A Nostalgic Look At My Childhood

I grew up as one of three siblings. I am the oldest and the only girl. I have two younger brothers. They’re 2 and 9 years younger than me. Being 7 years apart didn’t mean they avoided having any issues. They fought very much when we were growing up. No matter how many times our folks told the older brother that it’s never okay to hit his younger brother, he always found a loophole. Pulling his hair, wrestling, slapping him…you name it. He did it. The biggest fights they got into were when he wouldn’t let him play with his stuff. Being the eldest and me being the only girl, I was the one taking care of my brothers. Growing up, they were lousy careless little boys and it became my duty to care for them. It was a duty that I wasn’t compelled to do but that came naturally to me.

As the oldest child I was blamed for everything that my younger brother did, until the youngest was born and was blamed for everything till when he was able to talk. 

I remember the day he was born. I was so excited that I could barely concentrate in class that day. When we got home, tiny baby clothes filled the clothesline. I held him in my arms, his gummy eyes closed. He was impossibly perfect. He was beautiful. I liked to watch him sleep soundly, all snuggled in his bed.

The little boy has been my favorite sibling for a long time. I helped feed and entertain him. I babysat till my mom came home from work (the babysitting served as an excuse not to take afternoon naps). I watched him take his first steps. I carried him on my back, to sleep him off. I carried him till he was 4 years old and couldn’t carry him anymore. He looked at me as a mom, a caretaker, and I didn’t mind a bit. I loved it. I’ve watched him outgrow me and today I look like his little sister.

When he got into highschool, he grew surprisingly tall. I thought he would grow up to be a short man. Grandma always said that he would be tall. And here he is. Tall and handsome, with a deep voice. Every time he comes for holidays, he’s grown taller. Greeting him, I place my hand in his and my ka hand disappears in his. He holds my hand like I’m a young girl. Like I’m Ivan. It’s like someone is pulling him up, from the sky. Hehe. Now I feel like a kid, looking up at him every time I’ve something to say.

I remember that whenever we stepped out of line, the ass-whooping was done (it’s just the way African parents discipline their children). Mom was very strict and was the one who delivered the whippings. It’s not a negative thing, unless you injure the child. And Mom never got to that point. If it was a minor issue, she would give us that look and we knew that we’d crossed the line. That look still scares me today.

But, apart from all the whipping and scolding, the love is tremendous. We weren’t very chatty with our folks but we felt the love. They love us and we know it even though they never say it. The truth lies hidden in little details, they just show it. They are more than willing to make countless sacrifices just to make us comfortable and to make us achieve much more than they did.

However, I must say that I hated my mother on some occassions. Like when she would wake us early on Saturday morning to help with housekeeping chores. What I hated the most was dusting the windows and furniture. When it comes to housekeeping chores, what is more annoying than dust? Dust is everywhere! It seems to enter from fissures and cracks and then settles out on almost everything in sight. A few days without dusting are enough for one to be able to observe fine dust deposited everywhere, especially on dark furniture. I would be cursing till the end! Then after completing our chores, we bathed and they smeared us with Vaseline from head to toe, leaving us shining like diamonds. Hehe.

I’m not a girlie girl by nature, neither am I a tomboy. I’m not sure if it’s my own innate personality. I hated wearing dresses, but mom always bought me dresses. And the clothes she bought for us would be large so we didn’t bug her every often (tukayikuriramo! Hehe). I wanted to be allowed to wear jeans and t-shirts like my brothers. But no matter how much I begged and pleaded, my mom would squeeze me into a dress, always. I’m starting to like dresses now, though I still find them uncomfortable.

Even though I’m the eldest of all but I get to be the princess every day, because there is no one to compete with for that position. Sorry, boys! Hehe. I wouldn’t change a second of how I grew up because I love my spot as the only girl. I was spoiled and protected and still feel that way today. I don’t really feel like I missed out on anything by not having a sister. Personally, I think that anyone that does have sister(s), seem like they have more drama in their lives. Hehe. I don’t really understand sister relationships, I guess. And I don’t think I’d really enjoy sharing the girl spotlight or sharing my special place in my daddy’s heart with another girl. Besides, having a sister would mean sharing my stuff which I’m not yet ready to do! Hehe. Anyways, I have my very close girlfriends who are more like sisters to me. So it balanced out.

Now that we’ve grown up (and don’t risk being whipped any more) we tell our folks the stories and we all laugh.

When I reflect on my childhood, I have to say it was fun.

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Aldo

It’s been almost a month since we last had access to tap water. We miss the sound of running tap water. Usually water would be gone for 2 or 3 days…then would be back and we fill every thing that can hold water before it goes again. But now, we’ve been waiting for the water like Christians are waiting for the second coming. 

Washing clothes, mopping the house, watering the flowers and vegetables are all luxuries we can’t even think of now. 

Dear Tap Water, 

We terribly miss you. Please come back soon.

Sincerely, 

Some desperate users.

To get clean water, we send a boda-boda guy to fetch for us. There’s always a queue of jerrycans waiting to be filled. And only the strongest get to fetch first (survival for the fittest). For others, unless they go at 2 AM (when the fittest are resting. Haha) they can’t even get a drop of water. 

So, some people (abadafite agatuza k’imigeri) opt to use swamp water. Just because they see that the water is clear (and not muddy), they think it’s clean and safe to use. 

Anyways, have you ever found yourself in a bus or taxi seated next to or standing in a line behind a woman with a very cute scented  baby that you can’t help staring at? And it’s not like she’s going to ask you to hold the baby as she looks for its feeding bottle in the bag. Rather, it’ll be the other way round. She’ll lift the bag and ask you to get the bottle for her. Hehe. And why is it that it’s those women with crying babies or babies stinking of urine who always ask you to hold their babies for them?

As she feeds her baby, you be there trying to resist looking at it. Because if you look at it, you’ll end up staring and that would be awkward. So, you look the other way and pretend not to have seen that angelic face. But you soon give in and turn to look at it. You notice the biggest smile and 2 tiny upper teeth which are coming out. 

Has that ever happened to you?

Now that is the precise feeling I got when I first saw Aldo. A cute boy with the most beautiful eyes.

Though I never held him in my arms or carried him on my back, but I ached to do so. The moment I saw him, he caught my heart.

What’s cruel is that he never had the chance to experience life. If he was meant to die so soon why did he even come into the world?

It all started with diarrhoea and throwing up. They took him to umujyanama w’ubuzima who gave him some pills. He didn’t improve and the next day they went back and umunyabuzima wrote them a transfer to the health center. No one thought of rehydrating him because he had diarrhoea and was vomiting. Instead, at the HC he was given the exact same pills and they went back home. But his condition got worse. By time they took him to the hospital, his condition had really worsened. He was put on oxygen. 

The poor baby had gastroenteritis. They may have used the swamp (untreated) water and he must have got it from there. But his life could have been saved if during those two days they spent going to and fro the HC, they’d given him an oral rehydration solution. His condition was treatable and the death preventable.

However, he had his last gasp last Thursday night. His death seems meaningless. It should never have happened. There were many moments where his life could have been saved.

Their lives, which had been so happy and so full of promises 11 months earlier now seemed bleak and grey. Where there once was joy and happiness, is now sadness and pain. They will never watch him sleeping soundly, all snuggled in his bed, again. They will never see him on his first day at school. They will never hear him recite his first poem. All they have are dreams of him. Dreams which will never come true. Because the Lord took him away so soon.

His mother will wake up every morning and think “my baby died”. She will weep and weep until she feels no more tears will come. But they will.

She’ll ache to hold him, to hear his voice, to see his face. She won’t look at a baby without her eyes filling with tears. Tears for the loss of her baby, Aldo. All she’ll feel will be emptiness and an ache that she has never felt before. 

Knowing that she won’t ever get the chance to watch her son grow is the most pain of all. No parent should ever have to lose their child, not this way or any other way.

Though he lived only 11 months, he was loved so very much.

Sleep in peace, Aldo.