Times And Plates


I found people calling him Africa, like the continent, not African. I was a child then so questioning him on whether his mother gave him that name would have come out as rude and disrespectful. Come to think of it, mothers in his time, though in my little head he didn’t seem to have had a mother or even been born, didn’t let things like a name bother them, they were too busy trying to make ends meet that the months would just fly away without her ever thinking that they would eventually name their child. Well, for these days, I won’t be surprised if a WhatsApp group was created to analyse the name they would give their yet to be born child, we’re sorry.

Otherwise, kitambo, women sort of knew that a name would come, you know, “Mungu akileta mtoto, analeta na sahani yake,”(when God brings a child, He brings its plate too). This is what we Kenyans heard, I mean Africans, but what Sauti Soul really said was, “saa ni yake,” translation for “time is His.” Who blames Africans anyway, we hear what we want and sing what we want, so long as it ministers to us, we would even change the lyrics. I bet we are also a hungry continent because, I mean was “sahani” all we could hear. I still put the plates anyway.

So yeah, Africa. We revered him. He was not only a cobbler but the man that helped us pluck our teeth and give it to the tooth fairy/grandmother for a replacement with better teeth. Talk of being self-centred from an early age, we actually thought that grannies didn’t have use for their teeth. They had lived their share anyway and if mine gave me her name, what is a tooth.

The night before, I couldn’t help but keep on wondering why I had to go through all that at a young age, why wouldn’t the one who gave me the teeth in the first place just give me good ones. I asked my mother if there was another way we could just ignore the tooth and go on with our lives. Mom said that the plucking was inevitable, and if I didn’t pluck it, some other tooth would grow just above it, and I would regret it when I grow up. She actually said that people would take me as a coward. People calling you a coward while young is not much of a big deal, but when you grow up and find out that everyone went through the same experience and didn’t cower, well, that would be something.

I dragged my feet to Africa’s place, no words were exchanged, just facial expressions. I figured, the fewer the words, the better. If every other child is going through this, then there’s no need of throwing a pity party and screaming that it wasn’t fair. Misery loves company after all. Story short; I didn’t tell Africa thank you. I ran away with the tooth in my hand, bleeding. I did the selfish “ritual” of asking grandma to give me her tooth, since mine was bad. I don’t know why we never used to ask grandpa for his, I think he wasn’t done with them just yet.

My niece is teething currently and I can actually see the discomfort that those tiny teeth are giving her. Adding this to the fact that they are just temporary, worsens the whole issue as I think about it; the fever, rashes on the face, diarrhoea and her discomfort in eating. She is not as jovial as she is normally. If there was trading places, her mother would gladly do it. I feel like whispering to my little niece that she should brace herself, that the journey is not for the weak or the coward. I want to whisper to her that this is the greatest equaliser of all babies, whether African or Asian, they are all teething, maybe this will calm her like it did me, but she is only a toddler. I want to whisper to her that, “Saa ni yake.” That it not only is her time, but also God’s time, and he will provide whatever she needs in this stage. “Sahani Yake.”

The inevitability of life is a bitter sweet experience if you ask me. Whether you want it or not, life will always happen, you either flow freely to its melody and rhythm or you grudgingly succumb. The tooth will shed and if you don’t pluck it in good time, another will grow just above it. Teething will happen to a months’ old child whether we think it is fair or not. I think if God wanted, he would have made babies like my niece to be born with teeth, think about it, of course you can’t since we are already familiar to this anyway. But he would, if it wasn’t necessary

Life demands that we be flexible. It requires us not to be too clingy to things, because the ‘teeth’ we can’t wait to have will sooner than later need to be plucked for better permanent ones. It teaches us that everything is temporary, whether teething or shedding. Life teaches us to appreciate other people’s experiences; that though I could classify my pain as being immense, I shouldn’t downplay another person’s pain. It tells me that people deal differently with pain and I shouldn’t try box them all in how I handled mine. It whispers to me that we are all unique and are going through unique situations but the end goal is the same: To become the best versions of ourselves, we could ever be.

If it helps, life is literally happening to everyone, you’re no exception and if you’re keen you’ll see the plates set just for you in your particular season.

Life teaches me to appreciate every person’s season, that my shedding season shouldn’t make her teething season feel unimportant or unnecessary. That kindergarten is as important and necessary as college; that my delay in either shouldn’t make you conclude that am a done case.

Up until now I don’t know why they call him Africa, why they accorded him such a great name. How the name stuck, I will never know. What I do know is that Africa played a great role in my life, he made sure that when am older, I will never have to explain why my teeth weren’t plucked. Well, of course granny gave me her teeth too. I think of Africa and I see God.

What a pruner God is? Just when we think that we have made it in life, just when we start eating sugarcane, He comes and disorients our comfort zones. He comes and plucks out everything that is stunting our growth. He comes and says, “well, you know what, milking time is over, you have to be made ready for the meat.” Some things He allows to grow, like my niece’s teeth while others He uproots like my canine. We have to trust the process, trust the fact that He is not a fun kill, trust the fact that if He asks us to let go of something then He has a better and more permanent replacement, trust that if He is “teething” us, then we will not die in the process; that we can handle it, fever and all. Trust that, “saa ni yake,” and most definitely the time and season comes with ‘sahani yake.’


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