I know, every mother thinks her baby is the cutest, the sweetest, the most precocious. Our Enoch, having just turned two, is at that stage where his baby-isms have won the hearts of everyone in the family. We’re always sharing little stories of “what Enoch just did” and laughing about his antics and ways of saying things. But he hasn’t just charmed us…it has become more and more obvious to me that many in our little village are quite taken with him.
Enoch regularly goes across the street to Silas’s shop with one of his older siblings to fetch morning’s milk and other needed items. Mama Sharon (Silas’s wife) often sends him on his way with a “sweet” or an extra mandazi. When Silas was visiting the other day, he chuckled as he told Isaiah about how Enoch came for milk while Mama Sharon was still asleep in their little room off the shop. Apparently Enoch, who knows which side his bread is buttered on, wanted to find Mama Sharon, so he toddled into the bedroom and touched Mama Sharon’s face. When she didn’t respond, he simply pulled back the covers and climbed into bed with her! Eventually she got up and went into the shop to get him his treat for the day.
Yesterday when our home fellowship met, I was saying good-bye to an older Mama who has just begun visiting with us. She speaks no English, so we haven’t gotten much beyond greetings and small talk. However, she shook my hand and then offered a hand to Enoch, whom I was holding. Surprisingly, she greeted him by name, and in response to her “habari” salutation (generally, “How are you doing?”), he properly responded, “Mzuri!” (“Fine!”) Her pleasure was more than evident, and she went on her way with a smile.
Florence couldn’t wait to take Enoch from me after our morning’s fellowship time. She asked to bring Enoch to her place, where (as I heard reported from the other littles) she washed his face, hands, and feet, then gave him some chai and a sweet. While there, he also got carried around by his favored Marie (Florence’s daughter, who is 13). Whenever Marie comes over to play, she more often than not has Enoch on her hip or is pushing him in the swing.
Many mornings as we begin our day, the neighborhood children come down the path on their way to school. If Enoch chances to be outside, he greets everyone by name: “Eh, Marie!”, “Eh, Dori!”, “Eh, Rosie!” And of course, they respond with giggles as they continue on their way. (Marc and I were discussing the other day how multipurpose, “Eh” is. Depending on the inflection, the length of the syllable, and the accompanying facial expression or body language, it has a range of meanings. It is used to convey greeting, make general acknowledgement, or express surprise, indignation, and uncertainty, or even impart correction. I could probably write a whole post about, “Eh!” But I digress.)
Enoch also loves our neighbor, Mama Manu, who comes nearly every day to do wash. He is eager to “help” her and show her things he is doing, and his antics often, of course, make her smile. Her daughter, Nila (eight months younger than Enoch, but the same size) is his favorite friend. When she comes with Mama Manu, Enoch drapes his arm around her neck, tries to hug her, and gives her his books and toys to play with. Unfortunately, when she doesn’t respond to his gestures, he’s also been known to hit her with whatever book or implement he is trying to offer her. We’re working on that. Even so, Mama Manu is often found shaking her head over Enoch and I frequently hear her say, “Enoch, you are funny!” She even knows how to translate many of his Enoch-isms, which sometimes are English, sometimes Swahili, often a mix, and rarely perfectly enunciated.
But by far, Enoch’s favorite is our neighbor, Auntie Jane. Enoch is potty training, and these days he’s often found walking around without pants. I try to keep him in a long shirt, for modesty’s sake, but sometimes, his wardrobe is limited and we just go with the flow. I try to keep him in the house if he’s not presentable, but whenever Auntie Jane walks by outside, she usually shouts, “Wapi Enoch?” (“Where is Enoch?”) and of course, wherever he is, he RUNS to the gate to greet her. And she always obliges by picking him up and greeting him (even if he is pants-less), and talking to him about whatever she is doing. When she comes to the house to visit, she often ends up engaged in a game of hide-and-seek with Enoch, who positions himself under the table or around the corner and asks, “Wapi me, Aunt Jane?” He regularly gets picked up to go over to Auntie Jane’s house, where she or Nyanya (“Grandmother”) make him chai or roast him some maize, one of his favorite treats.
Indeed, children are a blessing from the Lord. Watching Enoch thrive here in Kenya is just one more reminder of how fast these days fly by and how thankful we need to be for the way each one fills a special place in the family, and in our larger community.