“Somebody shoot me now.” My sister rolled her eyes at me.
“You’re being overdramatic Kate, why don’t you calm down?” I looked at her aghast.
“Overdramatic? Overdramatic? You have no right to tell me I am overdramatic with your pregnant self, Miri. You don’t know what this will be like for me!”
Miri rolled her eyes as she ate her peanut butter-covered mandazi. She had been craving everything and anything with peanut butter on it. I swear she went through two huge jars of the stuff in a week. That is if what Paul said was to be believed. I, on the other hand, could not stand peanut butter for the life of me. The smell made me wrinkle my nose. She noticed,
“Are you going to make that expression every time I eat around you?”
I retorted, “Not if you don’t eat peanut butter.”
She pointed her spoon at me, “Hey! I am a pregnant woman. Don’t mess with my cravings; I will sit on your face. Try me.” We both laughed.
“But still though,” she went on, “it won’t be that bad Kate, we have to do this for kina mum.”
“Easy for you to say.” I rolled my eyes, “You have your own family going on. You won’t get the lectures I will.” I groaned, “Can’t you just make up an excuse for me? Say I am sick or something?”
She smacked my arm, “No, I will not lie for you. We are not children. Face your problems like an adult. We are going for this thing and that’s final sis. I told Paul we will pick you up at three tomorrow, so be ready by then.”
I gathered my bag off the chair I was sitting on, “Fine. I hate you though.”
“I love you too,” she said with a laugh as I walked out the door. As if anything about this situation was funny. Tomorrow was going to be torture but like she said I was going to be an adult about it and I would survive.
It was 3:10 and Miri and Paul were running late. Paul had called to say Miri had gotten sick just as they were about to leave and had to throw up. Morning sickness, as I found out over the course of my sister’s pregnancy, was a strange phenomenon in that it didn’t always happen in the morning.
For all I cared they could have cancelled the whole evening on account of her sickness and I would have been fine with it. It would have been the perfect excuse not to go for the Christmas family get-together. Sadly that was not the case and by 3:20, Paul was hooting for me to get out.
By the time we reached Thika several cars were parked outside my parent’s big home. Miri was much better and was excited about the evening, making exactly one of us. I took a deep breath and tried to put my game face on as we walked to the door. Not a moment too soon as my mother came rushing out and wrapped us in her arms.
“Finally, Umefika! What took you so long?” Miri explained about the morning sickness.
Mum’s face turned into a frown, “Ohh my poor baby! How are you feeling? Gosh, I hope Paul was taking care of you? How is the baby? I hope everything is okay?” before anyone had time to answer her questions, she turned her direction to me, “Kate have you been watching out for your sister. You know she is drained from carrying life inside her, and Paul must be exhausted as well from having to be there for her constantly.” She clicked, “You better be helping out and not just lazing about like you do ehh?”
I refrained from rolling my eyes. “Yes, mum.”
“Now go and get them a comfortable place to rest and then go and help out in the kitchen, okay?” she looked at me before adding, “and you did not have a ka boyfriend to bring this year? Not even one?”
It had begun. I smiled, “no I didn’t want to dilute family time with someone you didn’t know mum. I just wanted to spend time with the family.”
She shook her head, “Mmmmhmm.” And with that we were off into the mazes of people and voices spread around the living room, and into the backyard. After Paul and Miri were seated down I went back towards the sides of the kitchen before my mother could come back and berate me for sitting down for all of three minutes. The ladies and the girls were gathered in the kitchen cooking.
I went into the kitchen and kept myself busy, I took tea outside to serve the guests, and the one time I served my dad without a saucer for his mug my mom took it as an opportunity to explain my relationship status. “You see why you don’t have a man Kate. Honestly, if you knew how to serve properly instead of doing it like a mess maybe you would have better luck like your sister.”
“Mum really?” I looked at her embarrassed.
She looked back at me without a care in the world, “what? I am just looking out for you baby. Will you wait until I am dead to give me grandchildren?”
If I stayed there a second longer I would have exploded, and now was not the time or the place. I quickly hurried back to the kitchen. My aunties were all over buzzing around like bees streaming in and out as they pleased. It wasn’t long before they were drawn to me like I was the honey they were buzzing too. “Ohh Kate it’s been so long. How have you been toto?”
A different aunt, as she laughed responded with, “Ahh, but she’s not a toto anymore though ehh, age is catching up with her…” she touched the lines on my face as if they were battle scars, exaggerating their presence on my skin.
Another aunty was quick to point out, “Kate umenona ehh? Mbona Kairetu? Is your boyfriend overfeeding you?” she laughed as I gave a tight-lipped smile.
“I don’t have a boyfriend”
My aunt looked at me incredulously. Her friend in a bright blue dress spoke up, “Ohh you know my son has this friend who works in the bank he is very cute. I should tell my son to set you two up.” She smiled as if she had just invented the light bulb, “That would be a good idea ehh?”
This was a war zone and I needed to find a way out. Finally, I saw Aunty Mary, mum’s youngest sister and also my most relatable aunty. She was my escape. Mumbling a quick non-committal reply I left the group, walked up to her, and hugged her, “Sasa tata, can I help with anything?”
“Ohh, Kate!” she smiled with a mischievous look in her eye, “You’re running away ehh? I see you.”
I chuckled nervously, “It’s just too much aunty. I don’t know how you do it.”
She laughed her deep belly laughs. “Imagine you get used to it. Family is nosy. You will hardly ever be as good enough as they want you to be so you just accept it and move on.”
“Ehh” I mumbled, “But at least you, you have a husband. Do you know how many times mum has been on my back about not getting married? Even these other aunties. Honestly, it is like I am the last and only single woman in the country.”
She laughed again, “sweetheart you know my story. I may be married but I will forever be the barren woman in this family and that is almost as much a curse as being single at family gatherings. Maybe even worse, as you might not be single forever but I will never be able to have a baby. And believe me, those pity looks I have been given can burn the self-respect off of any woman. As if I have let my womanhood down somehow.”
A tinge of guilt swept through me but she spoke quickly, “wewe don’t do that. Don’t become one of them with their looks.” She laughed. “Your uncle loves me and that is enough. I don’t need children to be fulfilled. So how about we get through the rest of this party with sarcasm and jokes ehh?” she hugged me, “The single spinster and the barren woman.” I laughed with her at her joke.
Maybe the party wasn’t going to be that bad after all. It was one evening and then I could go back to my independent self-sufficient life where there were no constant reminders of my singlehood. I could do this, and with Mary by my side, it could even be fun!
My Christmas gift to myself, a big screw it to Familial questions and barbs into my personal life and a very merry Single Christmas.
Shingai is an upcoming writer with a passion for words and expression through writing. She lived in Zimbabwe as a child and has traveled to over ten countries. She craves adventure and hopes to be an inspirational writer. She is currently pursuing a degree in English Literature with a minor in Psychology at Daystar University.