Kids, I have been having so much fun getting to know Salem Lorot, Poet of Kenya, better. I interviewed him for Poets United last week, and plan to blog more about that when I get a minute.
But yesterday he emailed me the cutest story about radios and the Pokot people in his village, and it made me remember what the radio meant to me - and to everyone - Back In the Day, before TV, before any of the technology we have now. Back then, gas was THIRTY CENTS a quart. Back then, the milkman delivered nice fresh cold glass bottles of milk and cream TO OUR DOOR. Back then, a stamp was maybe four cents, and the letter got from Vancouver to Kelowna overnight. Seriously. (My mom used to write me when she was in the city working and I was spending summer holidays with my grandma.) Now, to send something ANYWHERE by mail, you are looking at the business end of twenty dollars, and you could get it there faster by attaching it to a pigeon.
Anyway, to get back to Salem, this is the enchanting story that made me feel so happy:
"Oh, this technology," writes Salem.........."Times change. My mother once told me that some Pokots had bought a new radio. So they listened to it and when the radio's battery were getting weak and "the small people in the radio" were tired, the voices were fading off ( according to them). So, out of pity ( this actually happened), for those people who had been talking for three days in a row, our good Pokot people took a gourd of sour milk and fed them. (Actually, they poured the milk on the speakers).
"And when the sound from the radio came out a little less clearly and throaty, they said to themselves, "Oh, Tororot help those people...talking and talking and talking...now that they have drank a lot of milk, they can talk more...". Needless to say, that was the end of that radio. Nowadays, they changed. They have watches. So sometimes they approach me so that I can set the time " to be exactly as that of the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation's 1 O'clock news". Oh, technology."
His story made me smile, and think back to when I was four years old , standing beside my father, looking down into the radio cabinet at the little round plastic bubble with the red light. I remember Dad smiling down at me, telling me that when that light was on, the little people who lived inside the radio were awake. I believed every word of course. I remained very gullible until well into my 40's, I am embarrassed to report.
I remember when my cousin, Charlie, put on a puppet show, hiding behind a big armchair. Two puppets popped up above the chair and they talked. I was transfixed, couldnt figure it out. My aunt told me "That's Charlie", and I couldnt begin to imagine how he had managed to shapeshift into those two small puppets. It was magic! And how would he get back to his normal size again?
When I was four, I spent days with my Grandma while my folks were working. A big treat after lunch was to pull the wooden rocking chair into the middle of the small living room (most folks lived very modestly back then), and listen to the children's afternoon programs on the radio. My favourite was Maggie Muggins. At the end of each small adventure, the reader would say, "And we don't know what will happen tomorrow."
I never knew what would happen tomorrow either or, for that matter, that same night. My folks drank, and one just never knew.
I remember those radio programs and how much I enjoyed them. And the security, peacefulness and safety of Grandma's house, with her familiar, steady routine, and the loud ticking and tocking of her wind-up clock on the kitchen windowsill. Some late afternoons, she'd put on the gas fireplace and we'd watch "fairies dancing in the flames" and she'd tell me stories.
Grandmas totally rock!