Whenever the heavens told my mum that it was time to do good for her offspring, she would take me to Mama Soda. There is no definition needed for the word ‘Mama Soda’, I think it is self-explanatory. Mama Soda was simply a notable woman who owned quite a big shop in Rombo town that made Coca-Cola bow under her mercy that they had a big red refrigerator outside her shop. She even had the permit to put the golden words, “Soda Baridi!” alongside her shop’s name.
I thank Mama Soda for my life because the first fridge I ever saw in life was hers (Or was it Coca-Cola’s? 😕). I knew that all refrigerators were red and they had a posho mill engine because of the noise they produced. You see, the only thing that roared in such a village was the posho mill.
There were no motorcycles. You could count the cars in the town; there were three Toyota Stouts meant for transport. Two were owned by some chap who never combed his hair called Betu and one which was blue in color was owned by some Maasai guy who apparently wore kiondo caps called Kailepi. There were a handful of aged squeaky Mitsubishi Fuso Canter lorries meant for transport.
We used to live in a drum house which exists to date. It was a furnace during summer. We had beautiful wallpapers of The Daily Nation which my mother stuck to the wall using homemade superglue – wet wheat flour. Because there were only two black and white Tv’s in the whole town; one in a public hall and another owned by a lady who had daughters in the United States of America, we would re-read the redundant president Moi stories that filled each page. In short, our walls were our source of entertainment whenever we were indoors.
Nothing was as refreshing as the phrase, “Beba sweta!” This meant that mum was about to give you a refreshing heavenly experience. Beba sweta clearly meant that mum was taking you somewhere.
I remember the first time mum took me to Mama Soda. She sat by a chair outside as I sat on a wooden crate of soda inside. I was then asked the most refreshing question on earth, “Utakunywa soda gani?” Kids were not allowed to drink Coke, Krest or Stoney. Beginner kids would take Fanta, Pro kids would take Blackcurrant and Ultra Pro kids would take Sprite.
My mum would ask me what drink I would want to take but she would also give me the eye; the eye that meant so many things at the same time. It relied on your genius intellect to decipher the coded look. I deciphered that the question was a test and I decided to keep quiet. I then heard, “Mpee Fanta!” and Mama Soda replied, “Eeeh, Fanta ni ya watoto!” In those times, conversations were redundant and one had to return meaningless replies so that they can be engaging.
We only took warm dusty sodas as kids. They were dusted by some grey, ogre-looking multipurpose face towel or by the tail of a dead cow. I wondered how cold sodas tasted like. I just saw them glowing in Mama Soda’s red fridge. I never wanted to think how hard drugs like Stoney, Krest or Coke tasted like, I always wanted to know how something off a fridge tasted like.
I wondered how a fridge would make something cold in the scorching Rombo heat. As I took my 300ml Fanta, mum kept telling me, “Shika vizuri usipasue!” while giving me the eye. I knew that a soda bottle is the most expensive thing on earth and I resolved that when I grow up I would buy my mum lots of sodas together with the bottles and crates.
I would slowly drink my Fanta and feel that I have touched the hem of Jesus. Sweets were the most glorious thing to me but soda was bliss. Given the chance, I would work at Coca-Cola so that I take all the soda I wanted. For some reason, the soda would bloat my stomach and a small portion would remain. My mum would ask, “Umeshiba?” and you would give her that look. You know in traditional African society you never just spoke to your elders. Unless necessary, you were to use body language. She would then pick the remaining quarter, complain that she was only taking my saliva and take it in one gulp.
There were some two brown skin fine gels at Mama Sodas. Maybe they were her kids I don’t know. They would come inside the shop once in a while but she would tell them to go outside and play. I was like, “God give me one of these as my wife so that we would take soda any time we wanted.” But God did not answer my prayer because my mum never told me to go play with them.
After sitting for hours on a crate that formed small soda circles on my tiny butt, I wished if my mum said we leave but older people had more stories than all encyclopedias combined. They only talked of Uchumi and Serikali and I kept wondering what was so amusing about the two.
After what seemed to be like three years of boring adult conversations, we finally left vividly knowing that the next time I would be at Mama Sodas would be another decade but I had a story for my peers. At least they would sit around me calling me Kiongoss bowing and saying, “Teach us your ways master” listening to how all soda flavors taste like.
I do not know where Mama Soda is today, and where those fine light girls went to, maybe one is my wife, who knows? 😅