When I was young, I used to see women, mainly mothers carrying many bags in their hands and I used to wonder –what’s wrong with them? When returning home from work in the evening, you would see many mothers (mathe’s) walking slowly, heavily weighed by all sorts of paraphernalia in their hands and on their heads.
Back then, our parents taught us to help out any adult you see in such a situation. The days when children were disciplined and courteous and respectful. So the disciplined, courteous and respectful kids that we were used to quickly rush to whichever mother it was and help them with their bags and baskets as we escorted them home. And while doing so, they would always ask us how school was and what number we were last term (why did EVERY parent used to ask that?). Then we would proceed to enter into their houses with them as though we were their kids. Sometimes we would even help them unpack stuff, such as putting milk in the fridge, bread in the kabati, and fruits in a small basket hapo juu ya fridge. The good thing is that these mothers would often ‘reward’ us with something small for our good deed. It could be with a banana, an orange, a mango, a ball gum or a goody-goody. Those were the days when any mum was your mum, and your mum was everyone else’s mum. Good days those were. Anyway, I always wondered why mathe’s would always have so many bags with them when heading home, as though they were a mandatory accessory. I always used to think of them as ‘those old women’ with so much luggage. In my child’s mind, I used to see them as people who never had a life because all they did was carry boring luggage day in day out. Like their life was all about paperbags and baskets. Nothing exciting in their lives, I thought.
But over the last couple of weeks since I resumed work, reality is slowly checking in as I begin to realize that I am now ‘that mathe’. Nowadays, I get home with my arms full of stuff. A handbag, a laptop, groceries, newspapers, a flask, lunchbox, breast pump paraphernalia, expressed milk, fruits, house stuff I needed to top up from the supermarket, drycleaned laundry…..it’s always one thing or the other. I always have paperbags and paperpags of stuff. If you see me enter the house in the evening, you would think I have been away on a three week safari. Now, let’s not even talk about the days when I have been out with Kitty. His stuff alone would fill a whole suitcase!
Oh dear, I’m I now ‘that mathe’? Have I now become that woman who doesn’t seem to have a life because all I do is carry boring luggage day in day out? Like my life is all about paperbags and baskets? Thank God we don’t have kids around the apartment I stay because I suspect that’s what they would be thinking of me. Reminds me of that methali that goes something like the firewood atop the ceiling in the kitchen laughing at the firewood that is already in the fire. It doesn’t know that it will soon be lighting the fire too. If only I knew I would be the firewood lighting the fire someday.
Meanwhile, my buddy Miss Babes tells me the same reality sank in four years ago when she started her family. She’s ‘advising’ me to get used to it – that it will become part of my normal life as a mother. She tells me that her – she usually has no less than 7 bags and paperbags everyday when going home. And that the hardest part is when she is in the matatu where balancing them all is always a tricky act. So she usually places two of them on her laps, two under her armpits, two on the floor between her legs, and finally her handbag on her chest. Then she has to live through the side eye darts given to her by the young lady seated next to her carrying a handbag the size of a clutch bag, struggling to unsuccessfully push herself away from Miss Babes and her ‘issues’. I guess when the pretty young thing alights and meets with her friends, she tells them she has just lived through hell in the mathree seating next to ‘this mathee’ with a hundered and one paperbags. Then she says msschhheeeew as they all chorus:
“Aki those mathee’s si they’re so boring! Why can’t they just shop over the weekend or buy their own cars’? Mssschhhheeeww!” You see – these are the firewoods I was talking about.
So as I think of my life with my paperbags now, I have a good laugh because these are the little things that continue making my life today all the more interesting. Life I tell you!