City Girl: Hide-and-Seek Fun And The Cane

By Suziey KN
The Reverend’s Daughter

Country road, take me home, to the place, I belong! West Virginia, county mama, take me home, country road, are well-known lyrics of singer John Denver’s song.

Some of us still vividly remember these ballads. Sweet music that streamed out of the radio as the state-owned broadcaster, KBC’s programme, Sundowner, played in the evenings on our way back home from school. Sometimes, it was as we travelled upcountry to spend our school holidays with our grandparents. Yes, sweet memories of yesteryear.

I grew up in Nairobi playing with boys, mainly with my brothers. Somehow, most of the children in my neighbourhood that were of my age, were boys. We played rough. Yes, rough games were the order of the day. Police and robbers, tyre mpararo, hide and seek! Hahaha! I loved it! I remember once when we were grounded. I can’t quite remember what we had done to warrant the wrath of my mum, but she cracked down on us. We couldnt go out and play with the others and we could only watch them from the balcony as they played in the streets, taunting us to join them. Mum would be sound asleep in her room but we would not dare shout their names, lest she knew we were partaking of a little joy watching the others play.

One can only watch so much from the balcony, and well, boredom took its toll on us and we had to devise a way to make fun for ourselves. We decided the house was forest enough for us to play our monkey games and we settled on hide and seek to pass our hours, as mum napped away. She used to work in shifts, so yes she could be caught sleeping at odd hours depending on what hours her shift was. My cousin was around to make the numbers four. My sister was not yet born, so this cousin was basically my sister then. She still is. I love being with her and we are totally in our elements when we are together, but oops, I digress the hide and seek, yes, we took turns and as many of you may recall the game (Millennials might not have played it as we did)… but in our HIDE & SEEK version 80s, when you sought the other and made a wrong pronunciation as to who you had seen, the person, would come out shouting umevunja nyungu, umevunja nyungu and all the others could come out of their hiding place proclaiming the same umevunja nyungu, umevunja nyungu. For those who may not understand Greek, this simply means, you have broken the pot! It was to say, you got it wrong!

Now let me tell you, the pot back then, was a treasured item in many homes. My mum had this particular one that she loved. She had bought it from Kariokor Market. Specially made for her. She believed it made her ‘Githeri’ and anything else she made in the pot, super tasty. I tend to agree with her, there was something super about the Githeri’ made from the earthen pots, unlike what we get today from the ‘sufuria githeri’ or pressure cookers. Anyway, eish! I digress, again!

So as we sang in unison, Umevunja nyungu, we woke my mother from her sleep, and she came startled towards us, afraid that her favourite nyungu was no more! If you were raised in my days, you know parents never stopped to ask you why you did something first. They first dealt with you and then asked the questions later. So, in the exact fashion of them days, mum came reigning the slipper on us, but this time though, I think for the love of her pot, asking us who had broken her pot and where the broken pot was.

As she asked us this, the irony of the moment sank and we all burst out in laughter! Woooiii! It was now mums turn to stop and stare at these kids, who had the audacity to laugh at her. One of us, went and brought out the pot and showed her that it was intact, and told her that what she had heard, was just a game. Well, need I say that hide and seek was therefore forbidden as a game in mothers house? I bet not! Mum was the OCS- officer commanding station! What she said, was the law.

As I listen to this country ballad, under this quarantine, I cant help but wonder of the stories my children will have to tell of their childhood. Many children of nowadays have nothing but sad stories of drunken, absentee parents, violence at home. I have sat with some in my mentorship moments and I hear the cry of todays children. It is time, we went back to our times and recall the tranquillity of our times, and commit to give our children something to smile about, for even in the hard handedness of our parents in terms of discipline back in the days, our memories are still a great recollection of moments of love and parental guidance and childlike joy.

Can we give that to our children too? What memories are you giving your children? Anyhow, my memories revolve around the sweet place I called and still call home, with teardrops in my eyes, of the joy of childhood. Take me home, country road!

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