|I had finished my final exams and it felt so good to be free of all that pressure of books, and classes. The teachers were much more fun now, and because they did not want us to stray during the long vacation that usually comes after the national examinations, they put us straight to work. We went and did manual work for the elderly in our communities, we learnt how to perfectly prepare, and present a traditional meal for the biggest ethnic group in the area we lived. It was fun. We were not working for grades, or perfection. We were just spending time with our peers, and learning life skills. On most afternoons, we just took walks around the wilder parts of our community.
I woke up early in the morning on one of those days where we did not exactly have much planned. We were just going to help the people in the school kitchen, then walk up a hill when the temperatures were cooler and see some tree, Nakayima, that is believed to hold a spirit- it is named after the spirit of the old lady. We were not thinking about it as spiritual at all; am not sure about the whole group, some people might have been. I walked to school, covering half the journey with the quiet company of my mother.
At the junction where we always parted ways, she interrupted my endless monologue, “Becky, what time are you leaving to go to Nakayima?”
I replied happily, “I do not know. Sometime in the afternoon maybe.”
I waved bye to her as I continued in the direction of my school and her in that of the church as she said, “kale. See you at home.”
No hugs. No kisses. I never expected any of them. That is just how things had always been; with my father expressing emotions and my mother holding it all in.
The headteacher had met me at about 10a.m and after we exchanged greetings had said, “Good luck with your speech today.”
I wondered what that was about but let it pass because he seemed in a hurry to go somewhere. Besides, I could not think of a way to ask him, but I bet he knew I was confused from my facial expression.
About an hour later, while I was talking with a group of classmates, Suzan, another classmate, comes and seats with us, and naturally joins in the conversation. She suddenly remembers something and randomly says, “Eh! Becky! Did I mention that I just saw Mummy walk into Mr. Mulwana’s office?’
Mr. Mulwana was our dean of students, and a very good friend to most parents. For a moment, I wondered why she had come and then decided I shall later find out from the dean himself for it was easier to ask him than question Mummy.
The dean came searching for me almost fifteen minutes later, and summoned me to his office where I found Mummy sitting, dressed in her favorite blue-print dress, and a white coat that had colorful embroidery around its edges.
I smiled and frowned at her; and said, “Mummy, okalaki wano?”
In response to my inquiry about why she was there, she gives me a look–one that says ‘Do not ask. You’ll know in due course.’
I turn in mild frustration to Mr. Mulwana who explains that Mummy was there to pick me up to go to a function at a local elementary school where I was scheduled to be the Mistress of Ceremony that afternoon. I asked her if whoever organized this had simply stated, or if they requested; and she said they had requested. So I told her, then am declining. Mr. Mulwana, left the office locking the door behind him.
“But you’re not even doing anything sensible today.”
“Yes, I am! I am going up the Nakayima hill with my friends. We’re following a trek I have never followed.”
“You can go there later if you want. This is going to take only 2 hours.”
“No, Mummy, am not coming with you.”
“Ok.” She said this with a very expressionless face and yet I could feel the tension and anger and reprimands in the room.
I left the now tormenting room and re-joined my friends, and very unsuccessfully attempted to recapture my conversational mood.
Mr. Mulwana stayed in the office for a long time with Mummy and then later called me in, gently asking me if I wanted to change my mind. He made me want to cry! And as he explained that this was very important to my mother, I wanted to change my mind. I was still reeling from the way I had just refused; never in my life, had I been that defiant outright, not even to my older siblings! But I was also very proud, and I felt that to change my mind would be to something equivalent to admitting defeat.
“What’s your reason, young lady?” Mr.Mulwana asked.
“She did not tell me about it earlier. She should have concurred with me first before planning out my day! I had dinner with her, walked with her on my way to school and the whole time, she did not say a word about all this. Just because am in vacation does not mean am going to be running around running people’s errands!”
I paused for breath and then realized I had said too much. But he understood. I do not know what he understood, or why he understood, but he looked like he did understand.
I did not go with Mummy as she walked away in that white coat that I loved so much. I stayed with my friends, and went home very late. At home, I claimed to be so tired, I went straight to bed.
I have often revisited this memory, and I suspect my mother has too. I still do not understand why I chose to refuse; and I wonder if she, being my mother and having seen me through many a day, does.
Still a young girl brought
up to obey her elders
and now child rebel.