Granny has always been quite religious.
On some Sundays she was that woman with a yellow head wrap and a basket of maize or beans in her basket for her 10% of first fruits from her farm, heading to mid-morning mass.
Due to her good standing in her church, it also meant we had to behave. Once or twice I would go to her Catholic Church but generally we had an understanding, I could go into whatever Church as long as I was back by 4pm.
If I came at 4.01, I had to be escorted home by her friend’s daughters. I only ever visited this one homestead but regardless, curfews were curfews.
On one of those special mass Sundays when I went with her, Granny was up early looking for a plastic bottle. She got a juice bottle and cleaned it and dried in the utensils’ rack. At church, it was refilled with Holy water.
After Church we went to – makumbusho- the best hotel in Endarasha then and had tea and mandazi. Everything else was forgotten as I watched the waiter swirling my tea in a pan to cool it down. It had bubbles as it was poured into my cup. I still like bubbles in tea. Grown-ups drunk their tea from glasses.
I am not sure what the Holy water was for, whether she sprinkled it around the house, bathed in it or sipped a little everyday but truth is I forgot all about it.
One hot afternoon coming from school, the sun was hot and down the path, the hot moist air rose in wisps. The butterflies danced across my path as I kicked clods of earth in front of me, completely lost in thought dreaming of worlds I would yet discover. When I reached the junction- Mĩteero- my grandmother’s friend’s daughters were in the farm and called out to me.
-Good girl of Nyawĩra, please run home and bring us some tea-
I was bought.
I wanted to be a good girl.
Usually it was:
Kĩirĩtu kĩa Nyawĩra, or ndũrĩka ya mwana in the same sentence.
Our home is about 10 minutes from this junction so I run. No one was within the homestead and I didn’t want to call about and be delayed. I changed into home clothes and of course there was tea in every kettle; tea with sugar, sugarless tea and nylon (milk, water and sugar).
I picked up the sugared tea but realized it was pouring from the spout. I needed a container that would reduce spills. A search up and down the houses found me a two litre plastic bottle. I smelled it, it didn’t contain Kerosine just water, perfect.
I emptied the water at the base of the plum tree that grew next to the granary and refilled it with tea. My mother had planted the plum tree so I favoured it. I locked the house, the gate to the farm, the gate into the compound and delivered the tea pleased with my self-sacrificing acts of kindness and generosity.
The following afternoon I skipped home from school. It was Friday and I was happy about all the things that awaited me. I could plant things, play with the cat, feed the rabbits, let the dog chase me around the farm, cook chapo in shoe polish tins behind the house…aahh nice. But the dream went poof when granny appeared from behind the water tank, looking like WW11.
-Eh, so you have become the tea supplier-?
Yes- Aunt nani asked me to bring them-
-Eh, how many cows did you have to milk?
-But there was a lot of tea-
-I’m not concerned about the tea. This! She shouted pointing to an empty plastic bottle. It was in an uchumi supermarket plastic bag-
-o, it was brought back?- I asked brightening up.
I had thought perhaps she was mad because I forgot to bring it back.
I was very confused at this point. Which water? But of course I could not ask that, grandmother’s questions were rhetorical unless you had the correct answer.
And as I stood there trying to understand why all of a sudden giving away tea was such an issue, I felt pinches start to wash all over my body.
-I’m asking where you put the water!-
-I,,,I poured it there-
-You poured my water under the plum tree?!-
I recoiled from the bottle, was there an upcoming drought?
-Me, you child you scare me. That water we got it very well from Church together. And then you come and pour it. Do you have satan? Do you have demons?
Oh no, I now remembered. Holy water , yes, I really was a bad child.
More pinching came
I said- I forgot-
Woi, I should have kept quiet.
-You forgot! Do you forget to drink tea? Eh? You forgot, forgetting is as good as negligence-
The proverbs came, more pinches, more how thankless sort of a child I was.
I just kept quiet and hang my head low. I felt bad. If I knew where the main Mũbĩa lived I could have tried to approach him for a bottle refill.
I think that water had been a one off thing, it must have cost quite a bit too coz I never saw the likes of it ever again.
Kĩriganĩro no ta ũtũrĩka- forgetting is as good as being negligent
When you forget things, you are being negligent. I guess this applies to important things. You should try to remember those things that have an effect.