I remember as a child watching mesmerized as my mother stitched anything by hand, “It is called a Backstich”; “a running stitch”; “a chain stitch”, she would answer, when I proded.. She was so consistent, every stitch was identical to the one before. So patient, swift and accurate, I wondered if I would ever sew like that. At the time, I imagined that she was just doing her motherly duties, stitching, sewing, cleaning, disciplining.
My mother wore many hats, she ran a knitting business and supplied the whole town with beautiful knitted sweaters, she didn’t sew much because it wasn’t her core business- that was keeping chicken which people came to buy from far and wide.. Still, that was not all, she taught in Secondary Schools far far away, at the time she didn’t tell us how far, and even if she did, we simply couldn’t comprehend the magnitude of her hard work. She taught in Isinya (a small town a few kilometers shy of Namanga) from where she commuted to our home in Athi River on a daily basis! Previously, she had taught in Machakos and even in Taita Hills… WOW! I know this now, and yet here I am thinking I am a hard worker?!
My mother is a H.A.R.D Worker! She taught us to work work work! A virtue I am forever grateful to her for, infact I may have inherited the trait. To date she still keeps chicken for sale, I have watched her slaughter hundreds of them on order and fifteen minutes later be ready to host a party of fifty or to head out for a social visit! Call it multitasking, but I think it’s simply admirable, for many a time I have grown wary from my much fewer obligations. I wonder how she does it? I remember still how she kept a ‘shamba garden’ in our backyard, sooo industrious.
Today in our desperate attempts to keep up the facade of a young modern generation, few of us own compounds (albeit by default, as landlords maximise on quarter acres barely remembering to spare some parking space). I dare say, even fewer will keep shamba gardens in our small front lawns when we do eventually acquire that coveted quarter acre. I hope I shall recall the lessons from watching my mother, that industry is not wasted, it may not return in cash, but certainly in kind…
We still occasionally run into students my mother taught, they recall her with such fondness, rather than reverence. I am often surprised, for my mother- the teacher was always revered growing up. As an adult I now see more of the compassionate teacher, the listener, the caregiver and the one who empathizes with me after a tough day’s work. More than anyone, she knows my pain, my determination to defy the challenges and limitations of being in a difficult business. I am glad I can call her for encouragement, she scolds me back to reality; and it works!
I remember once, she gifted me a T-Shirt branded by one of her suppliers, she is such a cheerful giver- oblivious of what It may mean for a Teenager to wear a T-shirt branded “Chicken Feeds”. Once I wore it to a swimming competition. Between heats, a girl haughty with pompous pride (u know those), came up to me in the changing rooms and tapped me on the back. “So.. arr.. is Chicken Feeds.. arrr… lyyk… the School You go to?” What?!!! How dare you? I wanted to respond with “I come from a loooong long line of Kenya High School girls and I have my mother to thank for that!” But, as humility is a rare disposition and a strong weapon in the face of bullies, I gave her the eye… Another lesson from my mother.
And with that, may you face your challengers will sturdy humility and silent pride, knowing your worth and holding firmly to the belief that your blessing will come… may be not in cash, but in kind and the many favours of God. Thanks MUM, may you continue to be blessed and highly favoured.