***In today’s feature, Xena’s dad narrates his experience going on vacation with Xena, just the two of them. Thanks Renato for stepping in. I honestly had no idea what I was going to put up this Monday!***
Your kids will teach you more than you can ever teach them. If you don’t believe me, ask your parents. Most recently, I learnt to never make a promise that I can’t keep, especially to a five-year old.
Late last year, I carelessly promised Xena that I would take her down to the coast during the December holiday. You see, it was one of those moments where she comes to me with the most random request. Usually, I would be catching up on the day’s news headlines on TV (yeah, I am still analogue like that) or trying to take an afternoon nap on a Saturday after a round of golf, especially after losing a bet. During such instances, it helps to respond with an answer that will end the conversation immediately.
On this particular day, she said she wanted to go to Mombasa. I imagined the missus had something to do with this request because she is always craving a holiday. She’s like a ship that cannot be anchored. We would be driving to church on Sunday morning, the skies clear and the weather cool and comforting. Then she peers outside the window on James Gichuru road and goes like “What do you think of Capri?” and I would say “The beautiful weather has got you thinking of capri shorts?” and she would sigh and say “Not capri shorts you twit! Capri, the island in Italy.”
So, I imagined it was the missus’ idea and I dismissively told Xena that I would take her to the coast when schools closed. I had no intention of keeping my word. I later learned that the missus had nothing to do with the Mombasa plan. Apparently, two of Xena’s friends in school had mentioned how they planned on spending the holidays at the coast. It goes without saying that Xena was determined to have Mombasa feature in her answer to the question “How did you spend your holiday?” come January. She had every intention of lying on the beach in December. She was relentless all through the last term, and every so often, our conversation would go like this:
“Daddy, are the holidays almost here?” She would ask mostly when we were lazing around at home on the couch.
“No sweetheart, why do you ask?” I would inquire, pretending not to know what she was on about.
“Because you said we would go to Mombasa after schools close.”
She continuously reminded me about the trip at every opportunity she got. Even as she dressed up during the weekends, she would insist on putting on “the shorts for Mombasa”.
December holidays finally came and there was no turning back. My friend Wakesho was having her wedding in Mombasa. This was the perfect opportunity to fulfil my promise – talk of killing two birds with one stone. Most importantly, I had thought seriously about the importance of keeping my word especially when it came to my daughters. Because if I didn’t, some man might do the same to them and they would think it’s ok.
Just when I thought I had it all figured out, I was faced with a conundrum. My mum in law planned to have a get together at her home in Nakuru on the same day as the Mombasa wedding. The thought of me trying to explain to the missus about my potential absence was scary. Mentioning that I intended to take Xena with me was even more unsettling. It cost me several winks. I needed to get the perfect excuse and ensure the perfect setting to break the news.
Such situations call for serious consultation, so I reached out to my best man Paul whose advice was as useless as those new traffic lights in Nairobi.
“Just say you don’t understand Kikuyu.” He muttered, staring deeply into the ground.
The ground must have whispered those words into his ears because surely, if he wanted to he would have come up with a better excuse for me. I stared at him in disbelief and when he finally lifted his gaze towards me, he said:
“Boss, remember to carry your golf kit. We can play on Saturday morning before heading out to the wedding.”
I could not believe his nerve. I mean, how was I supposed to get the golf kit out of the house without making it look like this trip had been planned since 2008? After racking my brain for days and not coming up with any solution, I simply mustered the courage one evening and brought up the subject over dinner. I explained to the missus that I had made a promise to take Xena to Mombasa and this was the perfect opportunity. To my surprise, she was fine with it. In fact, her actual words were “That’s a brilliant idea, finally Xena can give us a break over Mombasa.” I was in shock and made a mental note to hide all the sharp objects in the house.
The missus and Xia, the younger one, left for Nakuru the following week on Friday afternoon. That evening, Xena was all of a flutter. Excitedly, we drove to The Junction and shopped for shorts and bags. It was Daddy and his little princes for the weekend. We did everything mum advised against, including having ice cream, cake, sweets and soda. Then we topped it all with Planet Yogurt’s frozen yogurt. As we were driving back home, Xena turned to me and asked “Daddy, can we leave for Mombasa now?”
“No, we can’t.” I said to her. “The plane is scheduled to leave in the morning.”
I doubt she slept at all because at 5.00am, she was pulling my covers and asking me to get out of bed.
“Dad, it’s morning, let’s go”. I was in disbelief. Usually, she struggles to get up to go to school but this time she was up and early.
On the flight to Mombasa, I was still exhausted and hoping to catch a nap. However, that was never going to be possible, not with the myriad of questions she had for me.
We arrived at the hotel and headed straight to the pool. Her friend Makena was also in town and they immediately took to each other and ended up playing at the beach once they got tired of swimming. By the end of the day she was totally knackered and couldn’t even muster the strength to have her dinner.
On Sunday morning, we took a walk on the beach while collecting shells which Xena decided would be good for mum’s necklace. As we picked them one by one, she would study them and utter statements like “This one looks like an ice cream shell.” Or “This one is a carrot shell.” Afterwards, we drove to old town and after a tour of Fort Jesus, we headed to an ice cream parlour.
Later in the evening, we picked our luggage from the hotel and started our journey to the airport, one that would finally see us back home at 11:00pm. It was a great bonding session and I felt privileged to have been able to spend uninterrupted time with her. I hoped she would cherish that holiday amongst the many others we have had with the entire family, just like the road trips with my parents are forever etched in my memory.
As I was writing this piece, I asked Xena what she liked most about Mombasa.
“Ice cream!” she yelled, without hesitation.
By Renato D’Souza.