The evenings are marked by a constant shedding of tears, yes we have a reason to be sad but we cry because the firewood never dries these days, and so the smoke stings our eyes, makes our tear glands work overtime, watering our eyes and constantly making us to sniff. Gone are the days when sitting around the fire not only warmed our feet but our hearts too, these days, it is cold even around the fire place. There is no more gossip, no stories no singing either. The hut looks bigger these days, the chicken still occupy their corner, at such a time of the night, they are dozing off some have their heads buried under their wings. The gourd still hangs directly above the fireplace, on its three strings, but it is empty these days. We still sit round the fire, the three stones, but nowadays the circle is incomplete, there are two unoccupied stools.
He never comes to the kitchen, these days, he comes home very late, he never seems to have an appetite for anything except water that he always drowns in big gulps, once or twice, I have smelled alcohol in his breath. The two unoccupied stools in the kitchen, one belongs to him.
Outside, the weeds have overgrown; all the vegetables have been choked, there is more black jack in the vegetable patch than onions. The tomatoes flowered but never put forth fruit. The grass around the house is increasing in height really fast….water containers are almost always empty, and yet, grass has hardly grown on her grave. The flowers that Tamima planted around it have all died, it must be due to the long dry spell.
When a mother leaves home… need I to remind you that you will never have your meals on time? Certainly not… when a mother is not at home, suddenly warm nights become really cold, laughter dies down, children forget to urinate before going to bed, and so help themselves right in the bed and no one remembers to air the beddings, fathers forget to come home on time, they forget their children, they forget themselves. Neighbors forget about your home, relatives forget to visit, the chicken lay their eggs in the bush and hatch there only to be eaten by wild cats at night, because no one remembers to put grass in a corner, when a hen shows signs of laying eggs, no one even knows what the signs are.
When a mother is not home, everyone feels lost, the tea will either have too much water or too little tea leaves. The rice will either overcook or undercook. The vegetables will certainly not be enough for everyone. The hatched chicks will never grow, they die of starvation, some of them fall into water and drown, wet clothes are forgotten in basins for days, tempers become shorter, tears are constantly shed, family ties become looser.nothing ever happens in time, breakfasts are missed, baths are skipped, appointments are forgotten, the shopping is never done, because the pillar, the string around which a family is woven is not there.
How then am I ever going to learn how to cook? Who will teach me how to wear a pad when the periods come? On whose shoulders am I going to cry on my wedding day? Who will walk me down the aisle?
While she is there, it is hard to see, but a mother is the main player in family life. Everything revolves around her. She is a mother, a wife, a link between the children and their father. She is a cook, the one responsible for cleanness, a link between her family and other families, she is just irreplaceable, mama, is someone a little greater than words can describe.
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