My endangered Christmas

My favorite Christmas carol is ‘Little drummer boy’; “Come they told me Pa rum pum pum pum…” But if I am not at my rural home for Christmas, then it is as good as a wasted Christmas. To me Christmas is not only about the birth of Jesus, but also about my mum, my dad, my brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews plus both my children. It is about going away from the hustle and bustle of the city, far, far away to a tiny village in Eldoret. A Leafy home surrounded by so many trees (thanks to my dad’s love for trees) with vast land of maize plantations and Eucalyptus trees donning every homestead. There are also the insufferable untarmacked roads, thanks to Hon. Peris Chepchumba Simam MP, Eldoret South Constituency and her predecessors! Yeah, she of the “I had a mysterious dream Mr. Speaker!” fame.

I have celebrated Christmas in Nairobi before and I regretted it! First of all, for all the plans you make for the day, there is most probably a lack of quorum! Many people, understandably, choose to stay as far away from the city as possible. Honestly, Nairobi and Christmas do not mix. I’d rather be in my rural village enjoying the fresh air, the cool breeze, the chirping birds, the green plantation, the bad roads and the pitch darkness -O wait! We have electricity now. Bummer!

My favorite Christmas memories are of when I was a young girl still in school. Then, if we did not travel to Tanzania to spend the school holidays with our dad who was away working most of my childhood, we were in our rural home with my mother. At the time, electricity was still a rumor, and nights were pitch dark, broken only by paraffin lamps. The stars and the moon shone like I had never seen before. Christmas day coincided with the appearance of the full moon and it was so bright that it lit the night almost as brightly as the sun during the day. Those were beautiful nights!

We lit the traditional fire, with firewood of course, and sometimes with dry maize cobs courtesy of the harvested maize. It was smoky as hell. My sisters and I would sit around the fire and sing till midnight on the eve of Christmas, and then we would go to sleep only to wake up a few hours later to cook. Now this was the highlight of Christmas – the cooking!

Christmas was about the dew in the grass early in the morning, the cows mooing when they were being taken to the watering well , the chirping birds, the breathtaking beauty of nature, and the beautiful blend of our singing voices (and make no mistake, the Moipei…err..Murrey sisters can sing!) Oh, sweet sweet memories!

I cherish this season because to me, it is all and only about family; A party of ten – eight kids and their parents.

It is about a much traveled father who is a strict disciplinarian and a fountain of knowledge-An intelligent man to boot. A man who rarely smiles but when he does has a wonderful smile that is a contrast to his stern demeanor. He has my grandmother’s smile which is characterized by a slight slant of the mouth. My big sister has the same smile, complete with a dimple; beautiful. Back to my dad; he is a man who is always ready to protect his girls from bad…I am tempted to say men, but I will just say, bad relationships. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, innit?

Christmas is about a mother who is both soft and strong. A believer in family values and a woman who hates laziness – yet I am not sure if ‘hate’ is a strong enough word! Just to explain how strongly she cannot stand laziness, all our childhood we never got to sleep past 6am when we were home for the holidays. My mother would not allow it! I remember her asking the herder to take a few days off so that we could learn how to milk cows! Being ‘city-dwellers’ we vehemently lamented to this. We even tried to explain to her that it was a lesson in futility since she would be lucky if we ever got married to Kalenjin men, if at all! (Ahem!) Though her project ‘Teach-the-girls-how-to-milk’ backfired, her point was made; our education meant zilch to her if we were not in touch with where we come from. We spoke Swahili and English most of the time; she threw all that in our face by making sure we learnt Kalenjin and adamantly refused to speak to us in any other language. I would hate it now if I grew up not knowing my mother tongue and so I love her for that and for so many other values she instilled in me.

Christmas is about Jack – named after my late grandfather, a first born brother so intelligent and so blunt. He says it as it is. It is about Gregory- very smart, very generous and very kind; the kindest man I know, and that is no exaggeration. It’s about Innocent, the last among the men who is a jack of all trades. He is the ‘go to’ guy. When you don’t know where to get what, he knows a guy who does, or a guy who knows a guy. He has the connections.

Christmas is about my four lovely sisters too;

Iolanthe; who is painfully neat, organized and focused. She is flawless (I kid you not!), has a golden heart and takes her responsibility as the first girl with so much gusto-the perfect example of a sister to look up to. Imelda is my witty friend with a marvelous sense of humor. My daughter Hailey calls her mum – she doubles up as her other mother and her friend too! Imelda is a friend to her three children, something most of us mothers can’t hack.

Christmas is about Valerie; a go-getter and an adventurous lady who will not stop till the job is done. Her middle name is ‘resilience’. It’s about Vanessa; my sweet kid sister who we like to call ‘Towa’ – Last born. Vanessa is a young girl with the mind of a grown woman. Her maturity baffles me sometimes! I have turned to her several times during house girl crises for babysitting services. Such a doll!

That I should be so lucky, right? You therefore must understand that Christmas is incomplete if one of the above people who I love so deeply is missing due to our now busy schedules as grown ups. Moreover, modernization is creeping into our rural home and changing my perfect Christmas set up! There is electricity now – good bye dark, star-lit beautiful nights. Tap water and gas cookers are not a preserve of urban homes anymore. As Heidi crawls in the green grass, uninhibited by limited space and furniture (It sucks raising a child in these confined square rooms of Nairobi apartments, doesn’t it?), and Hailey runs around not worried about being hit by a vehicle, all I wish for is for them to see the stars, the moon, the morning dew and the three-stoned fire complete with lots of smoke! What say ye Santa, I have been good…

Merry Christmas good people! Mjibambe!

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