Grandmothers

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Today I saw a picture of myself and from the side and I looked exactly like my grandmother; my father’s mother after whom I am named Wambui. I looked at it for a while and I was transported back in time.

My grandmother was quite a remarkable woman just shy of 94 years of age at the end. She had a unique combination of warmth, kindness, laughter and love. She was strong willed, determined and fearless, often getting her way. She lauded my every success; she meant nothing but the world to me. My grandmother was blessed with the wisdom of a great teacher, sharp as whistle, wisely economical. She was as sincere as my truest friend, and showered unconditional love, I admired her, respected her, and loved her much. “In my heart, grandma, you will always be dear, the shining star, the crazy diamond. Rest in peace Cucu.” She passed away in 2013 and I still miss her.

No angel stretched protecting wings above the heads of her children, fluttering and urging the winds of reason into the confusions of their lives. They sprouted like young weeds, but she could not shield their growth from the grinding blades of ignorance, nor shape them into symbolic topiaries. She sent them away, underground, overland, in coaches and shoeless. When you learn, teach. When you get, give. As for me, I shall not be moved.

She stood in mid ocean, seeking dry land. She searched God’s face. Assured, she placed her fire of service on the altar, and though clothed in the finery of faith, when she appeared at the temple door, no sign welcomed Black Grandmother, Enter here. Into the crashing sound, into wickedness, she cried, No one, no, nor no one million ones dare deny me God, I go forth along, and stand as ten thousand ~  Excerpt from the Poem Our Grandmothers – Written by Maya Angelou.

Born at the dawn of the 20th century women like my grandmother and the ones narrated in the poem faced many challenges. The first and second world war, colonialism, Mau Mau, imprisonment of their spouses or of themselves, poverty, illiteracy, co-wives, discrimination, marginalization, racism, sexism, violence, prejudice and many more she and her age mates only knew and kept to themselves. However the most remarkable outcome was that for a good number of them their experiences did not make them bitter instead they radiated warmth, generosity (thinking of Cucu’s bananas) and wisdom . It was a different time I hear, but was it?

When I read in the press, watch on various outlets, hear personal stories of the challenges women, men, youth and children are facing today, I conclude we all need a boost of inspiration and courage. Some of the challenges remain the same others may have changed in form but just as menacing.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt.

Therefore today take look back see how we have come as yourself first, as a family, as a community, as a nation, as a people and as global village and celebrate the things we have overcome together and individually. So when that moment comes and it will, when you will need to stand in courage and conviction, do not cower away but like in Maya Angelou’s poem Our Grandmothers, go forth along and stand as ten thousand.

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