Story Book

The Day I Broke Mr. Blue

You’ve got to love African mothers. They don’t give up easily.

The don’t give up on their kids no matter how stubborn they are; they don’t give up on their husbands who are fond of the bottle. They don’t give up on that prayer request asking God for a green card to America. They just don’t. give. up!

The first time I experienced this unshakeable determination and never say die spirit from my mother was in Class 4. She, just like every other mother in the neighborhood had her favorite bucket. It was blue in colour… I remember vividly and boy did she love that bucket. She bought it at the nearby soko one Saturday afternoon and I remember her bragging at how she was lucky to have found this particular bucket.

“This isn’t just any bucket Muthoni! Look at it’s size? Just big enough to wash the clothes and large enough to hold you in it as you take a bath! Sii rahisi kupata hii size! Hahaha!”

She was so proud of herself.

“And you know the best part my dear? It has a lid! Can you imagine? How lucky am I? Hee! Wacha uone vile Mama Samira ataanza kuniomba…You wait and see!”

I remember just looking at her blankly, asking myself what the fascination was…it was just a bucket with a lid after all. LOL.

Then the unthinkable happened. One day while playing hide and seek with Samira, I decided to hide in the precious bucket that my mother had left outside after hanging the clothes. My matutas must have been sticking out because I had made sure my tiny body lay low in the bucket- I was like really skinny back then. Samira dashed to where I was and pushed the bucket to its side so the contents could spill out. Just as the blue bucket hit its side, I heard it. The big crack! sound and I immediately knew my life was over. My mother must have heard it too because she came out huffing and puffing calling both my names.

 “Rachel Muthoni! Umefanya nini? Eh?!” I was surely in trouble now.

Samira bolted. I scrabbled out of the bucket. Still in shock. My legs too shaken to run. And where would I run to anyway? This was it. The final curtain call. The bucket that mother loved so much (sometimes even more than me because it never talked back!) was no more. It lay there, motionless. A big opening on it’s side.

The beating I got after that is too graphic to describe. I might lose my street cred if I speak of the screams I let out. Friends. She was going to kill me. I was certain.


It was a week later, while still nursing my wounds that I heard him. A strange man who uttered strange words in song…

“Chomelea! Chomelea!Chomelea! Kirakaaaa! Kirakaaa! Chomeleaaaa!”

My mother had summoned him. When he arrived in our compound she jumped up and down with glee. Her hardened face suddenly softened. Her hero had arrived in shinning tin full of hot charcoal.

“Peleka ndoo nje haraka!” And I did just that. It was as though the bucket was being rushed in for surgery. I had never seen anything quite like it! Dr. Ndoo examined his patient, turned it this way and that way, smiled exposing his tobacco stained teeth, looked up at my mother and I and said, “Ahh! Usijali mama. Hii mara moja! Shilingi ishirini tu!”

My mother could hear none of it. “Ishirini?!! Wacha ukora wewe! Hizo ni pesa nyingi sana! Mimi sina!”  They negotiated for a while, Dr. Njoo explaining to her why the surgery would be quite pricey. Something about the patient’s crack and the special coal he would need to heal it. My mother offered alternatives to his “special” coal saying she would supply her makaa if only to lower his treatment costs. Dr. Ndoo realized he had been cornered. My mother had/has excellent bargaining skills. Some of which rubbed off on me. That was the first time I saw her in action and boy was I amazed.  Dr. Ndoo agreed to lower his theatre costs to ten bob, then the operation began. He filled up his Crown Paint metallic tin with coal. Blew into it so the fire could spread. I watched as he melted black plastic into the tin and spread it onto the blue bucket. The smoke was deathly. Dark and thick. He didn’t seem to mind it. He sang a Kamba song as he smoked on his Sportsman cigarette, his finger nails dark with soot. Or was it burns? I couldn’t tell. “Are doctors even allowed to smoke as they operate?” I wondered.

10 minutes into the operation. Tension reigned high. What was the result? The Mombasa sun was scotching and the doctor sure was feeling it. He removed his vest. Damn. Shit just got real. Was blue bucket going to be ok? My future relationship with my mother depended on it! Another 10 minutes in and the doctor emerged grinning as he wiped his brow.

“Iko sawa sasa mama. Hawaniiti Dr.Ndoo bure! Hahaha!”  My mother smiled. I smiled. All would be well. Then my mum turned to me and said “Vunja tena uone” and my smile vanished. The good doctor was paid and was off to his next ICU patient.

I wish I could say we all lived happily ever after but this was only the beginning of our troubles. Blue bucket was never the same. It went in for many other surgeries after that and it’s health only got worse. I had assumed that mum would have let it go and used it as a takataka bin but no. She loved that blue – now blue black bucket too much! She refused to let it go. She spent more money on other doctors and operations. Money, that would have bought her a brand new bucket. She simply refused to accept that her washing pride and joy, the envy and talk of the estate was not the same and even when the bucket leaked water, she still washed clothes in them only making sure she did so fast before all the water leaked out. Weeh! That never say die spirit. She eventually did turn in into a kitchen bin but this was after all the doctors advised her to throw the blue-black-green (more of the black and green patches than the blue) bucket. Even then, her heart and pride wouldn’t let her.

And so in all of this, here is the lesson. You break your mum’s favorite bucket and you will face the music.

Also, let’s all strive not to give up in life. When life doesn’t turn out quite as we planned, let’s change the plan and still be useful. Just like the bucket.

The End.

Interesting enough:

  1. That crown paint tin never loses it’s heat! And the fundi will walk long distances! You will find paraphernalia inside like bones, charcoal, twigs, leaves, plastics to keep it ever blazing.
  2. That ndoo will NEVER toboka at the same place twice! Once sealed, even a power saw can’t break it! However, other cracks will develop elsewhere…Lol!
  3. Once, a white guy was touring Buruburu and passed a kiraka doctor with his crown paint tin, full of hot coal. So he turned to his Kenyan pal and asked him, with a concerned look on his face… “Hey! People walk with their own fire here in Africa?” 😂 😂

The End! For real now! Share your story below!

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