Brother is awesome. He is gorgeous and funny and smart and really freakin’ fun to be with. He has a knack for reading people and figuring out just how far to push someone with a joke – not that he always stops when he should. I like to say, his special talent is being able to insult someone to their face and they’ll think it’s a compliment, he's that smooth. He wasn't always that way.
We were born in Kenya in the 70's. Our mom is American, of Irish Scottish descent. Our father is Kenyan of the Kamba tribe. They met in college in Oregon, of all places, moved to Kenya where we were born. We lived in the town of Karen – the Out of Africa town for those of you who know the movie on the outskirts of Nairobi. When my mother left my father in the late 70’s, my brother, mother and I moved to Pebble Beach, California to live with my grandmother while my mother tried to find work. While we'd visited before, moving to America was a total culture shock for us. The day-to-day existence was like nothing we'd experienced before. Everything was different; the clothes, the food, the faces, the way people interacted. There was not one thing that was like what we’d had at home. With everything and everyone so different, Brother and I were inseparable. It was me and Brother against the world.
My grandmother lived in Pebble Beach, in the non-mansion section of the forest. She and my grandfather had built the house themselves in the forties; long before it became the golf and moneyed paradise it is today. The street she lived on had folks all about her age with grown children but younger families lived on the streets surrounding us, in bigger fancier houses. The kids there wore designer clothes, not clothes their mother had made and had toys bought from store, not worn dolls and cars passed down from friends. They didn’t speak with accents and they had straight blonde hair cut in a perfect bowl shapes that swished when they turned. Not large Afros that had been combed out to the size of a small tree.
We had to take the bus to school, meeting it at a stop at the bottom of the street. These two brothers with shiny blonde hair were the only ones who would take the bus from that stop with us. We thought they were nice at first, asking us questions, making exaggerated attempts at of our accents and snarky digs at our clothes. We didn’t know what to do so we kind of laughed along - but then one day, they got mean. One of the brothers discovered that they could drop a rock on Brother’s Afro and it would bounce. To this day, I don’t remember how they discovered it. I’ve probably blocked it out. All I know is that they would drop the rock on Brother’s head and watch it catch air and bounce off. And they did that to him, over and over again. And Brother stood there, stone still and crying as these boys bounced rocks off his head and laughed. Puzzled at how they found this funny and totally unsure what I could do against these big boys, I ran home to get my grandmother.
My grandmother was in the original pride and prejudice with Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. She was fierce! She was cast because she looked like Edna May Oliver and she must have picked up fighting techniques from her because she could be scary when she was not pleased. Watch from 4:18 – 4:28 of this link from original movie where Edna May Oliver's Lady Catherine leaves. The part where she says, “I am seriously displeased.” that's what my grandmother was like with the boys. Teeth bared, cold fury she came back with me and totally demolished them with just a few short words and a look that could freeze the sun. Terrified, they mumbled an apology, got on the bus and sat at the back so we couldn’t see their tears. They never bothered us again and Brother’s afro remained rock free the rest of our stay there.
I’m sure Brother remembers this differently. Perhaps in his version he’s not crying or he punches the boys in the nads or it was all fun and games - all I know is that my grandmother was my superhero that day, with her sharp clipped ice-cold words. She won the war against them without a drop blood being shed or threat of a lawsuit and yet, still managed to mortally wound those boys with her words.
I want to be just like her when I grow up.