Those slightly uncomfortable moments when one is exhausted, lying in bed and waiting to fall asleep after a long day, but it takes a wee bit longer than expected …

I remember being in a state such as the one described above, only that I was much younger. I remember drifting in and out of sleep, unable to fully let go because we were about to have supper. I remember that I was a tiny, scrawny little girl, curled up on the sofa. I could feel the presence of the rest of my family, or is it that I expected them to be there? The room was dimly lit, the only source of light being paraffin lamps and some candles. It was a rather chilly evening and everything was as still as death. I heard a voice calling out my name, once … twice. I thought I was dreaming until I heard the sound of kitchen cutlery that slowly brought me back. As I opened my eyes, I saw mother carrying a tray heading to the living room, what I assumed must have been our supper. I was fully awake now. “Wake up child, we are about to have our supper.” I sit up and look around the dimly lit room. I recall nothing of what I saw at that moment. I look at the table that held what mother had prepared. On the table was a flask of hot milk, a set of well-arranged kitchen cutlery and utensils and a tray carrying some pieces of bread The bread was neatly sliced and with butter on both sides. “Mother, have we nothing else to eat?” I recall asking. I remember not what the reply was, if there was any. We were poor and I was a child wanting more than what we could afford. I cannot begin to imagine how many times I broke the hearts of my parents with these innocent questions. Yet, as much as I remember being poor as a child, I remember lacking nothing. I was probably 7.

On another sleepless night, I remember looking at family photos on our photo album. Our skins glowed, probably as a result of Vaseline and a pretty nourishing diet. My parents hardly had anything to show for such hard work, except maybe for my sister and I. In one photo we wore matching dresses and very lovely smiles. I swear you could never tell, unless you realize that we wore each a pair of black, leather, Bata shoes that formed part of our school uniform. Yes, we had one pair of shoes and one pair of sandals, the best that our parents’ could provide at that time. I often wondered, if we possessed the best our parents money could buy, what did they have?

I remember my acquaintances teasing me because I wet my bed one night during a school’s trip in Rift Valley. I remember how how embarrassing it was to leave the room reeking of an aqueous solution of over 90% water and urea, sodium, potassium, creatinine and chloride. I remember how bravely my sister stood up for me, helped me wash and pack. I remember not talking or seating next to anyone for the remainder of the trip. I was 11.

I remember what it is to like a boy for the first time. I remember being teased because I looked into a boys eyes, too long some might say, and realizing that I may actually not kill that particular one; the ones I knew were pretty annoying. I was 13. I remember … I remember the boy who broke my fragile heart, the boy who was my friend before I we dated, the boy who made me laugh yet utterly annoyed the shit out of me, the charming, brilliant idiot who I am proud of today for the gentleman he is. I was 16. I remember my first job, my best friend and the trouble we got into even before we got into campus.

One thing for sure, I noticed that I could remember more whenever my state of mind was unbalanced. I recall reading that in order to sleep, one needs peace of mind. One could argue that a little alcohol could do the trick, but think about it … Alcohol could cause what is called temporary insanity. In law, that is an actual defence in crime. What is more interesting, however, is that most people consume alcohol as a way to get away from what is causing them trouble or restlessness. Some consume alcohol immediately before the commission of a crime, what the legal profession calls dutch courage. Others argue that exercise, work and physical activity could induce tiredness that can cause sleep as soon as one gets comfortable. Others argue that eating works for them. However, think about it. Alcohol is used as a temporary means of relieving stress. In fact, all methods above do so and all are effective, but in different ways. Physical activity reduces stress because the human body produces endorphins, otherwise called happy hormones. The state of mind drastically changes and one becomes more relaxed, less tensed and even … happy. Eating, humph, well metabolism (whether catabolism or anabolism) continues almost always but digestion and breaking down of food produces heat and a bit of alcohol. The more carbohydrates one takes the more sleepy they get. Ever wondered why you never preferred ugali for a light lunch? Well, whatever the action you choose, peace or a stable mind is a constant factor, rather; all of the above are just a means to and end, and our end is more often than not, peace or a stable mind. What do I know though, I don’t have a medical degree.

I remember being teased because I was too organized, because I did not like sharing if the item is not returned exactly as it was. I remember being ridiculed as being perfect, yet being such a total arse. I recall being treated differently, meaner, simply because it was difficult for me to fit in. I remember my love for tennis and how it helped me cope through high school. I remember the thrill of the court, my heart beating faster with every serve, every smash and every tournament. I remember the wind on my face on the bus rides back to school, with good music blasting through the stereo and adrenaline pumping through my veins. I remember the sickening feeling I would get as we got to the gate, and how my demons would haunt me every day and night until I got out. I was not even 18 yet.

I remember having a conversation with my mother as to the origin and meaning of my name. My maiden name was my grandmother’s. She held me as a baby and would hush me by repeatedly intoning, Oh Wambui Wambui Wambui. I guess she let known her wishes. My first name. Now that one has a real story behind it. Mother hesitated a bit, as if she was reaching within the depths of her soul for courage, or was simply trying to find words. Neither of my parents’ parents were wealthy, or financially capable to support all children, a circumstance I am certain was in almost all families I know. My parents are, as they now call them, the generation breakers. I am sure it must have taken them a lot, and it is for this reason that my name was given. Slightly over two decades ago, mother, heavily pregnant with me and in a public hospital maternity wing, gave birth to a chubby baby girl. Although a baby is a blessing, the timing, according to me, couldn’t have been worse. This young maiden had, waiting at home, another little girl aged one and a half years old. The saddest part, well, is that she had only twenty Kenya shillings in her pocket at the time of delivery. She needed a lot more, yet had nothing else to offer her little babies. She could only find hope, and so Hope the little girl became.

I have had the happiest childhood any child could possibly have or want, yet I cannot get over the fact that one thing still troubles me; whether or not I will ever live up to that name. Yes, I have had thoughts of changing it, but one thing has always stopped me: my name could be the very thing that defines me, the thing that gives me purpose, the thing I draw my strength from and possibly, my destiny.

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99 Responses

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