You know when growing up our parents never really talked about certain things, there were topics that were taboo, spoken in hushed tones that our kiddie minds could not comprehend. Our curiosity was never allowed to blossom. Some things were just untouchable. You were to be seen, definitely not to be heard. Your parents or pretty much any adult was the law. You never asked just did what you were told like the little tin soldier that you were. Asking why was never an option you had. You were to be invisible. Follow rules. Failure to which your tender behind would be saying hi to a belt, rod, slipper or mwiko (flat wooden spoon).
Parents were loyal to the “spare the rod, spoil the child” you knew you existed to follow the rules without failure or hesitance. Aaaaah good ‘ol times. So you can imagine how clueless we were back then. There was no Google to ask “what is water” and such things. You simply relied on older guys who probably never knew any better, but where were you to find such information anyway?
Watching TV was limited to cartoons, educational programs like debates or preaching and the available G rated music shows…which was probably all music since people were fully clothed even the “video vixens” our sense of sexy video vixens was, how shall we put it, tame, for lack of a better word. I think most of us learnt about thongs and sexy music videos when “unleash the dragon” song by Sisqó came about. Such music was watched in secret hiding places because if you were found, your behind would divorce you and you’d not sit for a week even depending on how mad the parent was.
Life was spent outdoors playing until the sun came down, building, creating and role playing about parenthood that we only imagined looked like. Maybe since we spent most of the time outdoors we never really got the chance to ask questions, what would you ask anyway. Nobody knew nothing about nothing. Probably parents thought that they were sparing us from things that were unnecessary to our young impressionable minds. Maybe it helped or not but we turned out alright, at least most of us anyway.
I don’t think I ever heard the word kiss or sex when I was a lot younger, theories were spun around those terms like a top secret. I mean we were told that if you talk to a boy, you would get pregnant and if you were you would be thrown out of the house and be shamed throughout the neighborhood. Mind you when you were being threatened it was not a polite suggestion, mum would give you that look that you knew there was no arguing about it or asking how and why. We never even asked about where babies came from, I don’t even remember reproductive education being in the curriculum. If you are an 80’s or 90’s kid then you probably get what I’m saying.
So here I was my young impressionable mind walking home from school with some friends. I somehow remember it clearly in my mind. I was in either class 4 or five, not that clearly it seems. I had on a red and black uniform, cheery talking with some friends skipping as we sang some nursery rhymes. Back then we had compost pits, every building had a hole dug a few feet away from the gate where everything would be dumped and later burnt on Saturdays. There were no bin collection guys with trucks or huge black plastic disposal bags to keep the takataka (composite).
Skidding happily along the roadside we were a walking distance from home. I miss the days when kids could go to school on their own, go for lunch, then back to school then walk home on their own. Nobody worried that someone would kidnap them or harm them in any way. Humanity was good then, everywhere was safe. Any way so one of us gets really excited and we all immediately follow her to where the excitement is coming from.
Balloon! She shrieks as she picks several balloons from the compost pit, it was really full of plastics, food, materials and hair pieces. It didn’t smell that bad, at least I thought so at the time or my sense of smell was just awful. So she gives each one of us and we start to blow them, comparing who has blown the largest. Five minutes later we were back on our way heading home holding onto our dear balloons, still excited that no balloon has yet to blow. Three girls and a boy skipping home with our precious treasure. At some point a woman saw us and angrily asked what we were carrying. Thinking that she would come and take away our balloons, we ran laughing all the way home. How clever, we must have thought.
We didn’t know how to tie the knot so our little hands were holding the top to prevent it from deflating. One by one everyone found their way to their houses and I was the last one to enter the gate. With my balloon in hand I happily entered the compound wanting to brag about the balloons that we found kwa njia (on the road)
Hiyo ni nini umebeba? (What is that you are carrying)
Those were the first venomous words that greeted me before I could even open the door. You always know a beating when you see one coming.
I replied then I tried to hide it behind my back, by then I had deflated it, hide the evidence if you will. In a split second I was hurriedly forced to throw it away secured by mom’s strong hands and soon a slipper followed on my little legs and behind as I was whopped, mom going on and on about kuokota okota vitu chafu kwa njia (picking filthy things on the roadside). To say that I cried my butt off in an understatement. Mostly because I had parted with my precious balloon and was being beaten for no reason. Why was mom being unfair?
By now you probably know what my balloon was. If not then think further. I don’t even remember whether the balloon was empty…thinking that makes me gag. Urgh! I think my friends had the same fate because the next day we passed where we had found our treasure nobody looked there twice, we just walked along as if nothing happened. You never shared how hot your little behind felt, you take your punishment in silence an cool off in silence too.
Mom never told me why she really had my ass on fire that day, just warned me never again to pick dirty or anything from the roadside especially from compost pits or dust bins. The best part about being a child is that you tend to forget things fast, I never really dwelled on it much since you get used to your parent always being right when punishing you, they never explain, they just punish you and expect you to learn.
Now imagine me now growing up and more information started coming my way, how it hit me really that real balloons DO NOT look like the balloons we had so excitedly blown and played with that later earned me a beating. I still cringe, and gag, thinking about it. Honestly why someone couldn’t just have told us what we were playing with? Why, oh, why way I an idiot? You were a child, maybe? Real question why did parents keep certain things from us? Back then some words were extinct like gay used to mean being happy, dating was unheard off, we were told not to do tabia mabaya (bad manners) with boys, and we couldn’t even watch soap operas without feeling embarrassed. You’d know a kissing scene was coming when either parent asked whether you had done your homework and that you should go and finish it. Or ask you to find his socks that were in the bedroom. How time flies.
Fast forward to 2016, I now know which balloons are to be played with and those that are to be worn for other purposes. Not exactly what you were expecting from this post. You’re probably thinking, what kind of idiot blows a condom thinking it to be a balloon? I don’t know either. But I plead insanity.
Live in Burgundy Moments