‘Certain ages are to be remembered and not repeated’
The above statement is simple but profound and so true. The man who said it must have been nostalgic or fell victim to a prank he tried on an elder in his boyhood years. Speaking of boyhood, I hope your was fun because mine was electrifying. Growing up in rural Central Kenya, life offered me a wider perspective of the world for being centrally located. We created networks in our mischief and even now as young men they have lived on. You remember those good days of the old when you hit up with a childhood friend in town. You catch up at a silent tavern in Nairobi’s Kimathi Street and call in a few other buddies from around and at eight o’clock almost the whole gang is there. Boy have they changed, they have a stubble, tummies and acquired an accent as opposed to the lanky, thin limbed boys you were decades ago. Girls lack in these setting. It is for us men, privileged not to have husbands to tend to. Though changed, they have maintained the thing that bonded you together back then; watching each others back and the zeal for adventure. You share a Viceroy 5, the five of you because you believe in true friendship and in making it as men.
“I heard Muthee wa Mburu passed on,” the talkative one reports. We all had heard of the demise and kept quiet for a minute. Memories come flooding back. Muthee wa Mburu was a radical traditionalist who reared sheep, geese and lots of chicken and even had bee hives. The chap was an old soul, kept to himself and everybody thought he was a creep.
“Kim that man should have killed you years ago,” I said to him and everybody broke into a hearty laugh.
We fought among ourselves and that was a bad omen. Everybody had returned to their homes following the outbreak and sulking was what I could do.
“I almost controlled the fight before losing it.” It was the common lament. It was two o’clock, a whole four hours to dusk. If we did not reconnect it would mean endless errands from mother who believed children should always be kept busy. When the whistle call was blown, I almost jumped. Kim had a way of keeping us together first with his charisma and mind-blowing plans.
“Look, Muthee wa Mburu has just passed by home and told my father that he has gone to get herbs for the flu concoction,” his eyes burned with energy and mischief when uttering the words.
“That means we attack the orchard!” we were uncontrollable.
“No fools.” It was Kim again.
“Let’s get the honey, smoke out the bees.”
What a plan! Kim was a genius.
With clothes and ideas we could manage to fathom we lit hurricanes and approached the hives. The first two were successful and we licked on the honey. The third was a different story, the bees were angry and in the struggle the hive caught fire. In the mischief we had lost track of time and Muthee wa Mburu was back, breathing fire. I swear I saw his fangs that day. Mother whacked the hell out of me but heck it was a day inscribed in gold in my book of memories.
It is fateful that Muthee wa Mburu was always on our radar maybe he was just unlucky or his reverse approach to life appealed to us. He had a bicycle, the black mamba single gear,and was among the few present in the neighborhood. He was very possessive of it and could never allow any boy touch it, leave alone give him a ride. We made a plan, he was going to hang. A parrot informed us that he was having a drinking party with a friend that evening which meant that he would return at night, drunk and riding fast on the bike.
Njoro got a thin fishing line he had stolen from a mzungu. When dusk fell and everybody was back to their homes, we tied the line across the road at neck level and got back home, pretending to be good children. Muthee would inform us of his impending arrival with song and self-talk like a normal drunk and we like the faithfuls of Jerusalem will run to the road and see him.
It was funny seeing him hang there and fall and his bike roll alone until we came out of the bush laughing at him. We always sold ourselves out and our parents, then young, rained on us. The story became a legend, the perpetrators are heroes even now.
Memories kept coming in, so did the viceroy 5. We stood and danced, the waitress even sat close and listened to the stories. I bet she loved the clique.
We grew fast, swam naked in brown river waters. Ate of wild fruits and leaves, played any childhood game there was then we discovered we had tiny pricks and girls had the complementary. It wasn’t funny though. The girls were bigger than us, maybe five years older. They would beat the hell out of us and told us where to insert, out of fear we inserted and tried to move. When the chance arose, we took off to safety where we could insult them. They called us useless ihiis and swore to do it the following day, funny thing we always turned up.
The endless games and mischief seemed to come to an end when we joined primary school. Back in the days, we went to nursery at eight years. The classes were boring and the teachers were furious. Many dropped out but the ones who remained created clans within and life sparked back. On our way from school which ended at noon we would explore new villages and make new friends. We stole toys and food dishes from one another and that was fun then. We played with old tires, learned to grease them with cow dung and honk with our mouths. Fun was when boys entered the inside of the tire and allowed us to roll him. Breathtaking was when the driver lost control and the tire rolled downhill to the river. Miracles happened when the boy came out alive, dazed and nauseate.
We loved some teachers, others filled our death wish list and became target for our pranks. When the rains came and the grass in the fields became long and lush, a plan to hasten their demise came up. We tied tufts of grass together and made then into barriers one would stumble on and fall. Our plan bore fruits one Wednesday morning parade when one teacher of Kiswahili ran late and came rushing towards the assembly point. A thermos of tea and a hot dish with food hang in her hands as she walked briskly, she ran along the path to the trap and in a moment she was airborne. The thermos and food dish crushed meters away spilling the contents for everyone to see. Her frame landed on a muddy spot face first. Boy, was it hilarious.The senior boys who set the trap led in the cheering, thinking it was funny to all. The headmaster had an off day from teaching that day. Though in pain, vengeance was ours, all was well.
“That tea was tall,” Kim added amidst the laughter and we doubled over in joy again.
We grew in stature, mischief and knowledge. We learnt to take care of our mothers and sisters, to look up to our fathers. Before long we were able to slaughter chicken, feed cattle, milk the cows and even deliver a calf and not until then were we allowed to wear long trousers. Long trousers symbolized maturity and responsibility and also reminded us of the looming rite of passage. We would be made into men who could make important decisions within the society. During such times, my father sat with me under the family tree and spoke earnestly of responsibility and leadership. The old man talked like someone leaving for a long journey and needed someone to fill his void once gone.
“Muriu(son) when we came to this place, we had nothing except the clothes on our bodies and bank credit. I bought this piece of land with savings i had made as a young man and a bank loan. I worked dusk to dawn to keep your three older siblings and mother well and somehow I made it. Much is expected of you too.”
He would pause intermittently to look in the horizon in between the monologue.
I realized that my boyhood was over, and all i could do was to pray that my friends too were in transition. As fate has it, we moved on but some were left behind. The five of us that night had moved on together and it was the sole reason to celebrate,ability to accept and adapt to change.
Shout out to My bigger brothers, Ndun’gu and Wanyiri. A friend Mbeere and all those who hail from the village, you are heroes!