The good thing about working from home is you can pick up bones from last night and re-live the high school days. The downside is that there is nothing left for dogs on such bones, if the bones themselves remain. – Me, today
When I was young, Churches were conventional. A person’s church wrapped around them like newspaper around meat; you could guess a hundred character traits of a person you just met just by hearing they were Catholic. If you were thrust into a room full of people, it wouldn’t take you more than five minutes to group them into Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists et al. How they sat, how they worded their conversations, how they dressed, how they took their tea…
Not anymore though; nowadays we just have a bunch of churchgoers. Nowadays, saying someone is a ‘true Kathorec’ stands for little. You will find Kathorecs who don’t drink. You will find Anglicans who, when greeted ‘Bwana Yesu Asifiwe,’ answer ‘Amen’ instead of ‘Asifiwe Yesu.’ The only people who have remained so true we can tell them from a mile are Jehovah’s Witnesses. And New Apostolics, who have maintained a consistent church design.
During those days when people belonged to one church Karíng’a, I was a devout Anglican. I was baptised and went to Sunday School and graduated top of my catechism class to get the same confirmation as everyone else. After confirmation, I taught Sunday school and said my confession and joined KAYO and, much later, got elected to the Youth Council. My only transgression was not singing in the youth choir. Oh, and not sitting at the front in church. And leaving church right after offertory….Ai, I didn’t think they were that many!
The main church choir in those days had uniforms. Our Church Choir’s was a blue robe with a bright yellow collar and baggy sleeves that made the singers look like angels whenever they had to lift their hands up in songs like ‘Ngooombúka njúúre…na roho…ngoombúka njúreee!’ (Lov, that’s ‘flyyy away homeee…’) For some reason, these robes were often kept at our home. Many times, I was tasked to haul the uniforms to church on Sunday as I went for Sunday School, or on random Thursdays when the choir was ‘returning’ for some serious rehearsal. (Now you know the truth about that popular theory that I gave farm produce as offering every Sunday, aye?)
For some reason, I was always fascinated by these choir uniforms. There was something saintly about them. May be it was their colour. Or how they were flowing. They somehow radiated the truth of the images in those ‘God Loves Children’ books.
As such, I found myself secretly fawning over them when they were stored at home. When it was washing day and the help sent me to fetch them for cleaning, I would bring them in a pile then pick one and wear it before proceeding to sing for her as she washed. There was this one help called Murugi who couldn’t have been much older than me who especially enjoyed my charades, and always told me jokingly ‘unakuwaga na utoto sana wewe.’ Murugi’s story deserves its own article, that doting Auntie…also, your mind requires cleansing.
If you have figured out the era I am speaking about, you might also remember that taking photos back then was also a ceremony. You were informed days earlier that within the week Ben Mbica would be coming to freeze some memories. Within the week, you had to be in good behaviour lest the sponsors pulled out, and on the material day, you literally could not cheza mbali.
But then there were other days that photo-ops came up unannounced. Like when your big cousins from town suddenly dropped by to see your grandmother and, as though they had just discovered a new world wonder, felt the irresistible urge to have a photo taken with her.
When one such day happened, I was sent to go fetch Ben. Starting at Ben’s home, where I was told that he went to the bicycle Fundi to have a puncture repaired. Off to Fundi’s, where I was then informed that Ben had just left for a photo op with teachers who were having a staff meeting prior to school opening.
Quickly weigh which was more important: Avoiding being seen by the teachers (As every pupil was definitely on the wrong, despite being the holidays and not attending that school) or risk it all for the prize of having my image frozen on a photograph. Well, I never was a photo person even back then, and would have easily chosen the former, but my town cousins always rewarded my errands with a good token so I went for the former. At the school, I was informed that Ben had left for a burial across the ridge.
A good athlete since childhood, I was across the ridge in the next five. I found that Ben had just finished his photo session at the burial, but there was still a little hitch: he only had three photos left on his film. Those are more than enough, I said, and we set out on our way, on his bicycle. I successfully resisted the urge to request Ben to let me drive, although I was jolly proud of that newly-acquired skill.
So, two hours later, here I am, with Ben, cameras blazing! I was not even clean when I left home, but you might guess how much worse the dust I had gathered from my shuffling around the ridges, occasionally through uncharted paths, made me.
I don’t think I can appear on that photo, I protested. I am too dirty. I regretted my words immediately.
One look from my grandmother told me that if I declined this photo op, everything was over between me and her. And there was no way I was losing my senior counsel, the one person who told the entire extended family to fuck off even when they had solid evidence and consensus that I deserved to be whipped, stoned, gassed then blown up. So I knew I had to act fast.
Uchafu hautokeagi kwa picha, my cousin Bakari encouraged me. I had heard that before, but knowing the tricks the chimp had played on me before, I said twice shy. Then a Eureka moment hit me: choir robes!
Just a moment, I said, before rushing into the house and coming out donning that oh so heavenly garment. For starters, it was made for someone like twice my height, so a good half was piling around my feet. Everyone thought I looked ridiculous, except Cúcú, who could not cease to marvel at my genius. If Cúcú thought it was fine, all others could travel until one stop past hell.
And that is how, if you peruse my family photo archive, you will notice an angel in like three of the pictures taken towards the tail end of the 20th Century. A closer look will reveal that angel is, well, me. Never mind some people think I have since moved on from my angel days.
Like Cannibal and Sharama, Angel Mboya is still #Bouncing Bouncing.
1. I did receive Ksh. 100 from my cousins for my Ben-Finding Google Location skills, and a few more tasks like finding them avocados, mangoes, passion fruits, pawpaws and running half an hour at breakneck speed after a chicken for them to take back home.
2. I have a case against The Man Beater on judgement day for the torment he took me once those photos were delivered and he spotted the angel.
3. The editing crew in heaven- those guys putting together the shows we will watch on judgement day- must have noticed my fascination with choir robes and assigned me a music spirit. Or how else do you explain my persistent urge to drop a track?
Uhm, because of that story of choir, si you enjoy this one ‘Beautiful Robes’ by KU SDA choir. I don’t feel their robes though…