Christmas is here and with it a whole lot of memories of Christmases past. For my family, Christmas was and is always at home in my mother’s house. There is nothing like fancy holidays or travel. It is also always about family but there are people outside of family who are very much a part of the merry. People who feature in our memories and make Christmas all together wholesome. Mine is a story of three of them back in the village.
King’ori was our distant neighbor and family friend. He lived with his mother and unfortunately the family was never in a position to afford a grand Christmas. We had known him all through our lives and he was no stranger to our homestead where he came every once in a while to help with errands and make some money. Kingori was a natural artisan and was very handy in fixing things around the homestead.
As much as Christmas is a family affair, my mum’s doors were always open and over the years, King’ori showed up every Christmas lunch without fail to have chapatti and carry some for his elderly mother back home. I grew up having him as part of Christmas day. Then he passed on and although I was not exactly beside myself with grief, Christmas was still less his visits. If felt different. We had chapatti delivered to his mother every Christmas after that until she too passed on a few years later.
She was an elderly gentle soul who lived alone a few ridges away from our home. For some reason she had a thing for clean compounds and once every few weeks, she came home very early and swept our compound clean before we even woke up. She would also light a fire in the outside kitchen and we often woke up to find her warming herself up.
Yes, we had and still have two kitchens back in the village. An outside kitchen for firewood, charcoal and black sufurias and the inside one for gas and sparkling silver sufurias. The story of mum’s rules under which gas was used is one for another day but let’s just say that a 13kg cylinder lasted well over 6 months! Maybe close to a year.
I found waking up to a spotless compound uber cool and always looked forward to such mornings. I liked and admired Wakarung’a’s dedication and her penchant for cleanliness and neatness. To date the one thing I do often enough is sweep the compound clean first thing in the morning. All that aside, I actually really liked her. Whenever she failed to show up for some time I would go looking for her at the market where she was always to be found prattling away. Not to clean the compound but because she was my friend. She was mostly the first person outside of family that I went looking for when I came home from boarding school.
Wakarung’a was always at our house on Christmas day. She would show up to help cut up things while my sisters made chapatti and my brothers felled a goat and roasted meat. I was the baby of the house so I mostly did a lot of nothing other than blow balloons which I could not even fill properly.
Wakarung’a was not the greatest or fastest cook out there but she would be really instrumental in chopping up things. She was a perfectionist and her onions, carrots and tomatoes had to be diced and sliced neat and even. We cooked together and ate together and when I thought about it later, we were family to her. Her only child had passed on earlier in life.
She later fell sick and also passed on, and Christmas was just never the same without her. Not because there was nobody to chop onions, there was, but because she had been part of Christmas for as long as I was growing up and then suddenly she was not.
The village vet
Then there was the village vet without whose word you could not consume a home slaughtered goat. In a tradition that my father cemented for years, there would always be a goat at Christmas. Christmas mornings for my brothers and farm hand meant being up before dawn to fell the animal. There was only one vet in the village and quite a number of homesteads needed his services on this day. It helped to be the first to have him over or you’d end up having meatless Christmas lunch. There were no nduthis back then and the poor guy would walk ridges and mountains all day. His Christmas was not about celebrating but making money.
The business with the vet started the previous day when we would take a long evening walk to his house to book him for the next day. We loved this walk which we took in packs of siblings, cousins and other visitors from the city. In a way, this walk was the official start of Christmas.
We would go to the vets house, pay in advance and he would be home as early as 7am Christmas day. My brothers would have the goat’s innards in a platter for inspection. The vet would cut up the liver, kidneys and I think lungs, give them an expert eye and give us a go ahead to feast.
One time we failed in this routine and he got late coming. He came well over lunch time and all we could do was stare hungrily at the meat. The options were two – to either go hungry till he came or eat chapatti and cabbage for Christmas.
The vet is still very much around and still inspecting meat but now the ceremony around his Christmas morning visits is gone. The long evening walk to his ridge on Christmas eve is no more. Now we just call, Mpesa money, and he hops onto a motorbike and is home in minutes.
I could go on and on with Christmas stories. But let me listen to yours too. What’s your best Christmas story? Your most truant story? Your funniest? Even a sad one – coz life can serve a sad Christmas. Share your story on our Facebook page using the hashtag #Homeiswheretheheartis and #SafaricomXmas. Safaricom and I could make this Christmas this much better for you by giving you a loads of airtime, or an Infinix Hot S or a Samsung Galaxy S 2.9.7 LTE tab.