Thursday, May 15, 2014

It’s My Birthday: A Trip Down The Memory Lane

On a day like today (13th May), many… many years ago, a young couple; Kamau and Wanjiru brought to the world a beautiful bouncing baby girl. Their only daughter after a series of 26 (read 2) boys. The little girl was their epitome of joy. They named her Naomi which according to the Holy Bible means; My Joy; Beautiful; Agreeable. 

As she grew up and learned how to stagger around (kids don’t walk. They stagger) and utter words, Kamau nicknamed her ‘kairitu kaseo gatumbi’ or ‘Girl Good small egg’ in English. Do not ask me what sort of a nickname that is. Wherever she went with her mum and people asked for her name, she would always answer them boldly in her sweet soprano voice, “Njitagwo Naomi (Insert any kikuyu name) Kairitu Kaseo Gatumbi” (My name is Naomi (Insert a Kikuyu Name) Girl Good Small Egg). She was her father’s daughter.

Fast forward 110 years later, today; the girl is Naomi John. The world calls her Naomi. Friends call her Nash. Close friends call her Kaseo. Yeah. She ditched ‘kairitu’ and ‘gatumbi’ (wharathose) but retained ‘Kaseo’. It’s Kamba for Kazuri. The good one. Because she’s that good.   And so ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce myself; I am Naomi John Nash Kaseo. And today is my birthday. I am celebrating.

It’s 8.36 pm. I’m all alone in my tiny house. Maybe a few cockroaches and one or two crickets waiting for me to turn off the lights so that they can soothe me to sleep with their sweet melody. No cake. No candles. No friends. No enemies. No family. Just me. Weird way of celebrating my birthday? Not at all. I love it this way. It’s a good time to take a trip down the memory lane. To celebrate the good, the bad and the painful that this life has handed me. Today is my birthday. I am celebrating.

I will share with you 5 incidents in my life that have contributed to the person I am today.

When I was in class five, one of my teachers pointed out something to me. I was unique. Not like anyone else in my class. I had a tiny, sharp, annoying and deafening soprano voice. She hated it. She loathed it. She despised me for it. She couldn’t stand me reading out anything in class. And so whenever I innocently raised my hand to answer questions in class, she would shout at me (in Kikuyu), “Naomi, when you grow up and stop speaking like a small baby, only then will you be eligible to speak in my class.” She was right. All my other classmates (female) had ‘normal’ voices. None spoke like me. This made me develop a habit of speaking to myself; to train myself on how to speak like a ‘normal’ human being. I would hold conversations, not on my head but real conversations. Like a crazy person. I would create five characters, all speaking in different accents and voices, so as to try and figure out which spoke the best and adopt the voice. It never worked though. I still have my soprano voice. But it contributed to something; MY SCRIPTWRITING SKILLS. I still talk to myself today. It helps me when writing down dialogue. I can hold a 90 minutes conversation with me multitasking as 5 characters. Lost? Today is my birthday. I am celebrating.

In high school, I was diagnosed with Asthma. I went to this provincial school in Nyeri that nobody knows about. And yes, I’M NOT A NYERI WOMAN! It was located in one of the cold regions of central province known as Gataragwa. This made my struggle with Asthma so hard because most of the time it was cold and misty. But I was not so troubled with the asthma because I was always covered in a heavy jacket, leg warmers and a scarf. But there was this one teacher who made me feel terrible about my condition. I hated him. Any time I coughed in class, the sound made by my chest would shake the entire school. This teacher always told me harshly to stop distracting his class. This really lowered my spirit and prompted me to start praying. I asked God to take away the disease and miraculously I got healed after completing my high school. This helped build my TRUST IN GOD and today I’m a firm believer that He gives us what we ask for. Do I still hate the teacher? Today is my birthday. I am celebrating.

After completing high school, my aunt invited me to work in her hotel in Nyahururu… She sent me to the kitchen department. I and my entire ego were so mad at first. I thought I was going to be a waitress or a better title! A cook was not what I had in mind! But reflecting back, I’m grateful because it turned out to be a life changing experience. I learnt all cookeries. Men, take notes… This girl can make any pastry and prepare all the dishes in the world like Spaghetti bolognese. Anyway, 2 months to the job, I was involved in a fatal fire accident. A jar of spirit exploded and the spirit spilled all over my clothes and hair. I was in fire! I was a walking burning bush. You remember I mentioned I have a sharp soprano voice, right? The scream I let out was heard across Antarctica. To cut the long story short, I sustained several 2nd degree burns and one 3rd degree burn on my body and was bedridden for 2 months. Upon getting better, I went back to the same restaurant but this time as a waitress! Exciting! There was one issue though; the uniform had to be a skirt. I couldn’t wear skirts because it was hard for me to expose to the entire world my ugly and deadly scars. I thought it was shameful. Nobody would want to be served by someone in scars! A friend gave me a solution. I wore stockings under my skirt to cover up my ugly scars. And since that was the season stockings became a fashion statement, everyone loved me! They thought… Mmmhh... This girl is stylish. But only a few people and I knew what I was hiding. My shame. I spent sleepless nights thinking that I would never get a husband! A young high school leaver thinking about who would marry her. It was that serious! One day when having a conversation with myself, I decided it was time I got over myself. It was time I got over my self-pity. There would be no more hiding. It was time I allowed myself to be me. A time to let the world love me for me and not for what they thought I was. Thich Nhat Hanh said, “To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” I ditched the stockings. I remember my first day at work without the stockings, customers were all whispers. Some pitied me, others told me how brave I was while the small-minded ones refused my services. One actually went to our boss’ office and inquired why they had hired a HIV + waitress. It hurt but it didn’t pull me down. He apologized after learning the story behind the ugly scars. When I went to college, some guys thought so too; that I was HIV +. That’s crazy, right? But the sweet ones thought the scars were either backfired tattoos or very artistic tattoos.  Well, this is not a heart to heart post, so I will go back to my point. My ugly deadly scars are still with me today. But they taught me one thing; BEING COMFORTABLE IN MY OWN SKIN. They have given me SELF CONFIDENCE. They have taught me to accept my flaws and imperfections. Where others see scars, I see perfection and beauty. Today is my birthday. I am celebrating.

It’s 9:52 pm. I can hear my bed calling. I’m torn between ignoring the call and surrendering to the call; the latter wins. There are other things that have contributed to who I am today but I will probably write them down on my 111th birthday. I am Naomi John Nash Kaseo. I am my father’s daughter. Today is my birthday. I am celebrating. 

PS: I didn't follow any grammar rules today because Today is my birthday. I am celebrating.