MGENI NJOO MWENYEJI APONE (Swahili for “Let the guest come so that the host or hostess may benefit (get well)”)

Submitted into Contest #96 in response to: Write about someone welcoming a stranger into their home.... view prompt


African American Creative Nonfiction Happy

It was not long ago in my mother’s house that we had a special cupboard for storing utensils meant for the guests - and the guests alone. I remember my sister and I waiting for our parents to live for work, so that we can have a feel of being guests. I think our parents knew, even though we did that behind their backs. Many are the times they would come home and find pieces of glass in the dustbin.

My mother, the lioness of the house, had shouted and punished us numerous times that she had given up – even lions when they fail to catch a prey for the day, they sleep hungry. Later in the week she would replace the broken utensil.

I loved it when we had guests coming, especially my mother’s guests. That day, a million and one house chores that I had to complete everyday was done by my mum. At times I pitied her and would think about helping her; but my cerebrum quickly reminded me that as soon as the guests had gone, I would officially take back my office as house manager as if I never left. And oh, there was no retiring or getting fired from this office unless you were of age (18 years +), and had decided to move out. There were only 1 in 10,000 days off.

It’s not like I didn’t like doing house work; but again, I can’t say I enjoy it. It’s just that I like doing things at my own time: sweeping and mopping at night, laundry during the weekends only, and utensils when there’s at least a good number of dirty dishes.

May 16th every year.

This is surely the day that the Lord has made. No, it’s not my birthday or any of my kin’s birthday. It’s also not the day that I had my first kiss with the dreamiest boy in the world, who I have been crushing on (ladies Hmmm). This was the day that my mum was always hosting guests every year for their ‘chama’.

A chama is like an informal women’s Sacco. They save money in a common fund and they can ask for a loan from the chama to start a business or do some personal developments. They also meet every end month and travel to different places yearly. Let’s put it this way: it’s like an only women’s self-help group.

“Should I wake up or should I not. I think I’ll just continue enjoying my beauty sleep”, the Barbie part of me said. Unlike other weekends when I am usually rooster of the house, this day is different. And I know my mum would not wake me up. She wants everything to be perfect; and only her way is 100%. The previous day we spent the whole day shopping for foodstuff and house supplies for this one day.

Waking up early can actually become a habit. After tossing and turning in my bed for approximately 30 minutes, the sweet-smelling aroma of freshly cooked mandazi got me of the bed so suddenly like a detective who had just discovered the final missing part of a murder case.

“Mum, can I help?” “…Yes, you can start with the dishes!” Oooo noo, the question I initially meant to ask was ‘Can I help with tasting if there’s enough of everything in the meals?’ But now that the duty is assigned, there is no taking it back. I pushed myself to the sink, overcoming the repulsion force between myself and the stainless-steel sink, almost scattering everywhere the already prepared meals in our small of kitchen.

“You want to eat but not work…even the Bible says…”

Hint! Hint! But anyway, that’s my mum. If she hadn’t said that, I would actually be stressed, questioning if she is alright today. That’s her famous phrase together with a lot of others.

I got working and in no time, the dishes were sparkling, the table was set and the house was looking polished. All that was missing now were the guests.

“Knock! Knock!”

My sister and I burst into a ran heading to our bedrooms; as my mum spoke with the softest voice I never thought could come out of her mouth, saying, “Karibuni ndani (welcome inside)”.

In a matter of minutes, more guests kept coming in until they were all present for their meeting. Later on, my mum would call us to greet the guests, who were strangers to my sister and I. It was a sign of respect. So, we calmly went and hand shook each and every one of the guests.

The food was in plenty, not only for the guests but also for us. Everything that you might have thought of eating in a party was there. My sister, Ashley, and I took turns in going to the kitchen to take different meals every now and then; of course, avoiding my mum. She always has the principle of eating after the guests have left.

Gales of laughter filled the house and everyone was chatting audibly (women’s gossip). The guests were happy, we were happy and especially, the host was the happiest. I am sure that even the ants were happy. Soft, low volume rhumba music was playing in the background and every now and then I could hear “Cheers…cheers” It was a happy day for all.

I tried not to think about the piles and piles of dishes that would be waiting for me after the party/meeting; and I just enjoyed the moment while it lasted.

I guess I never really understood all the perfection when we had guests; more of like strangers; but one thing is for sure: it was always a great, happy and amazing day. If I have guests in future, I would definitely treat them as my mum does.

Eventually the guests would leave for their homes and also leave behind gifts for my mum.

That’s why wahenga (ancestors) walisema (said) ‘Mgeni Njoo, Mwenyeji apone’

May 30, 2021 12:59

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