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An ode to Adoti's cousin

SUNDAY MAGAZINE
By Phoebe Jay | October 18th 2015

I have known him since he was in vitro. At the time, no one knew he was a baby boy. Until his birth almost nine years ago, there were no boys in the family. So now the young lad is surrounded by females. Despite seemingly insurmountable odds, he has grown into a young man whose masculinity is unchallenged by all the women in his life. That is not to say that he is callous and unfeeling, rather that he has an innate sense of his own manhood.

For the longest time, he was the youngest grandchild in our family, but then Adoti came along and suddenly, he was a big brother of sorts.

Technically, they are cousins but you would not tell by looking at them. Adoti has always loved Zachy and Zachy has always loved her back. Being the younger one, she has the luxury of loving him for free — fully expecting that he will return her affections without reservation.

He on the other hand, has always felt that it is his responsibility to protect her. He does not take it kindly when it seems as if Mama is mistreating his Adoti.

Take last weekend for example. After an eventful morning, complete with a battle at breakfast (for some reason the girl child will not drink porridge anymore), some tantrum drama (Mama would not give her the remote control), a sob fest (she wanted to do her chini kwa chini move while atop the coffee table) and a wardrobe malfunction (Adoti got to the water dispenser again!), we finally got our diaper bag packed and were able to head out into the leafy suburbs to visit my sister and her son Zachy.

As soon as we headed in the general direction of the car, she began her “Kah! Kah! Kah!” chant, pumping her little legs up and down and looking like Christmas just came early.

Adoti loves to go ride-about. When she was younger, she would fall asleep about two minutes into any car ride, but seventeen months down the line, she has become more aware of the environment outside the vehicle. Now she even tries to open the door, the little imp. God bless the soul who created child-lock.

So off we went for our visit, both mother and child as happy as could be. We got there and the door was open but the house was silent.

“Helloo ... anybody home?” I called, walking down the corridor towards my sister’s room.

“Hi Aunty, I am here.” That was Zachy’s voice. From the sounds of things as I approached, he was watching some kind of superhero/action-figure cartoon.

“If you do not have Adoti with you, you had better go back!” he said.

I smiled. Up until that point, the girl child’s thumb had been in her mouth and her head on my shoulder, but as soon as she heard Zachy’s voice, she came alive.

“Ooowee!” she said, her little legs pumping up and down again, as if Christmas was coming even earlier.

“You brought her!” That was Zachy as he suddenly appeared at the bedroom door. Without further ado, Adoti launched herself into his arms, and that was that. The girl child can be a bit reserved around her relatives, often taking a while to warm up to them, especially if we have not visited in a while. But those rules do not apply to Cousin Zachy. There is a special chip in her memory bank with his name on it.

Later that day, my sister and I wanted to go for a walk. Lil’ Miss Adoti wanted to come along but Mama wanted her to stay behind. “She will cry for a while but then she will stop ...I promise,” I said to Zachy, just as his baby cousin turned on the waterworks.

With as much pomp and circumstance as she could muster, the child threw both hands on her face in the classic, “woe is me” stance, squeezed her eyes shut and wailed like she would not live to wail another day.

I of course, am well acquainted with her antics, but poor Zachy was dismayed. If looks could kill, there would have been a thousand daggers in my back as I walked away. The boy was not amused.

“How can you leave your own child...your own flesh and blood... just because you want to go traipsing around the neighbourhood?” I imagined he was thinking. Again I smiled.

When we got back, we found the cousins covered in dirt, a sure sign that good times were had by all. Adoti had learned her cousin’s name and then gone right ahead to christen him, “Za!”

Given that my womb is on hiatus, I could not be more grateful that my daughter has an ex-officio sibling. If she does get a brother or sister one day, they sure will have a tough act to follow. Cousin Zachy has set the bar very high.

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