Africa · Childhood · Drunks · Kenya · Kiambu · Memoires · Short story · We've All Done It

A letter to Miki

Happy birthday Miki,

I remember when I turned 8, a long time ago.

I was a wee little thing, the smallest in my class. I loved my friends and school and laughed a lot. They called me fun-size! I didn’t say much to adults.  I learned not to attract attention and to try and stay out of their way. Children weren’t supposed to say much.

At the Four Corners that marked the halfway point of my long walk home after school was an open air market. Women spread out their  lesos on the red dirt and laid their wares on them, mostly succulent tropical fruit.

I carried a huge orange backpack that my brother Mick had given me and wore braces on my teeth. People stared at me and shameless women would say, “Look at that minikin with a massive bag and wires in her teeth.” One loud woman said it every day! She was enormous and wore a dirty wrinkled headscarf to contain and hide her lumpy unkempt hair, which stuck out the edges as though it was trying to run away from her.  She chewed on sugar cane and loudly slurped its sweet juice. She stared at me unabashedly and intelligently, the way a black cow stares vacantly at passers by beyond a fence as she chews the cud.

I would never buy sugar cane from her. Not this minikin! Her space was dirty and unkempt like her hair. She spit her dry sugar cane fibers right on the ground and the ants had a party. With the shilling that mum had given me that morning, I would buy a mango from the lady two lesos down . If Jane Munio walked home with me, we would stop at Mrs. Kimana’s grocery shop and buy a strawberry sweet to suck on the rest of the way home. We would lick our dry lips with the delicious syrup and slurp our sweet at the annoying lady.

“Greet you mother for me,” Mrs. Kimana would say with a warm smile when I stepped up to the worn concrete step, gawking and salivating at the row of pretty sweets in large glass jars. I stood on tippy-toe and streeeetched to hand her my shilling when I made my choice.  She gave me an extra sweet. A cheap one with no wrapping on it. I would eat that one first. Sometimes she’d say, “That’s a very big rucksack for a small girl.” I’d smile and cover my mouth in a futile attempt to hide my braces, that were as discreet as a highway billboard in my mouth. She never said I had wires in my teeth. I seldom remembered to greet  mum and Mrs. Kimana would chide me gently when she came to visit mum and learned I didn’t deliver her greetings.

Sometimes it would rain hard and Mrs. Kimana would let us shelter under the canopy at her shop. The monsoon rain only dumped for a few minutes at a time. Like a sudden plague of frogs, people would scamper in all directions, jumping over puddles that formed in the potholes in the street. Stylish women strutting down the road one minute, set aside all dignity at the first raindrop and scurried as if for their lives to find cover so their hair didn’t get wet. Some even took off their tight high heels and ran to join the crowd under a tree or Mrs. Kimana’s cover. I weasled my way to the back of the crowd to make room, though I didn’t occupy much, and to avoid statements like, “If that little girl didn’t have such a big bag we could fit two more people here.”

Jane and I would look at each with glee as we relished our sweets. Sometimes we took them out of our mouths and held them in our hands in joyful disbelief at their intense goodness. Such goodness as had to be tasted AND seen. We showed them to each other in wonder and studied each others. Sometimes we looked at each other knowingly, wide-eyed, and without words, traded the sticky mess in our dirty palms. More wide-eyed our jaws dropped at the intoxicating blend of flavors. We finished off the sacred ritual by licking the remaining syrup on our hands. That. was. amazing!

When the rain abated, we would thank Mrs. Kimana and attempt, unsuccessfully, to walk  lightly on the red mud and not get it all over our light blue and white checkered school uniform. Little rivulets would flow and we hopped over those and the puddles, giggling delightedly. I still remember the fresh smell of the charged air. Sometimes thunder would roll in the distance and Jane and I would scream and bolt when the loud lightning cracked.

We held sticky hands and crossed the busy road then unconsciously slowed our pace and stopped. We leered curiously at Mr. Washington’s property. At the front was a small butchery. The butcher hacked away expertly at the carcass that hung from the hook in the rafters, his long sharp machete  glistening like the lightning, and flashing back and forth as fast. His torn white coat was covered in black and red blood stains and he didn’t bother to shoo the flies feasting on the goat meat in the afternoon heat. The sticky tape on the ceiling was dotted with mostly dead flies, like raisins. Some were still buzzing, determined to get away from the trap if they had to leave their six legs on it.  He held a thin home-made cigarette in his mouth and sang loudly through the side of his mouth, like Popeye, accompanying music from a static-y bright green radio behind the counter.

Beyond the butchery was our real object of interest. Loud rhythmic music was coming from a bar. It was a large, dimly lit room from which the odious stench of stale beer emanated. It was a smell we knew was putrid but couldn’t help raising our noses to get a small whiff of. It was horrid, just like the day before. It was helped only by the waft of roasting goat meat.

We leaned in and saw people in various stages of drunkenness and ogled at what they were doing. We stretched our necks wondering who we might recognize. We were especially entranced with drunk women. Patrons staggered about, their eyes at half mast. We thought it was so funny to watch their bobble-heads lolling sluggishly over their limp bodies, their eyes tracking four seconds behind as they ordered yet another Tusker. Their speech slurred and incomprehensible like they had rocks in their mouth.

We lived to see a drunk person staggering out of the building and maybe falling. Or to hear one attempt to give a speech, their wagging forefinger pontificating in slow motion. This was to punctuate a very important point which they surprisingly forgot partway through their discourse. They stood in a stupor, leaning too far to one side and swaying dangerously,  hoping the important point would come back to them. It never did. “Anyway,” they would say, their heavy head suddenly jolting forward, opening their eyes very wide and staring at their hand that was still in the air, as though wondering what it was doing up there.

“What are you looking at?” the butcher would shatter our shenanigans, scaring us out of our skins. We screamed like school girls and ran, scared silly, as though all the drunks were chasing us, and I would think, “I really need a smaller bag.”

I wonder what kind of mischief you’ll get into on your short walk home. Eight is a wonderful age. Cherish your friends.

I love you dearly,

Aunty Hannah.

In memory of my precious bosom buddy Jane Muniu who died too young. I thank God for your sweet short life.


Insomnia · Poetry · Sleeplessness · Uncategorized

Dreaming Right About Now


I’d rather be dreaming but I don’t know how

It was all going great till I had to pee

I’ve had Melatonin and Sleepy Time Tea

My work pile’s  a mile high and awaits only me

I’d rather be dreaming right about now.


I’d rather be dreaming, heavy hangs the brow

but a rogue thought sparked and a fire it stoked

and all the peace and quiet, is successfully provoked

though I chased it down, and wrestled it, its mercy I invoked

I’d rather be dreaming, but I don’t know how.


I’d rather be dreaming right about now

Seems 2 AM was ten hours ago, and now 3:56.

I lie here exhausted, I’ve emptied my bag of tricks,

Send a man to the moon, but this I can’t fix

I’d rather be dreaming… so heavy hangs the brow…

African · Christian · Faith · Kenyan · Kikuyu · Legacy · Poetry · Uncategorized


Ngarana Tata Wangarî wa Magû,

Augire atîrî,

“Angîkorwo ndûrî Jesû,

Ndûrî kîndû ûrî.

Angîkorwo ndûi Jesu,

Ndûri kîrîa ûî.”

Naniî ngauga,

“Angîkorwo nîûrî Jesû,

Ndûrî kîndû ûtarî.

Angîkorwo nîûî Jesû,

Ndûrî kîndû ûtoî.”

(Calling all Kikuyus: It is lamentable that many Kikuyu are unable to read in their native tongue. I aim to increase Kikuyu readership by composing, inspiring and collecting new, provocative works in that beautiful language. Wangari wa Ngara)


Mûbete: A young Kikuyu woman in traditional garb.

(Image from Retrieved 3/14/18)


Aging · Caregiving · Dad · Daughters · Elderly · Family · Grief · Relationships · sad · Short story · Tribe

The One You’re With

I’ve heard it said that if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.

The two captivating desires of elderly residents I’ve cared for over the years have been to be in their own home and to have family visit everyday and care for them. They are almost obsessive desires. My job security rests on the fact that these two desires can’t be met. It’s fascinating to me that while they wish their loved ones were caring for them, I too have a secret desire: to be back home caring for my elderly father. Unfortunately today is not the day for that dream to come true.

The ironic flip side of that coin is that while these residents love their family members dearly, the majority of them, when it comes down to it, wouldn’t really want their family taking care of them. I’ve heard the lines: She’s so impatient… She’d rather die than wipe my butt… He’s always been so selfish… She’s so rough…. They are actually grateful that the family isn’t caring for them.

Well, there’s a flip side to my desire too. Dad is difficult. And demanding. And selfish. He has to be the boss and things have to go his way. He is loud and has the worst boundaries in the world. It’s a good thing he has a great sense of humor and can take a good jab when he goes too far.

AND he raised me. I don’t necessarily owe him, seeing as I didn’t ask to be born and raised, but I remember he put himself out repeatedly, faithfully, deeply (did I say loudly?), so that I had the best I possibly could. I remember all  that demonstrated consistently from the time I was knee high to that mountain of a man. He was on time for my appointments, present for my rehearsals and performances, involved in my education, drove me to college hours away so he’d see where I’d be.

And when I boarded a plane to fly across the world, he held me close and told me I was strong, and the Lord was with me, and that he’d be praying for me. And when I graduated he flew 10,000 miles to see for himself the first of his children to receive a university degree. He spent the whole time jet-lagging and trying to work out the cramps in his long legs from the long trip, and finally on the great graduation morning, he landed in the hospital with pneumonia. When he wasn’t kidding with and bossing the nurses, he was apologizing for missing my big day.

Two weeks later he walked me down the aisle and held me close again, and reminded me I was strong, and the Lord was with me, and he’d be praying for me. And that he was ever so proud of me.

We talk on the phone a couple times a month. I call him Daddy Blue. He calls me Mummy Blue. ( See the story behind the Blue Four years later he flew to my grad school graduation and was ever so proud. He wore his favorite blue shirt, strutted like a peacock, spoke louder than normal, and looked so handsome.


I think I’m his favorite and he doesn’t know he’s my favorite. He’s my first thought when I wake up in the night. I think of him throughout my day. So why am I not there checking his medications as he takes them, slowly massaging his stump, holding his barf bag when he needs it, and sitting in on his doctors appointments? Why am I not there trimming his nails, reading Psalms to him, soaking in his amazing wisdom, and laughing at his fabulous stories?

Why am I here instead, doing your mother’s pretty nails, massaging her stump, hearing her awesome stories for the hundredth time, making her favorite dessert, looking through her picture books, and tucking her in at night with the pink and purple blanket just the way she likes it, with the little pillow over the long pillow angled just so?

I can only pray that the one who’s caring for dad knows he likes the lighter sheet off to the side so he can pull it over him if it gets cold at night and water set close to but not blocking the clock. And that wherever you are, you are taking the time to help the lady get across the street, or telling the kids that little Teddy doesn’t want them pushing his wheelchair any more. Or that you’re checking books out diligently at the library where you work, and teaching class in a fun and engaging way. That you’re being extra humane as you pick up the garbage on your work route, raise your babies at home, and as you do brain surgery on your patients, or fill tanks with gas, do landscaping, or adjudicate cases.

All this while I am with the one who would rather be with you; while I can’t be with the one I would rather be with. That’s the way of the Global Tribe.

Caregiving · Lies

Soggy Diaper

One might think I’m turning into a crusty caregiver, but truth be told, this applies more to the more abled than those I get to care for…


no bs

Your China-made faux fur is no American-mink

Attempting a straight-faced most pathetic dupe.

You have me cross-eyed with your doublethink

Don’t tell me you farted when what you did was poop!


Your phenomenal performance is a lousy lip sync.

You’re spinning excuses & tall-tales in a loop.

But you’re poor at Herculian attempts to hoodwink,

Don’t tell me you farted when what you did was poop!


Why won’t it pass, this horrendous stink?

Someone is shovelling it, scoop after scoop.

Fancy footwork, smooth talk, complete with a wink,

Don’t tell me you farted when what you did was poop!



Attraction · Hopelessness · Marriage · Relationships

And Then There’s Us

They sit there giggling,

staring into each others eyes,

whispering empty nothings.


They talk easily  for hours on end

obviously relishing each others company.


And then there’s us.


They take on life together,

tackle trouble and relinquish it.

Determined, sure, secure.


And then there’s…


Us wondering, doubting, struggling.

Choosing to stay,

in this, the mature work of intimacy,

when the spark is gone.

On a path lit by growth upon difficult growth,

and depth of love.

So at the end of the day,

there will be…


Image retrieved from on March 7th, 2018

Death · Grief · Sighing Companion · Uncategorized

My Sighing Companion

When the darkness set in with my heart-rending news,

with pain beyond my imagination,

my numb body knew just whom to drag itself to.

You became my Sighing Companion.

I didn’t need words.

One can’t hear words

with an  unhinged heart.

Blinded by stinging tears,

my world jarred, jolted.

I knew I’d staggered into the right arms,

To you, my Sighing Companion.

(Image from

retrieved February 26, 2018)

Aging · Attraction · Body image · Gardening · Women

such pretty stretch marks

Such pretty stretch marks!

have you ever said that?

how does one appreciate them?

gingerly,  once one gets past the revolting discovery of their presence.


Take a rose, for instance.

how plain she’d be without those streaks.

how seductively she sways those hips.

how she teases with her intoxicating aroma.

close your eyes and

see her delicate petals prettified by the venation that gives her life.

such pretty stretch marks…


Dancing on the Beach

Picture Of Clip Art Of Old Lady

I care for a delightful 100 year old I’ve known since she was 98.

Jean grew up in a small beach town in a house full of kids. She has many fond memories of her family. She also loves the beach and talks about it frequently,  in her signature high-pitched voice. She remembers coming home from school, rushing through her homework and spending many a leisurely evening on the beach, roasting marshmallows with friends, till well after dark.

One of my favorite stories goes as follows: “We had a large living room overlooking the ocean. I loved dancing. I would turn on the music and sing at the top of my lungs while I danced all over that room,” she says, throwing out her wrinkled arms expressively and shaking her stiff hips while her eyes twinkle.

“I imagined it was my stage and everyone on the beach was watching and applauding. I must have moved them to tears. I always thought to myself, ‘Why would anyone be at the beach when they could be up here dancing?’”

Here she pauses,  leans forward slowly, and pokes me hard with a a crooked finger, “Then one day I went down to that beach, and I-never-danced-again,” she punctuates in a hush!

I love that story. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times.

You can imagine my dismay one day, when I walked in on the tail end of my co-worker animatedly telling  a captive audience a great story that Jean shared. “…I always thought, ‘Why would anyone be dancing when they could be down here playing on the beach? Then one day, I danced in that room. And I never-went-back -to-that-beach,” she said in a hush.

I was dumbfounded. She had heard it all wrong and I proceeded to correct her right there and then, “No Kay, she was dancing and wondering why anyone would be at the beach…” She looked at me with a pretty odd look on her face. “No, she tells ME this story at least once a week. She used to play on the beach and wonder why anyone would be dancing in a house when they could be playing on the beach,” she finished with conviction.

What on earth? Has she deliberately been telling us 2 different stories for 2 years?

Clip art retrieved from:

on 11/8//17

African · Anxiety · Autobiography · Childhood · Corporal punishment · Daughters · Family · Fear · horror · Kenyan · Kids · Parenting · Short story · Spanking

Panacea for Bashful Pupils

Image result for 1973 GTV FREE IMAGE

I bolted towards dad as soon as I saw his car in the parents’ parking line at Muthaiga Primary School. There weren’t any cars left. I hopped in beside him and settled into the edge of the seat with my massive orange rucksack still on my back. My feet barely touched the floor and my fingers braced my little body from slamming into the dashboard.

I was full of information and it was a while before I noticed he wasn’t talking much as he wound around the scenic road on the way home. “What’s this for?” I asked, making conversation, pointing to a straight green twig sitting on the dash.

It all started innocently enough. School got out at 3.15 pm and the huge mass of kids spilled out of classrooms. Those that were being picked up from school gathered behind the yellow line several meters from the main gate. Beyond that, parents were to park and walk through the gate to pick up their students. It was a great time to catch up with friends and always a little sad to watch them leave one by one. It was always best to be picked up somewhere in the middle. That way you had time to play but weren’t last to be picked up. The line monitor was a strict teacher with a huge belly. His belt seemed to hang on to the straining hem of his shirt for dear life.  He marched back and forth along the yellow line, looking for errant feet to whack back with his yard stick.

This Friday afternoon, a spectacle unfolded. A bright shiny red sports car sped past the parents’ line, revved its engine and squealed past the gate. Its driver impressively spun a tight U-turn  in the compact space, kicking up rocks and dust before coming to a screeching halt. The line monitor had to duck for his life but he composed himself and walked up to the car, obviously to tell the driver this was not the place to wait for kids. I watched with bated breath, expecting him to whack the fancy car with his yard stick. I noticed him talking to the driver who stepped out holding a rag and began to proudly buff the car. Pretty soon they were chatting it up and a small crowd gathered around the beauty to admire it, all thoughts of rules and yellow lines now out the window.

I swallowed hard and my eyes threatened to pop when I caught sight of the driver and realized it was my uncle Steve. This was terrible. He was beaming and showing off his new 1973 GTV. I wanted to die and must have shrunk to half my size with embarrassment. My heart was pounding in my ears and I feared I would faint. I swallowed hard and ducked behind a small group of taller kids when I saw him panning the crowd. I knew he was looking for me.

I was transfixed, cemented to the ground, the pounding in my ears getting louder and louder. This was the worst day of my life. What a terrible thing to do to a ten year old. What was I going to do? One thing was for sure, I couldn’t walk out there and very well get into that car. I tried, I stared at my dirty shoes, that just this morning I’d polished till they shone. I willed my tiny two-ton feet to move, but they were cemented to the ground. I looked bashfully around me and noticed with horror that, with time, the crowd was getting smaller and smaller as kids were picked up. I studied and memorized every crevice in every nail on my trembling fingers.

After what felt like an eternity, I jerked my head up in surprise as I heard the infamous engine roar to life. I mechanically tilted my head 2 degrees to the right and about screamed for joy as he peeled out, leaving his admirers in a cloud of dust. I breathed a full breath and my feet came to life, breaking into a happy dance. ‘Thank you Jesus!’ I muttered, ever so grateful, oblivious to  a small gang of boys beside me driving their imaginary sports cars, screeching as they shifted their gears.

After another eternity, just a handful of kids stood behind the line. No cars lined the parent parking line. I’d never been there that late. This couldn’t be good. I was hungry and very tired. ‘I hope I don’t have to sleep here,’ I thought to myself, looking around for where I might nest if I needed to. All of a sudden, my heart leaped when I saw dad pulling up. I’d never been happier. I grabbed my dusty cardigan off the ground and flew past the yellow line before he could get out of the car.

I hopped in beside him and settled into the edge of the seat with my massive orange rucksack still on my back. My feet barely touched the floor and my fingers braced my little body from slamming into the dashboard.

I was full of information and it was a while before I noticed he wasn’t talking much as he maneuvered the scenic road on the way home. “What’s this for?” I asked, making conversation, pointing to a straight green stick sitting on the dash.

“Did you see your uncle Steve at the school?” He asked quietly.

“Ya.” I answered quickly.

“Did you know he was there to pick you up?” He persisted.

“Ya,” I said less quickly.

“How long was he there?”

“A long time.” I murmered, going back to studying my nails.

“Why did you not go to him?” He was getting quieter and slower in his speech.

This was not going to be good. Needless to say, the stick was a switch, fresh-picked just for me. I jumped and screamed to the rhythm of a sound whipping, punctuated by, “This,” Whap! “Will,” Whap! “Teach you to hide,” Whap! “When-I-send-someone-to-get-you,” Whap! “And-waste-my-time” Whap! “Having-to-stop-what-I’m-doing-so-I-can-come-get-you-myself.” Whap, whap, whap!”