Young, Restless and Loved Unconditionally

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The high fashion supermodel that always caught the attention of both men and women for her high Janet Jackson cheek-bones and the body figure that was well complemented by her elegant height is mama Jabali. The young delightful sight was approached by many baring complements; some wondered why a goddess like her existed amongst them. She was consulted to give advice and coach “wannabe” models during beauty pageants, guaranteeing a win to the models that followed her word to the letter.

Jean-not her real name-who as a freshman ran for a crucial student’s council seat had given birth. The Gender and social welfare contestant was not only strong willed in politics but also in group discussions where she made subjects clearer and willingly lessened the burden of group assignments by offering to tackle the tough questions. Her intelligence offered a memorable narration of Greek mythologies, biographies and environmental systems to her attentive audiences. She was too busy for the juicy celebrity gossip, “that crap will fill space in my brain for nothing” she would lament dismissively adding that it did not make sense to obsess over the lives of people who had made it in life.  

The only things I had in common with Jean is that we both showered but I am pretty sure she showered more times than I did, on top of which she carried hand wash and several packets of both wet and pocket tissue. She cautiously watched where she sat, washed her fruit before eating it. By fruit I mean even the avocado and bananas that came with disposable covers or rather peels. I admired all these thus my ability to narrate it without leaving any detail. There is no way I could have matched that kind of hygienic standards.

I accepted my special place in the society as a tomboy, thanks to her girly standards that I could not keep up with. She has put on a little weight but that is not a bother to her as evidently indicated by her WhatsApp status “I know I weigh a tonne now... yes it’s totally worth it” at the end of which she has added the emoticon of a boy child’s head. She is therefore forced to share her younger brother’s clothes.

The young conservative, devoted father and partner was glad to receive Jabali. He worked two jobs to ensure the mother and child had a solid landing once they came back from Jean’s parents’ home. Whenever he did not visit he called and left an “I love you two” text message shortly after hanging up the call. This made Jean smile and sigh with relief as she passed the message of love to Jabali with a kiss on every inch of his face.

Two of my friends and I made sure to see baby Jabali before he outgrew the cuteness that comes with the new born. Jean who speaks in a low tone stands up with a grin between her now rosy cheeks that instantly informs us that chances are we could be dealing with a totally different person and so we should recalculate our moves and conversations. She stands up to give us light hugs and later on let us know that she was avoiding giving us our dream shower filled with milk. Her breasts were full with milk and any slight squeeze resulted in the serious oozing of it.

The bottles of hand wash had doubled in quantity; this was shared with everyone who dared to ask to hold her son. “Jabali caught flu, I did not like it. He now has a rash on his tongue which makes him very uncomfortable hence the caution”, said Jean protectively

“Forgive me for being too cautious it comes with the job” she adds amid a guilt smile. Jabali was sleepy the entire time we were visiting with them for he had not slept the entire previous night. For this reason Jean asked me to spend the night to assist when he would be stubborn again.

I was allowed to sleep earlier because according to Jean, I would be the one to keep an eye on the bubbly and cunning Jabali at night. I was awoken by tales of Jean’s experience, she spoke of mothers who experienced post partum depression for finding it tough to handle the aftermath of child birth. She consummately narrated a story of a woman whose family was furious for thinking black magic was used on their daughter who was now acting like a mad person. We were joined by her expectant friend who listened keenly to the recommendation from a woman who had barely come close to experiencing such. “Take time out and watch birds play in the trees, even if it cries, give your brain a break” Jean advised expertly.

Jean lied on her back held her legs by the toes; she pulled on the legs and simultaneously thrust forward as if trying to stand up. The expectant lady, who went by the name Esther, watched, closely without blinking as Jean demonstrated the easiest way to push the baby during labour. Esther burst into laughter but stopped immediately on reading the message of concern on Jean’s face

At night Jabali was up as expected and therefore I was asked to wash my hands or use the hand wash before embarking on my duty for the night as the nanny. The first few hours were smooth, I held him and he instantaneously fell asleep. His sleep lasted less than five minutes after which a short cry followed. The cries were mollified by a gentle rocking as advised by mama Jabali or a pat on the back while Jabali was leaning on the shoulder. There are times Jean took Jabali to breast feed him this was triggered by a loud continuous shrill that sent Jean to her feet. “I know that tone” Jean would say as she stood with her breast already out or a made up song which started with soft humming. This was the last time I held Jabali for that night, I slept and the next morning Jean told me, Jabali together with her went to sleep at mid night.

I came back home to my parent’s place only to realize the chicken that had roamed the house with her two chicks replicated the same behaviour as Jean. The chicken picked fights with anyone or any object that dared come close to her chicks. It caught bugs and looked for bits of spilt foods to feed her chicks. The announcement for food was made official with a clacking call from the mother chicken as the chicks ran responding with an exited squeaky call.

The chicken mother ensured every single chick was present for cuddling under her wings during breaks and at night. One chick died and therefore the only thing left behind to carry on the legacy of the family was one loud chick. The feeble creature made the same loud noise as if missing its sibling but was silenced when offered grains of rice. It followed the mother chicken around. Any attempt by the mother chicken to leave was a chance for the loud cry to resume.

June and July are cold months in Kenya, for the past two months I had made a habit of wearing my sleeping bag even during the day. I was not going to take chances with the cold that saw us record the highest electricity bill since the year started. Apparently 17 degrees is not cold at all according to a friend in the UK. In light of the facts presented I allowed the remaining chick to join me in the luxury of the warmth and cosiness of my sleeping bag under the watchful eye of its mother. It took pleasure in the invite and hardly made any noise while at it. The chick took short breaks to feed but made sure to locate even warmer spots near my armpits and even behind my pony of hair when it came back.

I remembered Jean using a heater to warm her room and ensuring a thick layer of Vaseline covered Jabali’s delicate skin in addition she made him wear layers of clothes. I also recalled the noises that alarmed Jean, prompting her to breast feed Jabali or to simply hold him, they were the same noises the chick made, when it was alone or when it was uncomfortable.

The last chick passed on two days after its food sack was badly severed by a careless cousin who accidentally stepped on it. I eagerly fought the compulsion to shed a tear or two when I saw it squeaking helplessly; lying immobile on the spot beside the ball of food it had consumed that day. In less than three minutes it was up on its feet. Jean did not equip me with the knowledge of what to do if that happened, so I tied tape around its neck amid protests from its mother who had to be restrained. The tape was gone by morning. Its efforts to feed were rendered futile since the food escaped through the opening, which it ate again. The food sac dried leading to its death.

GN... If one happened to visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) which is located next to Nairobi National Park and opposite Banda school on Magadi road, the embodiment of the mother elephant by humans is witnessed. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust was established by Dr Dame Daphne Sheldrick in memory of her husband. It has managed to raise and released over 150 orphans back into the wild. Since 1977 DSWT has been rescuing abandoned elephant and rhino calves and assigning a care taker to ensure the absence of the cow is not felt. A blanket is used to cover the calf and it is fed every two hours with formula milk which contains less fats. Elephants have a poor digestive mechanism therefore cannot be fed using cow milk. The care takers go to the extent of ensuring the calf does not spend nights alone by keeping it company throughout.

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