A number of years ago, I was just Mr. and Mrs. Masaba’s daughter; with six siblings and cousins. I knew these people well enough and understood that they were family, we spent every holiday together away from school and of course the occasion sweet memories we made when Dad spontaneously shipped us off to spend the whole day at Didi’s World and get high on cotton candy. Village Christmas was the only thing we knew, in fact we would all clamor to be among the first ones who were sent to be with Kukhu Petwa (Grandmama) in the village because you knew if you missed, everything epic would happen.
Every memory that I have of Kukhu Petwa smell like “Makyila,” a deliciously prepared mashed bean paste that was mixed with “kumukhelekhe” to bring out that lovely salty taste. Kumukhele is a condiment made from fermenting dry green banana peelings in water for a number of days then slowly mixed in skinless mashed bean paste to make Makyila. That paired with matooke, will leave you in a taste bud heaven. Now, when you visited Mukyi (Kukhu Petwa’s home village) it was never just about climbing trees, swimming/ fishing in River Manafwa, picking gooseberries and loitering off to Sibangha to visit Kukhu Loyce (Mrs. Masaba’s Mother) we had to wake up every morning to go dig in the garden, mop the houses, do the dishes, wash the laundry at the bore hole and also cook. After every eventful day, we would sit around the fire or tadooba and listen to several different folk lore passed down from generations prior, sometimes they were told by Kukhu Tolofayina (Dad’s Grandmama) but when she passed on we had to all improvise and remember them or hound Kukhu Petwa to tell us.
In my 2009, I happen to be at a party with a boy that had the same surname as I; our mutual friend suggested that we could be related, i laughed it off since we seemed were different. Nevertheless, him and I became friends which later resulted into the longest family meeting I have ever been in. It turns out the boy is the son to one of my uncles who I had not seen in years, after that chance encounter our family formed a foundation that resulted in us having a family reunion to get to know all the other members that we happen to not have known when growing up. These reunions have introduced so many sisters and brothers (I do not like calling them cousins, feels weird) who have now become some of my closest friends. We have attended several functions together, laughed and cried together plus danced at different family events together. The girls are now not just people, I didn’t know… they are my sisters, my friends and I cherish the bond.
Its now 2016 on a fine Sunday morning after church and my phone will not stop pinging, it is the kind of pinging I look forward because it means its time for me to get my lemon water ready and slump lazily on the couch as I read through text by text hungrily devouring every word as if I will have an exam later on. These texts are from my family whatsApp group with relatives spread over thousands of miles away from each other including several different generations of the Bisagaya Family connected together by the internet. Every Sunday, our uncles and aunts share several different stories from their childhood, stories tinged with so much humor and fond memories. It all started with a conversation in the group between Uncle Gidale and Uncle Andrew, they were discussing something about our Kuka who was at that time bedridden when it quickly escalated into a nice history lesson. I cherish every story they tell us, its not like the olden days where we would gather around a father but it carries the same wonderful oneness to it and I look forward to it every Sunday.
I sometimes wonder if Parents still teach their children about their family lineage, if they sit them down and show them pictures of where it all started. I grew up with so many other children in the house that I knew how important it was to have family. Do parents still take children to live with their grandparents during holidays like they used to or we have forgotten how important that is? How important for children to play, learn and see where they come from, far from the city.. Family is important, but nothing makes your family bonds stronger than knowing your heritage and sharing it with love.