to the painfulness of being ripped apart and we went for each other’s necks. See my mother and I hardly fight. We used to when I was twelve, though she swears she has no recollection of ever fighting. Now, we have conversations when we disagree yet on that last night, emotions ran high and I lost it.
We did calm down eventually and we made it to the airport at about 4:00 am at which point I had two more hours to go and I would be gone. I stood there at JKIA as we took goodbye photos; both of us a lot calmer but still scared. I look at those photos now and they look to me like funeral photos. In some of them, I am standing there with my head bent looking at my hands. In others, I have a nail clipper in hand and I am busying myself with cutting my nails. For whatever reason, that was my chosen way of distracting myself. I know, it’s pathetic.
Anyway, I only have ten fingers and one can only stare at their hands for so long, therefore, in some photos, I am looking dead on at the camera. (Pun intended.) In others, my mother is holding me tight. Those are the ones that crush my heart the most. I can see in her eyes the terror of sending off her only child to a place she herself has never been. I can see in my eyes the innocence of not knowing what I was setting myself up for.
There is one photo I love though. Just one. In that photo, we weren’t posing and trying to look happy when we weren’t. My mother has my hands in hers. We are standing facing each other. She is looking at me. Her eyes can see my soul. I am looking at her. I only see her face. She is so beautiful. And strong. On my face, I hope she sees my gratitude. I hope she knows that I am thankful for her letting me go. We both recognize that it’s tough but we know it’s for the best.
I remember how much sadness I felt inside on that day. In the photos, none of us look ecstatic; Our smiles are forced. We are forlorn and aching. In those photos, I am about to lose something. I don’t know what it is yet. In those photos, I am on the edge of one life and about to embark on another; just like in a funeral. In some of those photos, I stand there with my nail clippers and say to myself;
“Things are about to change, cut them off; let go.
Now, on my floor, I think about that cup of tea I had the other day. It marked an occasion of sorts. Finally, I am starting to feel like myself in these foreign lands. Tea is the kind of thing you only take when you feel at home. I haven’t felt at home in a while. I am slowly getting there.
I remember my mother. She is strong. She is beautiful. She is my home.
This first post is for my mother.
You are soil, roots, stem, leaves, bark, flower, rain and sunshine for me.
You are everything.
**Editor’s note – The original title of this post is Things You Must Know in Life: Mother’s Day
For more of Lymurit’s work (and isn’t she just fucking fantastic!) visit https://medium.com/@lymurit