An ode to my grandmother, Ricarda, a daughter of thunder
What you need to know:
- Grandma Ricarda was from an age when marriage was made in heaven like thunder and lightning.
- She called me ‘my husband' when I did something good. This would come with two shillings to attend the agricultural show at Ruring’u, but I would just buy kaimatis.
- The daughter of thunder taught me many things. Lessons included how to make a future Madam Boss stay.
She was the daughter of thunder.
I grew up under her watchful eye, Grandmother Ricarda (you learn many things as an altar boy, such as, Ricarda is the female version of Richard...mama mia!)
Now, grandma Ricarda was from an age when marriage was made in heaven like thunder and lightning. That is so long ago that even the sun has problems remembering. And she did not suffer fools gladly. That is to say, she could tell them to go to hell in such a way that they (fools) would start marching there. It also means she could out-shout the loudest village shrew women. And that also means she could silence thunder. She was a daughter of thunder.
Even the Big Mountain would shiver if Ikanda, as she called herself, was provoked. Yet she would laugh out until the tall Muringa trees along Kagumo River danced to her rolling pearls that would cascade over any noise that tried to block them.
“Hear the daughter of thunder laughing at her husband!” neighbours would come out of their huts to listen to the music. In her youth, she sang the maestro of Tetu. At such times, her husband would only stroke his beard, which was longer than that of Taliban founder, Mullah something Muhammad. I’m named after her husband, and in our culture, I am symbolically a reincarnation of her man. So I was the favourite of her nephews.
She called me ‘my husband' when I did something good. This would come with two shillings to attend the agricultural show at Ruring’u, but I would buy kaimatis for Kamary with the two shillings. The daughter of thunder taught me many things. Lessons included how to make a future Madam Boss stay. But there was also old grandma’s love delivered through the whip to keep me away from the devil's sweet path. The following transgressions would earn me strokes of the cane effectively employed on my sonobeck:
Pinching hot potatoes from her boiling pot when she was not looking, though she had eyes all over. She was the daughter of thunder after all.
Not fetching potato vines for her she-goats, sucking milk from the udder of her goats, talking to Kamary, not talking to Kamary, leaving pullover at school, eating food at neighbours’ place, not eating at neighbours’… Forgetting (the only) underwear at the water pool. Not finishing the daily dollop of ugali and boiled beans. Having livestock on my head and stomach. Getting bribes from bigger boys to pass letters to my elder cousins and my sisters.
The following were cardinal sins: Using her pans to cook mudfish and grasshoppers and eggs of unknown birds. In her religion, these were ritually impure things, and despite Fr Genelio’s years of preaching 1 Timothy 4.4.
I always looked like an aardvark despite her heroic efforts to make like water.
***black box memory**
Now, like all girls and elephants, she never forgot a thing. She had this excellent black box that recorded everything right from when she was a teenager in 1912. So in her 80s, she would download choice lines from the black box onto her husband if he did something silly as boys do.
“Do you remember when the njeremanis showed the Italianos dust at the Karima Hill? eeh? You promised to buy me a lasso and beads: You didn't... And you want now to sell Wacuka… Hello?"
Wacuka was her favourite she goat.
Then one day I listened to their conversation. It was at 10pm around the fireplace. I don’t remember exactly what Ricarda said but I remember grandfather saying, “I will marry another woman…”
“ Yes, since when did you become a priest to marry off women?”
There was silence. I fell asleep.