I had never pegged myself as a stay-at-home dad (or househusband if you like). But that is exactly what I had become over the last 8 months.
My lofty position as the manager of a 5-star hotel in the city succumbed to the virus.
So, here I was at a supermarket along Kiambu road, picking up diapers, some extra plates and glasses.
Millie (my better half) was having her parents over for the weekend, and if there’s one thing I had learned during our 8-year marriageâ€¦ appearances matterâ€¦ a lot.
As I was canvassing through the aisles, I noticed a colourful set of bright orange tablemats.
They spoke to me. We definitely needed more tablematsâ€¦ I thought to myself.
The ones we had were all mangled up and stained with baby food. I think I actually saw one on the driveway on my way out.
We had Joshua (our 4-year old son) to thank for converting our home into something that resembled an accident scene where toys, spoons, balls and mangled up placemats made up the debris.
My son was in the â€˜Indiana Jonesâ€™ stage of his young, carefree life.
Having recently discovered that the two strange things attached to his lower body could run, jump and perform somersaults, my days were filled with near-death experiences.
I remember this one time when I found him standing on the edge of our 8-foot refrigerator. He was getting ready to dive into a pile of pillows he had ingeniously placed all around the house. Boys will always be boys.
He had the energy of a raging bull and the organizational abilities ofâ€¦ let’s just say he had none.
“Like father like son,” Millie always said in reference to how we both couldn’t seem to grasp the concept of organization.
I admit it, during our dating stage, she once found a sock behind the TV cabinetâ€¦ In my defence, I said I must have been wiping something down and gotten distractedâ€¦ plus I had come a long wayâ€¦ I even had my own sock drawer now, and which I used religiously.
Anyway, back to the bright orange placemats.
I needed 6 of them, but then they only had 4 sitting on the shelf. I asked one of the attendants, a lady, if they had more of these ‘voodoo’ placemats in the store, somewhere.
The lady attendant laughed as she made her way to the back storage area.
I hurriedly cleared some space on the shelf, placed one of the mats, then went on to place one of the plates and a glass on it, and took a step back.
The set looked appealing, and my heart was doing cartwheelsâ€¦ (blame my years in the hospitality industry) Maybe I need to get some forks as wellâ€¦ I thought to myself.
My little joyous moment was cut short when my phone rang. It was Millie.
â€œHello bae. How is your day going?â€ I asked. I could hear a buzzing sound in the background, a steady whirring sound, the one you get from a fruit blender.
â€œYou know me, just busy busy busy,â€ she said.
â€œAnyway, enough about me. What are you upto?â€ she asked.
â€œBuying tablemats actuallyâ€
â€œHapa tu at our local supermarketâ€
She laughed. â€œAre you the only guy in the tablemat aisle?â€ I looked aroundâ€¦ â€œNope,â€ I lied.
â€œAlas, thatâ€™s good I guess,â€ she said.
I could tell something was bugging her.
â€œI was calling to let you know Iâ€™m going to have to work late again,â€ she said.
â€œUh-huhâ€¦â€ The shop attendant came back with a full set of bright orange tablemats. Still holding the phone to my ear, I beckoned her over. I held up 4 fingers, and she placed 4 more mats on that conveyor belt-like thing at the till.
Multi-tasking wasnâ€™t my best trait, but I had turned into a guru over the last couple of months. I whipped out my Co-op Visa card and handed it to the cashier.
I jumped back to Millieâ€¦ â€œis everything ok?â€ I asked.
â€œIâ€™m supposed to make a presentation to the CS on our progress so far in regards to the vaccine weâ€™ve been working on, it’s crazy over here,â€ she said.
â€œThe earliest I can make is 10:30ish, can you feed Josh and tuck him in for me?â€
â€œNo problem,â€ and it wasnâ€™t reallyâ€¦ I had become used to it.
Ever since the pandemic broke, my wife Millie (a virologist) had been working long hours. Most nights, she didnâ€™t get home until both Josh and I were sound asleep.
â€œNever bring â€˜your workâ€™ home with youâ€ I always teased. As one of the frontline â€˜combatants, she was always at riskâ€¦ but she loved itâ€¦ and I loved her.
She was hell bent on making a difference. Watching her best friend die from the virus only fueled her resolve to make a breakthrough.
However, the long nights had created a sort of distance, or rather a level of strange unfamiliarity between her and our son.
This was what was eating away at herâ€¦ this was â€˜something is wrongâ€™ tone I had been picking up each time she called to say she wouldnâ€™t make it for dinner.
â€œDonâ€™t sweat it babe. Iâ€™ll handle it, we both miss you and stay safe,â€ I told her, after I noticed the cashier staring blankly at me while holding up the PDQ machine with my Co-op Visa card in itâ€¦ I keyed in my password with an apologetic look on my face.
â€œThanks hun, I miss you both tooâ€ Millie said, â€œOh, and babe. The tablemats. Whatever you do, just donâ€™t get orange ones, okay.â€
And she hung up.
I couldnâ€™t help but laugh.
The cashier handed me my card back. I apologised for any inconvenience and walked out into a rather chilly parking lot.
I had this feeling that I had forgotten something importantâ€¦ I pausedâ€¦ Nopeâ€¦ nothing.
I was soon knocking at my neighbour’s doorstep.
From the outside, whatever was going on inside mama Jayden’s 3-bedroom apartment sounded like bulldozers tearing through an apartment block.
Mama Jayden (a single mum) was my go-to person whenever I needed to make a dash to the shops.
Leaving Josh alone in the house wasn’t an option. Not because he wasn’t ok on his own for a half an hour. It was more a health and safety issue.
I once stepped out of the house for 4 and 3 quarter minutes, only to return and find a flooded kitchen sink, the TV on the floor and a cheeky-faced 4-year old looking at me with an ‘it wasn’t me’ look on his face.
That’s how I ended befriending my next door neighbour. The shriek I let out when I saw my ‘beloved’ TV bent in ways it wasn’t built to, sent her running over.
Who would have known that a broken TV would result in a friendship that soon turned into a business.
Jayden (who turns 4 in June) was just Josh, but on steroids.
We decided to come together to handle our adrenalin-pumped kids and soon started a home-schooling enterprise in our neighbourhood. She taught, I catered.
Business has been good. Co-op bank even recently called to inform us of the various funding facilities available to us if we were ever looking to expand.
My little trip down memory lane was cut short when Mama Jayden opened her front door. The little ones came at me like a freak train and almost had me on my back.
Remember me feeling like I’d forgotten something?
Turns out it was pampers. Millie always made sure I had a list when I went shopping, but for some reason I chose to ‘freestyle’ it that day.
Luckily, the pandemic had opened me up to the world of online shopping and cashless transactions.
A few clicks on Mama Jayden’s laptop coupled with my Co-op Visa card was all it took to rectify my kiddish forgetfulness.
Co-op bank allows you to pay your little one’s school fees through Mpesa in three easy steps.
1. Enter Paybill no. 400222
2. Enter school code
3. Enter the amount.
Try it out today#BankingBilaLimits#LipaFeesNaCoop
â€” kenyagist.com (@Kenyans) January 13, 2021
We chose to go through the numbers and plan out our school calendar as we waited on the delivery.
Like I said, things seldom work out the way you think they will.
Here I was, I certified hotelier turned school owner and caterer.