The Cries of Women in my Mother's Village
I have been honoured to read through a couple of pages of Gail Straub's Memoir, Returning to My Mother's House. I recently received a copy of this empowering book coutesy of World Pulse. It was not only a touchy feeling that left me feeing so special but reading through the forward and other introductory synopses to the book, I could not help but ponder the importnace of being a mother.
As I tried thinking through Gail's mind for having a mirror of her mother as a strong character that she introduces in the first chapters of her book, with me was a special note; the cries of women in my mother's village.
I grew up in a middle class surburb in Nairobi. Game and play was a norm for most of the children in my neighbouhood. As a small girl, I remember every moment that the boys would tease me for jumping the rope higher than they could and because of envy being defeated by a girl, they would engage me in a fight. In most cases I tried to defend myself but other times I had no choice but to run back home to my mother crying bitterly, "mummy , mummy hawa wavulana wamenichapa," which translates from Swahili as "mummy! mummy! these boys have beat me."
I noticed that all the children in in my neighbourhood, both boys and girls alike never ran back home to seek help in times of adversity crying, "daddy daddy" No. All the time it was "mummy! mummy."
As I read through Gail's book. It is all about Mother. And as it may be for many of us as well, our mothers have played an important role that may have determined who we are today.
My journey down memory lane, brings me to a new stop. Besides our house there was a family of eight daughters living there. One day, when I was about 7 years old. This family normaly referred to in the neighbouhood as 'Family ya Mteso' was expecting the 9th born into the family. It turned out that when the mother came home from the maternity hospital, her husband was furios because she brought home yet another daughter. Soon there were cries as mama Mteso was being battered by her husband for giving birth to the daughter number 9. In this milee. mama Mteso could be heard shouting "mama wee! mama wee! as though calling onto her mother to rescsue her from her husband's brutal beating.
But it wasn't long after this incident that My father came home one evening. He was drunk and annoyed because my mother asked why he did not spend the previous night at home. But before all of us could go to bed that night, there was commotion in the master bedroom and soon my mother was screaming "Mama, mama, why am I going tthrough this." For several minutes her call for her mother who lived no so far away from our home, was not being answered and my mother resorted to call on mama Mteso shouting alloud "mama Mteso, please help me. He is killing me:"
Today, both my mother and mama Mteso who were best friends in the neighbouhood, have gone to be with the Lord. But I cannot forget the strong vigilant attitude to overcome all for the sake of their children. Their lives extended backwards to their mothers and forward to us their daughters.
My elder sister narrated to me how her day in labour was like at a Nairobi Maternity Hospital. She was taken into hospital after experiencing labour pains in the middle of the night. So expectant and hopefully to bring forth a child, not knowing the ordeal awaiting her ahead. At the hospital ward, My sister was amongst many other women. Some were making yet another visit to the labour ward. For others like my sister, it was their first. As she narrated to me, “It is no joke, the pain is excruciating and the midwives are the most cruel human beings,” My Sister Viv would say. Every woman was in pain calling for help from their mothers and vowing not repeat playing that game that gets women into the labour ward. Where as the midwives would curse them and say “Did we send you there? Stop crying mama, mama yet you will be coming back here in few years time.” It was evident that at birth women in my mother’s village cry for mother’s help! And soon when the baby is born they laugh when their mothers appear to console them.
At death, it is no different. Women in my mother’s village cry “Mother! Mother!” in tribute to a relation who passes on. The painof loosing a child is just as much as the pain of bringing forth.
And so as I read through Gail’s Memoire: Returning to my Mother’s house, I relate to the special role that mothers play. In my community this is displayed by the cries of women and make me describe a mother as follows; That a mother is a protector, a nurturer, a being that gives everyone a shoulder to lean on. Mother is a life giver, She celebrates and mourns for life given and life taken away. Mother is the first teacher to children, the first cook and caretaker. She is the role model that we all get to mirror our lives on before can find our other reflections.
I honour the women in My life that I have had the chance to call mother. You are all God’s wonderful gifts to me.