Market days at Kawangware were on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It was the closest market to our digs. My Mum made the trip there for grocery shopping and the posho mill (I’ve just paused to remember how she’d get out with flour lining her eyelashes and eyebrows. Hehhe. Such a retro industry, right?) Then later she’d go for play-clothes later for us kids.
But my Ol’Man wasn’t a guy of second-hand clothes. He was insufferable – that spite of the urban and urbane gentlemen of the ‘90s had him a put a wide berth with mitumba. Better to have a few pricey items than have your wardrobe overflow with cheap and low-end apparel, went his mantra.
I saw how ingrained this mantra was in 1995. I remember the year clearly because I was 11 – the year I started to wear pants and shorts. And the year I was in Mrs Mburu’s 5B class. Mrs Mburu and my Mum were pals. They hang out alot after school and over the weekends. Mrs Mburu had a moti and a curly kit, two things my Mum probably wanted at the time. They looked alike, rotund and dark. And they laughed the same laugh, the one which started as a bubble under and ended in roar that waved through their short frames. You just had to love seeing them together. This Dynamic Duo. The Terrible Two. The Potent Pair. Ying Yang Twins. Heehe.
I bet it was Mrs Mburu’s idea that they try their hand at a new market at Kangemi. I suppose it was also her idea she drives them there.
So Saturday at 2PM, a little after lunch, Mrs Mburu is hooting outside our gate. Mum was in the kitchen tying up some loose ends: she gave the house help instructions on what to hold fort while she nipped to the market. She also told her about dinner; Saturday nights at our digs were githeri nights, so Mum had made sure to leave the beans on the jiko and the maize soaking. Veges were in the fridge, she told her. Tea time is at 4PM.
Mum told my Ol’Man they were going to the ‘market’ (vague term) and that they’d be back before sunset. He said sawa. She tagged my sister along.
I was upstairs in my room doing homework. I heard them pack into Mrs Mburu’s moti then ride away. Exciting, huh? I thought so too.
But si you know what happens when girls go out shopping to a new market? It isn’t the setting sun or the looming darkness which stops you from shopping. It’s when you’ve emptied your pockets. Or when you’ve used up all what you had, so you have just enough to get you home.
Mrs Mburu dropped them back late, around 8PM. They returned to a mess – the githeri was far from ready, in fact the beans had burned in the sufuria. The help hadn’t bathed my kid bros. Tea had been skipped. My Ol’Man was mad, he was in the living room chewing on cob of boiled maize. He summoned my Mum to the living room and told her to empty the shopping bags to show him what they’d bought. The hell.
We were hurdled at the bottom of the stairs listening to the drama. My sister whispered that things were cheap there, and that they got everyone really funky stuff, including shorts for me (yeey).
My Ol’Man told Mum he wanted all the clothes returned.
She said, meekly, sawa.
The clothes stayed hidden for three weeks. They were washed in the week that followed. We wore them the week after that.
Several years later we were laughing over that incident and I asked my Mum why she disobeyed him to keep the clothes. She said he just needed time to calm his tits. (OK, not those words but to that effect.) “You will lose arguing with the mad man of the market. All he asks for is space to run around.”