Marjorie is a 37 year old mama. Gorgeous mother of three cute boys. The boys are of fair skin, very fair unlike the mother’s dark complexion. If you look at her, you could almost envy her because of the jovial ambience she carries around. Like she can’t spell the word problem. Or has no idea what a challenge is.
Not until you hear her story.
She was born in the coast of Kenya to a single mother who had no idea what motherhood was. Marjorie became an unwanted addition to a family of three : Marjorie’s mother Carol, Marjorie’s grandmother, Kibinti and Marjorie’s auntie, Katie.
“We lived in a one bedroom rented house. If you had a look at where we lived you would wonder why I call it a house but that was home. We had no other place to call home.
My grandmother worked as jewellery hawker and out of it she made very little. My mother did not do very well in school while Katie was also struggling with school grades when my mother gave birth to me. She dropped out and started menial jobs. ” Marjorie says of her past.
She continues, “My grandma was a bitter woman. She always screamt at us. She had permanent folds on her forehead which I think came from all the frowning.”
Marjorie’s mum received the bitter end of her mother’s frustrations especially after giving birth. Katie would get her share of insults but when Carol brought another mouth to feed, Katie was forgotten, but for a moment.
“She would insult my mum and I at the slightest provocation. My grandma was the real verbal diarrhoearist! She hurled any insult that came to her head ‘Shetani, ibilisi, tumbili bila mkia wewe!‘
As I grew up , I realised that Kibinti would get really worked up when mother came home with some money. Mother’s defense would be, Nitoe wapi pesa mama, hakuna kazi ingine, mtoto lazma aende shule? (Where else will I get money for my daughter’s school fees?)
Then there would be bitter exchanges of words that would cause mum to coil on her mat on the ground and weep silently. I would join her in bed and we would just stay there quietly.
We became very close, my mum and I. For thirteen years we shared a bed and every evening before she fell asleep she would say, Mwanangu ni kwa usingizi tu ambapo kuna amani. Lala salama. That was her goodnight.”
As Marjorie grew up, she realised the cause of her grandmother’s anger towards her mother.
“My mum was a prostitute. How I found out is a story of another day but I was shocked. These things I had heard of in school and to think that my mother was actually doing them really put me aback. I asked my auntie Katie who feigned not knowing what I was talking about. Later at night, I think I heard her and mother whispering bitterly but I was too sleepy to grasp what it was all about.
The following morning, as mother was preparing me for school, she kissed me on my cheeks and my forehead and then said, ‘Mwanangu, nimekuwa mfano mbaya sana kwako, hunistahili. Nakupenda.’ (I have been a bad example to you, you dont deserve a mother like me. I love you.)
She rarely walked me to school but on that day, she did, holding my hand. Then she stood at the gate of the school and waved me with a smile on her face. That was the last time I saw her.”
No one gave Marjorie any answers. Her auntie Katie was dismissive of her. It was hard to approach her grandmother. It was a sad life for a thirteen year old who was sitting for her final exam.
“I passed well enough to go to a good secondary school. My auntie Katie became my guardian. We were never close but she did pay my fees, shopped for my personal belonging and gave me pocket money. I wondered whether she was also prostituting herself and if she did, why would she do it for me?
Three years later, Aunty Katie died from a car accident. I couldn’t believe it. Being left with grandmother would be a nightmare. She was also sickly. I wondered how life would be. I was so sure I wouldn’t finish my form four studies but the principal called me and told me my fees had been paid by a well wisher. The whole of it, until the end of my fourth year. It was a stunning moment.”
Marjorie finished school and went to face her nightmare. She had never gone home for a year. She would stay at school over the April and August holidays with the excuse that she wanted to read for her K.C.S.E.
“I had a difficult time with grandma. I tried to be helpful with her, washing dishes, cleaning the house, cooking but she would be very ungrateful. She would eat my food with lots of complaints :too much spices or salt or the food was raw. I apologised all the time . ”
What startled Marjorie was how her financial status unfolded.
“I think we all have that shopkeeper we all love to buy from. As for mine, we called him Samaki because all his products had a fishy smell,” Marjorie laughs at the recollection. “Samaki called me one day and told me that I should not be paying anything I buy from the shop because I had a sponsor. I was puzzled.
I told him I did not want a sponsor that grandmother would not want that but he assured me that the sponsor was legit and that I wasn’t the only one being sponsored. That last statement gave me some comfort although I later learnt it was a lie .”
Marjorie knew telling her grandmother about the sponsor would be disastrous. She lied that she was doing some online work at the cyber. Her grandmother believed it.
“She replied, Ya shangaza hufuati nyayo za mamako za umalaya, wajitafutia yako! (I am surprised you are not prostituting yourself as your mother did) That was her way of complimenting me. I felt sorry because I had lied to her but sometimes one has got to do what they got to do.” Marjorie sighs.
One day Marjorie decided to go to the beach. Her K.C.S.E results were out and she had not passed. Her grandmother was having a field day mocking her and predicting how her life would end as miserably as her mother’s and sister’s. She needed to take a breather and the ocean provided that.
“I watched the ocean and thought it was beckoning me. Grandmother’s words were haunting me. I felt useless. Even if the ocean would take me I wouldn’t have been afraid. I was about to swim towards it when I saw a man moving to me. I stopped so that he would pass and not notice my plan. He greeted me. I looked back at him and ignored him.
He smiled at me and asked whether I was a visitor or a resident in Mombasa. I retorted back that I was not a beach girl so if he was looking for some fun he wouldn’t find it in me. The German man was probably in his 50s in my assumption. Mombasa is full of such tourists who want to have a good times with young girls.
He sat on the sand near me. I watched him as he watched the ocean. I don’t know how but I could tell he wasnt afraid of the ocean too. I asked him if he was ok. He smiled and nodded but said he would be much better if I went to his hotel room with him. I followed him.” Marjorie says. She is quiet as she reminisces possibly a private moment.
“When grandmother found out I was dating an old mzungu tourist, she threw me out with the most stabbing insults. ‘ Nilidhani damu ya umalaya haijkufikia, kumbe wewe ndiye malaya mkuu! I recall her words as neighbours watched me being thrown out. It was the moat embarassing time in my life.
I wasn’t sure where to go because I had very few friends who could host me. I walked to my mzungu’s hotel room, unsure he would open the door for him. I told him I had nowhere to go. He jeld me and took me to bed. I was ready to give in to his usual sexual demands but he covered me, ordered room service to bring some good food.
That night was the turning point of our lives. He told me things he had never told anyone. I did too. He was healing from a bad divorce. He confessed he liked me but was afraid of being rejected so he had opted to have a no strings attached relationship with me. He swore I was the only ‘prostitute’ (he thought I was one) he had slept with since he came to Kenya.
I told him the story of my life too. We talked until the every wee hours of the morning and them fell asleep. We woke up in the afternoon and he asked me to walk with him to the beach. We sat where we first met and then he asked me to marry him.
I looked at the 53 year old proposing to marry me. I had just turned 20. He promised that he would never leave my side. He promised to love me forever. I was silent for so long then he said, ‘No, it’s ok. I understand I am too old and ugly for you.’ I laughed at him and said, ‘Yes I will marry you,silly’ We laughed again. We stayed watching the ocean as we imagined how life would be, us against the world.
That morning on our wedding, I received a letter. It was from my mother’s. She had been my wellwisher all this time. She wrote that she had blessed me and that she was proud of me. She advised me to live my life to the fullest because life is short.
It was a beautiful small ceremony at the beach. Lehmann, my husband helped me search for my mother but it was too late. She died three days after my wedding. She had A.I.D.S and a bad case of throat cancer. I still don’t understand why she opted to leave me and never want me to see her again.
I am told she led a very risky life but I would never judge her. I love her still. I forgive her for denying me a mother. I did not know love all my life.
Kibinti died while I was having my first son. At death was the only time she allowed Lehmann to assist her. Imagine if she would have resurrected and found out that it was my husband who paid for her burial expenses!” Marjorie says as she holds her head in dramatic shock.
“So,I am happy where I am. People stop to stare at us at the mall while others make hurtful remarks but I don’t care. Lehmann is my happiness. I am his. Our three boys complete us. I am proud of what we have. I have love and from my experience love is a rare gem and when you find it, grab it and never let go.”
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