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The same hope that carried my parents over an ocean of uncertainty is now my fuel for the journey toward my future, and I go forward with the radical idea that I, too, can make it.Savoring each bite, I listen to the sound of neighbors calling out and children chasing a dog ridden with fleas, letting the cool heat cling to my skin. I always assumed my father wished I had been born a boy.
Realizing I have mused far too long by the water’s edge, I begin to make my way back to the house.
The climb up the ridge is taxing, so I carefully grip the soil beneath me, feeling its warmth surge between my fingers.
Now, please don’t assume that my father is some rampant rural sexist.
The fact is, when you live in an area and have a career where success is largely determined by your ability to provide and maintain nearly insurmountable feats of physical labor, you typically prefer a person with a bigger frame.
She kneads the dough and places it on the stove, her veins throbbing with every movement: a living masterpiece painted by a life of poverty and motherhood.
The air becomes thick with smoke and I am soon forced out of the walls of the mud-brick house while she laughs.I never strove to roll smoother pie crusts or iron exquisitely stiff collars. On a cow’s neck, trying to find the right vein to stick a needle in.In the strength of the grip it took to hold down an injured heifer.Finally, I see my younger cousins running around barefoot endlessly and I decide to join their game of soccer, but they all laugh at the awkwardness of the ball between my feet.They play, scream and chant, fully unaware of the world beyond this village or even Nairobi, but I cannot blame them.When I return, the chapatis are neatly stacked on one another, golden-brown disks of sweet bread that are the completion of every Kenyan meal.Before my grandmother can ridicule me in a torrent of Kikuyu, I grab a chapati and escape to find a patch of silky grass, where I take my first bite.She did not think I was acting especially boyish or notice when I adamantly refused to wear pink clothing (she was colorblind anyway).And she did not blink an eyelash at her new caretaker’s slightly smaller frame.All she cared about was her balanced daily feed of cottonseed and ground corn and that she got an extra pat on the head.As I sat next to her polishing her white leather show halter, she appreciated my meticulous diligence and not my sex.