Saturday, 31 December 2011

Yesterday’s memories


Caution: if you are used to read very focused blogs from me, this may come as a surprise, but i decided to post it, as its really who i am, and its part of what has moulded me into who i am today. I could have chosen a different topic to write about this end year, but this is ultimately what is in my heart this afternoon, and as usual, these are bits and pieces of my journey as a young person
2012 knocks, and instead of remembering all that happens this year, I am taken back to recall my childhood friend whom I grew up with the in village. I will lie if I ever forget the beautiful memories of R.I.P Peter Njoroge Mwangi (Kimere) whom we grew up together, laughed, read novels, wrote poems, explored teenage fantasies together. He is now gone to be with the Lord.
Sweet home, and the whole neighbourhood is never the same again without his visits. Christmas without him playing board games with my brother or listening to football is still unbelievable for us. He would have been a lawyer by now, and I can’t just imagine how much it would be to be home again with our families. Mum would still prepare more than enough chapatis & mukimo for his and our family, and we would smug more novels from friends for holiday reading. Life is short, life is funny, is short, love it, its not a rehearsal, its life, don't regret it, live it!

I probably have only been providing bits and pieces of what kind of upbringing I had, so I will try add more pieces in this post, dedicating it to my childhood friend R.I.P Peter. He reminds me of the pride we always had when we grew up, of who we were, and not what we had.
I grew up in a rural countryside in the central province of Kenya. It was on the plains (but still hilly) and what people would call Kieni constituency.
My childhood memories are those of waking up at the sunrise from Mt. Kenya. The earlier you rose, the better, as you would see the snow cap on Mt. Kenya, and would see all the three peaks; on clear days, you could see some rivers flowing on the valleys (I think now this is not true, its just the mist and fog on the valleys). Likewise, the sunset was to the Aberdare ranges, the source of the rivers in our neighbourhood, I could see the bamboo forests, and true they kept declining by the day.
Our family which has transformed over the years, on such a day,
Peter should also have been on the photo
Our farm is adjacent to a dusty rural highway with less than 10 old cars per day. On a rainy day, there would be none, and we had to walk for 3 kilometres to the nearest tarmacked road. A sound of a car coming made all of stand to see which car it was, who is on it, visiting cars were easy to spot then. We were also surrounded by a Kieni (open field) where we used to play our childhood games as we grazed our parents’ cattle, goats and sheep. On the lower end, was the Githaka (natural forest) where we would graze in the afternoons, fetch firewood, and sleep under trees reading novels (I can’t remember them now!). The fantasy of this was the games we used to play in Kieni and Githaka which were all different, names of which I cant even offer a good translation!
Only one family, Peter’s family, around a kilometre away, owned a car and a TV. I would consider them the richest in the neighbourhood as I grew up. Unfortunately the black and white TV ran on battery, limiting the time that they would actually enjoy watch it. As a young girl, my mum never allowed me to go watch TV at Peters, so would get all the programmes narrated to me later when he came for porridge, mukimo or chapatti at home. Probably this has affected how much I watch the TV to date. On the contrary, I have become a storyteller, and enjoy more talking and listening to people.
Peter was the bright smart, and naughty boy of the village, all the mothers in my neighbourhood would say Amen to this. I recount the many times he was disciplined by my mum for wrongdoing (this was common then, any mother had the right to discipline any child found doing wrong). He had two brothers and a sister, and our families spent a lot of time together. Our mums were the best of friends, exchanging gifts of cooked was the norm; a missing plate, cup or cooking pot would first be fetched from their kitchen. Mum tells me that the two families had migrated to this neighbourhood at the same time, and thus had birthed and brought up their kids together.
Peter’s best friend was my brother Stanley Wanguhu Mwaura (Kaabu is our childhood nickname!). Stanley, two years older than I was my prince, his friends were my friends too, and so was Peter. They were best of friends, and so were we! Both were mischievous, contrary, I was very timid and obedient. I still don’t understand how I managed to befriend all my brother’s friends who were all notorious- according to my mum then!
The story of our childhood is so intertwined, but what I can’t forget, is the endless list of novels we read together, no idea where Peter got these from, all I know is that he used to bring a novel every time we needed one! In fact, we used to read a series of each! He was also a poet, and as I grew up to a teenager, I remember reading his poems and thinking he was a really cool boy! I know this as I was allowed to proof read the teenage love letters him and Stanley wrote to girls…apparently the same girls I had grown up with, but would not disclose this to the girls lest our friendship broke! I also had a chance to receive some of those poetic letters in my first form in high school, though short lived- ours was just best friends forever. On the other hand, I used to journal reflectively; Stanley was an artist and a comedian, he also used to write poems; our rural life was full of reading, and writing. I am glad to say this is a practice that our parents, especially my mum, encouraged us to do. We were the best composition writers in primary school, at one point, the English teacher requested me to tell her what certain words in my composition meant! It’s a pity that I picked up English faster than Swahili, and to date I struggle with my Swahili.

Peter was a bright lad, went to a provincial boy’s high school, was suspended enough times from school as he outsmarted the school rules, but this had nothing to do with his grades. At the final exams sitting, I remember seeing him leave for his exams on their eve, I was shocked later when he scored an A (distinction); this was an inspiration for me. I was a year behind him, and learning of his grades made me work even harder, it reminded me of our pride of who we are, of being smart, outsmarting everyone- this is the life we had grown up cherishing back in the village- just being the best we could. For Peter it probably also included being adventurous and mischievous.
Peter went on to study law at the University of Nairobi, and a year later I followed to study environmental sciences at Kenyatta University. During the break between high school and campus, we rarely had time to meet, we were now grown ups and living in the city. At the time he was also dating my cousin (and I had a role to play in this), and I was happy for them (but now I know they had separated and he was dating someone else in college).

In 2006, the month was August, and the day was a Sunday, and Peter was driving from home to one of the shopping centres. It was a sad month, he had lost his mum after a very short tragic illness, and this was very sad for us as a family too. Peter’s mum was mum’s best friend, and especially after our dad had passed 10 years earlier. She had now lost a 30s friend, a lady she had come to cherish when they lived in this village together, brought up their kids together, farmed and went to the market, church women merry-go-rounds. The two had a relationship like that I had with Peter. On that Sunday afternoon, Peter had just shared, and as usual, shared lunch with my mum at home. Mum tells me, how he had told her that he knew that he still had a mum in Kieni, and that was my mum. After the lunch, Peter drove away to go and prepare for his mum’s burial, but that was the end of it, he was involved in a car accident, a tragic one, and he his life was taken in the accident.
Now most reading & writing happens on my
laptop, its a culture now.
I had plans to meet Peter, and now that his mum had passed, I had planned to spend more time with him, he was like a brother to me now, but time would not wait for me to meet him. God took him before I met him. Its rather sad, I never had that chance to console him, and now he is gone to be with the Lord. What I recall most is our far-fetched reading and writing habits that were not only hobbies, but they were deeply rooted on our principles as kids growing together in the same rural village. The books we read inspired us to think and dream big. We believed in being best of the best, we believed that if there was nothing else to do, then the only thing that needed to be done was to be the best again and again.  I bet this is a principle that each of us kept till we got to university. I remember meeting Peter just before I joined campus, and when he reminded me of this, I knew our principles had not changed at all. I have to be strong through his departure, and to date, the memories of him are very fresh in my mind, it is like yesterday’s memories.

But its for this reason, that the end of this year I remind myself: life is short, life is funny, life is good, life is how you take, life is not a rehearsal, life is all about the people around you. Love it, live it!

4 comments:

  1. Gracy this story sound familiar, know this girl, who told me a similar story and also showed me a book of the boys poems that he had wanted to publish. I have this feeling its the same peter!

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  2. Gracy this story sound familiar, know this girl, who told me a similar story and also showed me a book of the boys poems that he had wanted to publish. I have this feeling its the same peter!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Every word i read in this blog leaves not only a welling-up tear in my eyes,but also a tinge of regret;that i never got the chance to have a last word with him. It feels like yesterday,that Peter was cracking jokes,and inspiring everyone in every single way he would word it. I totally miss him,and forever etched in my heart;our hearts, he will be. I remember the period after he passed on,how i would constantly wish and pray that he'd appear in the middle of the night,probably in my dreams or nightmares-i didn't care where and when-if only to let me see him,hug him,laugh with him,and probably,get the chance to say a goodbye. I remember 'demanding' to know why God only picked 'Peters'. I was sorely wounded,that his time had come that early. Now,all these are wishes and Qs that never will find answers,but memories are what i cherish most. Thank you for this tribute Grace. We surely lost a gem.

    P.s .. Ask Polly where they used to get these novels... She still tags dozens of them every new season.

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  4. @ Purity and Sylvia, thanks for your inspiring comment, indeed this piece is helping me reconnect with the memories of yesterday, and i am glad that i did write it. Purity, i think you should start writing, you have the art of putting words together and telling a story.

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