The Greatest Gift of All
Watching your child grow is frightening and rewarding in equal measure. I know I have talked one too many times about the nativity play that my six-year-old daughter Xena participated in recently, which might make you wonder if our lives are that desolate. So, before I start to sound like a broken record, hear me out one last time.
Xena loves telling stories, most of them born out of her experiences and interactions but some of them are imaginary. Being a sleepy head, getting her out of bed every weekday morning when schools are in session is a battle. But once she descends the small ladder that connects her top bunker to her sister’s lower bed, she’s worse than an active volcano. Her inexorable banter begins.
First, she narrates her dream or nightmare as she’s having a bath and yaps on while dressing up. She babbles some more as she saunters down the staircase and the prattle continues even as she stands by the kitchen doorway, screaming instructions of her preferred meal. The dining table is where memories of incidences at school come flooding, so she narrates them with so much pomp and colour as her cereals sit despondently, begging to be consumed. And even as I drop them to school, she makes comments about the music playing on the car stereo; either asking me to pump up the volume because it’s her favourite song or tasking me to sing along if she sees me nodding my head to some song.
“Mama, if that’s your song why are you not singing along?”
Half the time I don’t know the words and I am at pains to explain that it is possible to enjoy a song whose lyrics you don’t grasp.
All this time, her small sister buckled up in the back left stares at her in awe and in complete silence, and will only exercise her vocals when Xena breaks into a song. From the roadside where we park our car, Xena yaps about the weather and the cars on the road, asking questions like why all number plates begin with the letter K, or why some cars are old and let out smoke, and if cars eventually die and where they are buried when they do.
As we walk past the school gate, she loudly greets the Askari and at the offloading zone adjacent to the class, she makes conversation with all the classmates as she retrieves her folder from her bag and change into indoor shoes before placing her bag in her pigeon-hole. By the time I walk Xia to her class and walk back, she is usually still at the offloading zone only this time talking to a new set of classmates, the earlier bunch long gone to class. That’s Xena, in a nut shell.
However, over the past month, things took an interesting twist. She was still the usual colourful raconteur, only this time she was babbling about one thing only- The school nativity play, where she had been assigned the role of one of ten narrators. From the moment she woke up, she would take on the narrator’s role and go over her lines ever so passionately, as if her role was in a film that was positioning itself for the Oscars. But as I later would discover, this play meant the world to Xena, as much as a potential Oscar-winning film would mean to any actor.
Xena has always had an enviable memory, something most kids tend to have anyway as they don’t have multiple taxation to worry about- neither do they stress over looming deadlines at work or bills, and worse still pantries whose constituents like cooking oil and maize flour and bananas seem to be sniffed off the shelves. So, her grasp of her role in one day did not come as a big surprise to us. The first day she came home with the flash card bearing her lines, we expected her to reference it, at least once. But instead, she beamed with delight as she told us of the different roles her classmates were assigned, then went ahead to narrate her bit as she waited eagerly for our reactions, the flash card never to be used.
As days went by, she updated us on the progress back at school while placing several demands along the way, the first one being her acting outfit.
“Mama, you are required to buy me a green dress and red doll shoes for the play.” She demanded as we were driving to school one morning.
“Who requires this of me?”
“Mrs Otieno.” She responded. “The narrators will be in that outfit, all ten of us.”
Usually, the teacher indicates in their diaries the deadline for submission of the outfits- which is typically a month from the day of notice. However, my forgetful self is always late to deliver; as late as driving around from mall to mall on the deadline day whilst praying for a miracle.
But not this time round. I was haunted by Xena every morning and evening after her recitals for at least a week before I finally yielded. On that particular evening, I posted on Instagram what I needed and amongst so many responses in my inbox was Rayelle’s: a young self-taught fashion designer and ex banker who quit her job last year to pursue her passion. She sent me a couple of designs and promised to deliver my outfit of choice in three days, a deadline she diligently met.
I held my breath as I spread out the dress on my bed the evening Rayelle sent it over. It was gorgeous, even in the eyes of a fastidious six-year-old. She quickly slipped into it and ran towards my mirror. She lit up like a Christmas tree the moment she saw her reflection. The bow around her neck and the flow of the dress at the bottom made her look like royalty. The ruffled suspender like sleeves added pizzaz to the outfit.
“Oh my God mama, it’s so gorgeous. Thank you!” The beam on her face spelt gratification. I finally remembered to breathe.
What started with her reciting her three sentences at every chance culminated in her performing the entire play to the dismay of everyone that had the honour of listening or watching her. This first happened when we had travelled to Nakuru to see my folks. While she was in the shower, she broke into this discourse to the shock of everyone within earshot.
“Cavina Primary School presents, the greatest gift of all. Welcome. Over two thousand years ago, in a city called Nazareth, there was a young woman who was named Mary. Mary was promised to marry a man named Joseph, who lived there too. One day, an angel from God came to talk to Mary…”
And so she went on, switching from one role to another while interspersing the monologue with Christmas carols every so often. By the time she was done, we were all standing outside the bathroom door in awe, my dad and mum and myself, her younger sister Xia prancing about the corridor oblivious to our admiration of her big sister. She stepped out of the shower to a standing ovation. On that day, her love and devotion to this play was reaffirmed.
A week to the play, she reminded us daily of the d-day, as if not wanting to take chances with our failing memories. We were also promptly advised to dress smartly. She picked a blue shirt for the dad and asked me to wear a green dress to match hers. I didn’t have one but my choice did not disappoint. On the morning of the play, she was happy as a clam. And as I dropped them to school at 7.30am, she reminded me to be on time.
“Make sure you get a seat at the front.” She said as we crossed the road.
“I promise I will.”
“Will you be the first one?” She inquired.
“I better be.” I said to her.
The play would start at 10.00am and I intended to be there an hour before. I was going to be there for her in all the ways she expected me to, and then some. And I did. Front row seat, with her dad and her nanny Mercy, phone camera on standby.
With remarkable gusto, the narrators, resplendent in their green outfits, stepped on stage and introduced the play. The play unfolded beautifully to the delightment of the seated crowd, each kid taking their role ever so seriously, including the donkey and the sheep. Even then, I whipped myself into a frenzy as I waited for Xena’s turn. When it finally came, she gracefully walked up the stage and spoke with enviable confidence while smiling and looking around the crowd for recognition. I was afraid she would forget some of her words when she spotted us, but instead she smiled harder and carried on.
We did not realise how fast an hour had gone by, until when all the kids were crouching on the stage and Xena sprouted up, dramatically throwing her hands in the air and shouted “THE END!”
There was great roar from the crowd, parents overwhelmed with delirium over the stunning performance by their little people, some of them as young as three years. When the chatter settled, the headmistress took over the mic, thanking the kids for an incredible performance. Her next words left me beaming with pride.
“Xena, oh Xena. What do I say? Watch out for this girl, she will be the next Lupita Nyong’o”
To say that I am proud of the person my six-year-old daughter Xena is becoming is an understatement.
***This post was sponsored by our favourite kids’ shoe store- Matique Junior. Without them, we would not know where to run to for shoes for different occasions and seasons, such as the ones Xena and her sister Xia are spotting in the picture. As you may have rightfully guessed, they will be awarding one of you with a KES 2,500 voucher. Simply drop a comment telling us of one of your proudest moment as parent/guardian/uncle/aunty/sibling. What is this thing that the child did or does that makes you so proud to be associated with them? Also make sure to follow Matique Junior on Instagram. The winner will be announced next week on Tuesday in the comment section.
Also, all winners of the last two giveaways have been announced in the respective comment sections.
Lucyann- Picazzo Brunch
Lucy Kathinja- Entim Sidai Spa
Janerose- Pan Asian Yao brunch
If they don’t email me on firstname.lastname@example.org to claim their vouchers by next Tuesday we will randomly pick other winners. Good luck!***