Mama was a professional caner as she was cook………………
As a young boy born in a family of seven, I would walk home late every day, after playing all day. This would get my mother angry as it seemed we would never tire or have enough of playing. I knew though, that it wasn’t the playing that was the problem, it was the constant stream of dirty clothes that she would have to contend with. You see, even after changing to clean ones, I’d take little or no time to make them dirty again. Yes……yes I was lucky to be born a time when computer games were for the rich and anything that would keep me running was all that I needed to play.
My older brother, who is my best friend, was the wave that triggered all this injustice against our mom. You see, he would make all sorts of playing materials including paper soccer balls that would have all the children in our hood buzzing with excitement as they played. The only problem was that we would be the first out to play and still be the last to get home. We were the Double Dragons named after our favorite cartoon, one of the few that sometimes kept us indoors.
My younger sister was the center of attention as she was the acting lastborn for a long time before our lastborn brother appeared. She wanted everything for herself and this made us tease her mercilessly when mom wasn’t around, only to have a whopping later after she reported us. But we forgive her……….she is still a darling.
Our evenings were all about mom. Her cooking was and still remains out of this world. I still believe that she was an angel sent from heaven to make us joyous with her cooking. And true to form, everyone who tasted her cooking couldn’t find the words to describe it. As she cooked, she’d tell us stories of her Campus life including the way she enjoyed going to the disco. What a laugh! We’d be thoroughly amused as she danced to the Lingala tunes of Kofi Olomide, Awilo longomba and Papa Wemba.
I remember one sunny day in August several years ago. Schools had closed for holidays and my brother and I were up to our usual mischief. This time, as was with most times my younger sister was the central focus of our naughtiness. We had decided to practice our untapped culinary skills in mom’s kitchen, which was against the rules. We made some famous Chapati from a mixture of maize flour, wheat flour and cocoa mixed with sugar. My sister watched in silence undoubtedly recording everything for reporting. As we sat down to enjoy the results of our culinary experiment, she asked if she could join us. We laughed hilariously as my brother and I declared her crazy to even think we would share our illegally created meal with her. We chased her away amid repeated assurances from her that ‘atatusema’ (she will report us).
We taunted her more, cleaned up the mess we had made in the kitchen and went out for our usual mischief in the neighborhood. We got home late and dirty as usual, only to find out that mum had already heard about our misadventures. She reminded us of the illegality and danger of our behavior as my smugly smiling sister brought over her cane. I did not wait another second. Mum was a professional caner as she was a cook, and soon I took to my heels with my brother in tow. We ran and hid in a thicket outside our house, and as it got dark we experienced a good measure of fear and regret. The darker it got, the more the idea of returning home appealed and we set off to return. However, the thought of receiving a greater dose of the cane, due to our fleeing in addition to our earlier misdeeds, made us decide to spend the night in the chicken house.
Nothing binds stronger than a mother’s love. It is this incident that confirmed to us how much she loved us. Unbeknownst to us, she went door to door asking if anyone had seen us, and stayed up with the light on in the house the whole night praying and hoping for our safe return. In the still of the night while cooped up in the chicken house we heard her pray for our safety and express regret for her anger. The panic in her voice was palpable.
Our return home in the morning was met with happiness. She never asked a single question. She gave us a meal, clean clothes and prepared a bath for us. There was no speech, no caning, no lecturing and no admonition. Just a thank you prayer to God with evident happiness in her eyes.
My mum was such a formidable woman and it’s really sad that we lost her. She made us who we are today, and her voice lingers with every one of us feeling like she is always around. She was and still is our unifying factor; the glue that keeps us together. I ponder over it, but I guess that’s how things are supposed to be. We have been sad yes, but years seem to take the somberness away. I have distinct memories of her as we all attribute everything that’s beautiful about us to her. Family is always family and really important; and mothers have a way of making this so magically with their love.
This is a tribute to my Mum, our Mum……… She knows wherever she is that we are family, and we are one, surrounded by her love.
Jackson Mulera and Gibson Munai