There’s something I just love about trains, particularly old trains. As a child, we used to take the train from Nairobi to Mombasa at the coast of Kenya during the school holidays. The trains were old and rickety with small cabins that could fit four people. We would congregate at the train station in the heart of downtown Nairobi in the late evening in anticipation of an all-night journey to the vibrant coast of Kenya, it’s white beaches drenched by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
As we drifted off to sleep lulled by the chaka-chaka sound of the old train, the night was pitch black and the stars crystal clear. The morning greeted us with salty, humid coastal air. We would spend most days swimming or running along the beach, our feet entangled in dark green seaweed. Each night as we slept, I loved the rhythmic sound of the waves approaching and receding from the beach.
As we headed back to Nairobi on our favorite rickety train, we eagerly looked forward to the next year when we would be back to enjoy the lure of the majestic Indian Ocean.
My latest experience of trains was through the eyes of my 4 year old son who spent the afternoon with his daddy, uncle and cousin on a ‘boy’s day out’ at the Exporail train museum located south of Montréal. The museum has plenty of large trains to explore, model train set-ups with the finest level of detail and of course, train rides!
It’s been years since I have been back to the coast of Kenya. I will forever cherish the memories of the old train-rides shuttling back and forth between Nairobi and Mombasa in my homeland Kenya.
As I write this post, I hear grunts, giggles and thumping sounds as my son Caleb and my husband roll around in the basement. Every so often, I hear “I’m ready to begin the battle” and “fight!“. In getting caught up in the day-to-day mounds of laundry, dishes, cooking and cleaning, I sometimes forget how blessed I am to have two little children and how the joyous sounds of their voices and laughter brighten up our home.
The past few days have been a grand celebration of Caleb’s fourth birthday. It seems like just yesterday he was born. Now he’s growing up into a funny, loving, curious and energetic boy and I love watching him experience the world through the eyes of a child. His birthday present was his first ever bike and as he donned his helmet and teetered precariously on it, I felt a little tug in my heart. I remember when I was riding my first bike and my older brothers were guiding me through the long grass of our backyard. Now it was our turn to guide our little boy and let him figure out how to maneuver his way around.
One of my oldest friends visited this weekend from the States to celebrate Caleb’s birthday with us. It amazes me that as children, we used to race around our local neighborhood on our BMX bikes wearing mini-skirts. Now here we are as adults and my friend is an adopted “auntie” to my children. It reminded me that close friendships are a beautiful thing and something that must be worked on and held on to.
We took a trip to downtown Montréal, about 45 minutes from our house, something we haven’t done in months. As we walked along the famed cobblestone streets of the Old Port, I noticed a newly married couple holding hands. The bride’s shimmering white dress flowed behind her and her husband pulled her along gently. Strangers, tourists and families milled around them oblivious, yet here was a new couple at the very start of their lives together. I had a quick flashback to my wedding day and it brought a smile to my face.
My husband decided it was time to initiate Caleb into some Quebecois culture and so Caleb had his very first poutine (a dish of fries drenched in gravy and cheese-curds). It’s not the healthiest meal in the world but something you must experience at least once if you live in or visit Quebec. As we partook of our poutines at a restaurant called “Frite Alors!”, I was again thrown back in time. This restaurant used to be a cafe called “L’etranger” and my husband and I spent a lot of our time here during our dating days, sipping on hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. The decor was still the same with its faded red booths and plain square tables. An old piano sat on a raised platform waiting for some warm, pliant fingers to run along its keys. There was something very special about bringing our children to a place where my husband and I had spent our first dates, getting to know each other and growing our love for each other.
This weekend was a beautiful one of celebration, friendship and a walk down memory lane. So simple, yet so wonderful and a reminder of the many blessings I have to be grateful for.
Remember what it was like to be a kid? My childhood memories consist of hopscotch, playing with marbles, stirring mud, bringing home caterpillars, frogs and lost puppies, being tackled by my brothers onto the grass, playing Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter video games, reading Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’, terrorizing the neighborhood boys while racing around on my pink BMX bike, among many other wonderful memories of my time with friends and family.
Today’s post is just a little reminder that when life gets too serious, it can help to remember the simple fun of a child!
Here is a video clip of my little monkeys jumping on the bed…
Such strong emotions when I think of you daddy. It has been almost 29 years since we lost you but your memory and legacy still live on warmly in our hearts. I was only 5 years old when you were taken away but I still have snapshots of our time together embedded in my memory.
Despite your busy schedule as a surgeon, I remember you coming home from work, me rushing to the front door, you picking me up and twirling me around in your arms with a big smile on your face, presenting me with a big bar of Cadbury’s chocolate. I remember me sitting on your belly like you were a motor-bike, your hands as handle-bars and your nose as the horn, revving up your voice as you pretended to accelerate. I remember us dancing in the living room to music on the record-player back when turn-tables were popular.
I remember you on your knees, leaning over to wash me in the bathtub saying in a gentle voice “close your eyes” so that soap wouldn’t get in my eyes. I remember family trips to the game parks, upcountry and the coast, you stoically breaking up fights between me and my big brothers. I think of you often and I missed you even more the day I walked down the aisle and when the kids were born.
I remember your gentleness, humility and compassion. Mummy, I don’t know how you managed losing your husband at the age of 39 and raising 4 kids but you are my hero and I applaud you for the great sacrifices you made to give us an unforgettable childhood despite the loss of the head of our family. To my amazing big brothers, uncles, cousins, friends and in-laws who have since become father figures to me, your contribution to my life has lessened the blow of such an early loss and has allowed me to appreciate even more the beauty of fatherhood that I see in my loving husband towards our children.
Happy Father’s Day, daddy. We love you, and you will never be forgotten.