Some jobs are hard! Imagine pushing a mkokoteni from Kongowea to Likoni Ferry (For those in Nairobi, this is like from Githurai to Muthurwa!) in the scorching heat, barefoot with no shirt on. By the way, we should form a commission of inquiry to investigate why they are always on bare feet and shirtless. The sweat flowing freely on the shirtless backs making them shine so bright, I swear you can see your reflection! And these ones need no gym to get them abs. They just form. But if you think this or ferrying stones in construction site is the hardest job on earth, you haven’t trying being hairdresser to a one and a half-year-old!
It’s 9.00 am. We have just finished a whole hour session of begging, threatening, athletics, hide and seek and we have finally managed to finish two bars of weetabix. Where is the gold medal? We heat water in the microwave — because my electric kettle blew it’s fuse and gas is expensive and has a very very bad habit of breathing it’s last just when you have put on the onions for making food for visitors who have just called to say they are on the way. The microwave and the rice cooker are the best life savers in the kitchen. If you didn’t know you can cook almost anything (except ugali, of course) on the rice cooker. You can even boil cereals and bake cakes on the rice cooker!
So, we microwave the water and get ready for the bath. But there is on little problem — the hair is still in the ‘matuta lines’ that mama professionally made. They need to be removed. So mama arms herself with an afro-comb and starts the process of unbraidng hair. This little Miss Sensitive does not want to feel any pulling and tagging on her hair. So she keeps looking up to see what mama is doing to her hair. I tell you it is very hard to undo hair when someone is bending over backwards to look up at you.
So madam hairdresser has to think fast. I gather a few pegs and throw them in the bath water. Threat temporarily neutralized! I get working fast and furious. This little miss has a very short attention span, something I can’t dare fault her for since she got it from me. After a while, the hair and massage pro is done undoing the hair. The air is shampooed and we finish the bath and start to get dry.
Once dressed, it’s time to do the hair again. Sometime I just let it stay for a week after undoing it to let it breath. I end up with a mess that can’t be combed. This girls hair is tough, my people. Do you know those short tough as nails plants that are used as brooms when dry? In Kikuyu I hear they are called Mahinga. That is Bobo’s hair. This one she got from my dad, no doubt!
Miss I-want-my-space has vowed to make my work very hard this time round. I touch her hair and she looks up , bending over backwards again and says a series of vowels that I pretend to understand. I nod and say yes. She looks down and I do the first braid — yeeh! I secure it at the top with a rubber band and advance on to conquer the next territory.
She stands up and starts to clap! I join in and then feign play-mode before gently putting her down again to continue with the braiding. She is restless so I bring play things — a torch (That light always amuses her) an open jar of aqueous cream (we use it because she has eczema). I even pour the rubber bands on the bed to amuse her. She loses interest in the torch after three minutes and turns to opening and closing the cream. I hear this is a stage — opening and closing stuff.
We do a few braids while she is pre-occupied with the cream. I’m white all over as she is trying to be a masseuse. She is getting sleepy and sleepy always means restlessness and scratching! Why do babies scratch when sleepy? After what seems like an eternity, I’m almost done. But there is a patch of marginalized area at the back of the head that always requires utmost care to avoid pulling. This one will have to wait. Miss Pretty needs to sleep.
She blacks out almost immediately. I’m tired and sweating, my fingers are aching from the strain. Right now, I think pushing a mkokoteni is easier!