Her eye circles are darkening like soil on every fertile shamba. So are the back joints of her hands and knees. She is edging off gracefully into her forties.
When she smiles, her eyes get smaller, and a tad darker. Which makes her look unerringly like my mom. The smile looks good on her. Maybe because behind it is an exquisite dental formulae and teeth so white you cannot look at her straight in the face when its sunny. Okay, hyperbole.
Hers is the kind of smile you miss looking at when the two of you are on a rough patch. You sort of writhe in anguish when she is disappointed with you. Its not fear, its respect laced delicately with love. She seems to have become shorter but the most feasible explanation would be that I’ve grown taller.
She is heavy with child right now. Yes, in this quarantine. It’s her fourth time at this. Which means she has gotten the hang of it all. It also means that the elegance with which she carries this pregnancy is a notch higher. You won’t find her staring into a small palm mirror and asking, “Do you think my nose looks bigger?”
Shockingly, she’s very unruffled and composed. So far, she hasn’t woken up in the morning and decided that she wants salty bean soup. Or half cooked eggs. It is all too good to be true. But then again, she has spent a great deal of her time on this baby journey to the extent that she oozes confidence and walks with assured steps. The fourth time is the real charm, folks. It’s given that she’s now fully fitting in the shoes of a nurturer.
She knows how to answer on behalf of a baby when people casually come so close to the little thing’s face, play with their cheeks a little and say,
habari ya katoto?hello
It still drives her up the wall, but only because she strongly believes that baby cheeks become bigger if they are played with. Additionally, if people feel like their fingers want to fumble with something, they should do it with balls or other objects but her babies’ cheeks.
This one time, she dragged all of us to the shamba to do some gardening. She claimed that it was going to prep me for the stage of life that I am heading to. I was however tempted to believe that somewhere in her heart was a part that selfishly needed help planting her maize and beans but was too proud to use the word ‘please.’
The few hours I spent gardening drained all the energy I had, but it gave me time to reconnect with nature. Oxalis are still keeping it one hundred.
For a while I had forgotten how stimulating it is to look at land and imagine the billions of things one could use it for. When I own land, I will have people call it Shamba. Not a farm. Something about how 5 green’s Mr Tonui would say the word ‘shamba’ that made it seem better than ‘farm’. The word ‘imbar’ though would make the cut because it is Egyptian for shamba.
During one of the recesses, I asked one of my nieces to take a picture of me. I had to choose a prop or rather, an activity that would truly testify to all the nations that Mercy Bor, grand-daughter of Kibor, first of her name had done some hard work. I chose hoeing. Classic, right?
The picture was taken on my phone and I later uploaded it on my WhatsApp status. It elicited quite a number of reactions. Someone said I should not have gone to the garden in khaki. In all honesty, I know not of any other trouser material that is more comfortable than khaki. Besides from that, the cowboy, who also happened to feature in the same photo, showed up in jeans, so I thought that my khakis would go unnoticed.
Another one exclaimed saying that they would never have associated farm work with me. Ever! If only they knew that the picture was a visual representation of what my childhood looked like. There was a lot of going to the shamba, and uji which was given to only those who worked, and only them. You can imagine how hard we would work our asses off. It was a system that thrived for everyone. Work was efficiently done and we took uji to our own delight.
One of the viewers of my status laughed at me because they had stayed in the city and I was toiling and moiling like Adam and Eve did after they were kicked out of Eden. That got me thinking though. I felt lucky to be in shaggz because it gave me a sense of safety. It still does.
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Urbanization of rural centers is great and all, but if there’s one thing this period has taught me is that, we all need a place we can fondly call shaggz and can scamper to, when and if we need to. Most people packed their bags and left for their rural homes, leaving trays of eggs in their refrigerators and unwashed dishes in their sinks.
Yesterday, I went down to see how the maize and beans we had planted were doing. They are doing quite well, looking all happy and vigilant. They have a bright future.
There sure is something accomplishing about watching life grow.
You feel happy when you are responsible for giving it the right conditions to become.
Pride engulfs your heart when you bathe this life and air out each of their towels, from the oldest to the newest, all in different colors.
Shamba Girl Exits ….
The greatest source of joy though is thinking of what color to go for next as the fourth one. It’s an easy but profound task. Otherwise, two years later you’ll be grimacing as you air the towel out wondering why stains love it.