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Family love that knows no bars

Penna Wairimu maybe imprisoned, but her love for her family is unbound. And Christmas came early for her when her children paid her a visit at Lang’ata Women’s Prison

Grace Wachira @yaa_grace

Christmas is the season to be jolly and make merry with family and friends. But when one is put behind bars, you can only hope and pray that your family remembers you during this time.

Such is the case of Penna Wairimu. She was arrested in October last year for a crime she is at pains to talk about. The single mother left behind her son, daughter and grandchild. Two days after she was arrested and arraigned in court, her mother passed on. She was distraught. “I was in the dock and I could hardly process what was going on.

I remember just agreeing to the charges and pleading guilty. It was all too much and all I could think of was how my children were handling this period and who would be with them when times got tough,” she says in deep thought.

But her children have pulled through. And last week, Christmas came early for Penna as her children and grandchild went to visit her at Lang’ata Women’s Prison during Family Day. It was all hugs, hi fives, smiles and laughter.

Tears of joy were shed. It was a moment Penna wouldn’t want to take for granted. “It was really hard for us when mum was arrested. I mean, no one would want to have their loved ones behind bars.

But that was a reality we had to come to terms with,” Ruth Maggie, her daughter says. Ruth and her nine-year-old son Mike had travelled from Mombasa to come and be with their mother and grandmother respectively. “Nothing can replace the love and warmth of a mother. We really miss her out there.

There are some things that only a mother can help deal with. So, when we were informed about this Family Day, we were excited. I made arrangements three weeks prior just so that nothing could stop this visit,” an elated Ruth says. Penna, who equally looked forward to this day, admits that visit meant the world to them.

“Usually, I talk to them for few minutes after queuing for the better part of the day to make that call. I ask about how they are doing and what’s new, but that is never enough. Also, they come to visit me for 30 minutes every three months, but it feels just like a few seconds,” she says.

She had a sweater she had knit for her grandson, Mike and some queen cakes she had bought. “I have never bought Mike a sweater or cardigan. My mother was always the one who sew him sweaters. I hope this sweater would serve him until the next visit,” she manages a smile. They have always had a close relationship these two, Ruth and Penna.

“My mother thinks of me as her sister. I draw a lot of my strength from her because she is a single mother, just like me. If she did it with my elder brother and me, so can I,” she adds. Surprisingly, she also misses arguing with her mother.

“I miss those good and bad moments. I miss arguing with her about food and how to bring up Mike. She always had and still has so many strong opinions about how I should discipline Mike or why she should prepare chapatis instead of buying them,” Ruth says casting a queer look at her mother.

“My brother and I definitely miss her advice and the general warmth of having a mother who is concerned with how you are faring on in life. This visit really means a lot to us. We will talk extensively, find out how she is doing and even share a meal with her. Mike will have his face painted and play in the bouncing castle.

It is more than we could ask for this Christmas,” Ruth smiles. Penna will serve her sentence until February 2019. Until then, she hopes her family won’t get tired of visiting her at the prison.

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