She is petite. . .small boned, with a delicate structure and a fragile demeanor that makes me afraid of her. . .I sat next to her today in the bus, she must have been tired because she slept on my shoulder. . . The whole time I did not move, I simply sat still and let her sleep. She is my mother

I know her, I used to see her around the estate many times, back when I lived with my parents. Sometimes hauling market produce on her head. On Sundays I saw her in pretty clothes rushing to go to church. Sometimes alone, other times with her husband. She is my mother

Today she is sited right next to me. She has a gold watch on her wrist and a soft cotton crème shawl placed around her shoulders. She said that she was feeling cold, something I found astonishing given how hot I am feeling. I am slightly irritated at her for closing the window, but I swallow the irritation and watch her some more. She is my mother

She has a remarkably smooth face, chocolate brown complexion. . .on the darker side, very smooth and soft looking. Everything about her looks soft and fragile. . .I can’t help but marvel at how she was ever able to carry such heavy loads from the market. She is my mother

The hair on her head is curly and cotton like, with grey discretely visible at the side. She starts to wake up, I am still looking at her and I notice the slightly rheumy eyes. I watch her wrinkly, childlike hands as she rummages in her handbag stopping once she finds what she is looking for. She lifts her hand out of her bag and on it she is clutching a white handkerchief. She raises it to her eyes and roughly cleans them. With the forcefulness of one who already expects them to need cleaning. She is my mother

She looks at me shyly then turns away.
Hers has not been an easy life. It never is for those of her disposition. They too readily accept the cards dished out to them by life. She has always been accepting of her situation. She works with what she has without a pinch of ambition. An air of contentment hangs around her. I do not know whether this is part of what irritates me about her. How genuinely accepting and almost naïve she is. She is my mother

You see I know her better than she is aware. I have watched her for many years . . . masking my curiosity towards her quite well. She taught me in school. I was not a student that stood out, so I’m not surprised that she does not remember me. I was a silent, rebellious, average student, that sat at the back of the class and was always in search of new exciting things do outside the classroom. I liked her though. She was a patient teacher and not judgmental, she cared about us more than she should have bothered. The bunch of rascals we were. We never missed her classes but ran away from most of the rest. I think I stayed for her lessons because I liked watching her, and because she would definitely follow up on us if we dared to miss any of her lessons. She is my mother

We were neighbors, I knew her five sons and husband. She worshipped the ground her husband walked on. I could always tell from how she rushed home to cook for him daily and how well kept he and his sons looked. Even when she looked a bit shabby and winded, they were always perfect. I don’t know how she raised five boys and taught a class full of hormonal teenagers at the same time. I can’t stand even one teen for too long, I’m always giving my nephew and niece money to get away from them. She is my mother

I remember the rumors around the neighborhood about her, that she gave her full salary to her husband and had to ask him for money for her necessities . . . That he sometimes neglected them for his other wife. I’m sure that was when I began hating the man. Not that she would ever look angry though. . . Just tired and sometimes sad. She frustrated my nosey self to no end. I wanted her to fight for herself. She never did. . .

She remained with him, having the tools to be independent but never the heart to break free, shutting out her thoughts for his. I know she is an intelligent woman, I know she is kind and generous . . . But I don’t know her. . . I have never seen her beyond her kindness and her nurturing nature, beyond her outward sense of organization and propriety, I know nothing else.
Does she love the smell of rain? does she love chapatis ?. . . Is she afraid of the dark?. . . After her husband there is nothing, nothing, but the patient nurturer, who does not get angry and turns a blind eye to things that would upset her husband. She is my mother

Even now as I watch her I can sense her hidden depth. I do not kid myself however, her depth is only hers, maybe she shares it with those very close to her but I doubt it. Save for her sons and husband I never saw her around friends. . . Maybe her sons know her. As for the husband. . . Does he even have the capacity to see anything? She only ever shares the bits of herself that she has allowed herself to . . . That she dares to. The rest of her she has kept to herself, her humor, her sense of style, her passion, these only unexpectedly show up, on rare occasions. I wonder if she even really knows who she is beyond the nurturer. She has done much, much. . . but I have always seen that hidden capacity for more. . . The more she chose to bury for the sake of her husband. A husband that does not let her be anything more than his good wife. She is my mother


We are halfway through our journey, the bus makes a quick stop at a petrol station. She asks me to excuse her, she wants to alight, after a brief feeling of panic I also alight, this is not my stop and I am probably an idiot for doing this . . . Well, I guess I’ll be one today. I approach her, my lanky self towering above her, I am smiling in what I hope is a non threatening way and ask to help her with her bags.

At first she looks skeptical, but she finally agrees to let me carry them after I go on a tale of how I live close by and my mother would not stand any discourtesy shown towards anyone from me. I don’t think she bought my story but she decides to let me carry one of her bags.
We start to walk in silence and the whole while I am wondering if I should tell her that she was once my teacher. . . Do I really want her to start recollecting my colorful teen years. . . I think not. She is my mother

We approach a kiosk and I offer to buy her a soda, I actually insist on it. ‘Mami hiyo jua ni kali, ka soda baridi tu alafu tuende?’

She needs more convincing, she tells me her family is waiting for her, she cannot wait, but she agrees to a take away, warm fanta orange, and buys apple juice for her husband, telling me quite understandably that she wouldn’t want to enjoy her drink alone. We are approaching her home and reason almost wins out leading me to introduce myself . . . But I don’t. I hand her back her bag and stand aside. . .

As she moves towards her gate, she turns to me, fixing her calm eyes on my face,

‘I always knew you were a good boy Almasi’

There is a twinkle in her eye as she smiles at me then turns to knock on her gate. I turn to leave, speechless as I hear somebody opening the gate on the inside. I turn to look, she simply waves at me and disappears into the structure. I walk back to the bus station, full of mixed feelings, wondering at my actions, and feeling more enamored by her. . . She was my teacher at school and my mother in my heart. . . throughout my troubled youth she was my patient selfless instructor, who saved my life with her belief in me. She is my unsung hero.

Unsung hero by King and Country

Disclaimer: this piece is not about my actual mother, some physical features of the character do mimic my real mother’s but the rest of the persona of the character is a collective of stories from people I love and my imagination

❤️ This character felt suppressed, all through the process of writing about her. I kept on wondering when to incorporate her own responsibility to break free, whether I should make that her hero arch. I decided not too, giving it somewhat more a neutral progression, there was reason for this, I wanted to see the light in an obscure character. To try and show that the path of consistency, compassion, and quietness in adversity, requires just as much mental fortitude, as the more popular ‘breaking free or even’ story arch. I know it felt claustrophobic 😅😊. It was meant to, she maintains consistency, showing empathy towards her students, drawing them into learning. She finds a way to let her light shine. That is her hero arch. Adversity failed to steal her light from her, and she has instead, with quiet courage, passed on her light to her students.



By Ruth Mgendi

I have an appreciation for words, the power words have to uplift, build, create, without words we would not be able to convey intent or meaning to each other.

I am also a legal researcher, lover of comics, art, color, stories, adventure and beauty. Above all I appreciate and respect life, the body, the mind and the soul.
I seek a higher connectivity and understanding of the co-existence between these three parts of life and hope to share this journey with any other learner.
I hope this forum will be interactive, positive and above all I hope it adds value in some way to those that read and interact.

Hope Nyambura is my attempt at a pen name, so. . . indulge my pink and golden bubble :-)

Thank you!

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