The singing birds outside seem to carry the gentle breeze in their spring songs, whistling their way into our hearts and pleasing all our senses as we sat in the clean sparsely furnished sitting room. Stephen had invited me and I was attracted by this boy who spoke English like the English. Rather bemused at first, I wasn’t sure the family had finished unpacking yet and I imagined large carton boxes still filled up with lots of home items, piled up in some empty inner room, waiting for larger halls to accommodate them all, when they are placed befittingly.
The wall clock said I should still be in school, but who cared and will ask if I stayed and spent time alone with Stephen, within these airy rooms, in my all white school uniform. Then their framed glass front door clattered, moved and stuck. A loud knock followed and Stephen paused by the radio and called out, “Mum, is that you? The door is open.” A grunt gossiped the strain in the pull and the door wailed and swung open in total compliance to the anger of the force it again experienced.
A gust of strong air threw the door’s twin curtains inwards and they hung horizontally in mid-air, like you imagine an angel’s wings majestically would. Then walked in the mother and I had my first brief glimpse of her before she shut the door behind her with a loud clatter and the twin curtains returned down swiftly with the ceased strong air, covering her all up in the door way.
One of her light complexioned bangled up fore-arms emerged through the gap in between the twin curtains and she moved one curtain aside as she stepped out of their covered space. She was dressed up in what is her usual. She was clad natively like a picture from the nineteen sixties. She epitomized an angel stepping out of her wings and into our mortal world.
“Welcome mum, how did it go?” Stephen asked as he motioned to plug in the radio placed on the high wooden shelf. “We thank God,” came her optimistic reply in a strong quite cherry very feminine tenor. I timed my greeting perfectly. “Good morning ma,” I went ahead to say and she stopped to look my way for the first time of many, noticing me for the first time, taking in my tense poise and uniform in one quick unnoticeable shot of wizen sight. She fired back her quick and ever sincere response.
“Hello there. How are you?” she sang with a real hearty flair. “I am well, thank you,” I replied. “This is Habibu. Habibu, my mother.” Stephen made the appropriate introduction without looking our way, as the radio came on with a loud channel-less ‘Shh’! She walked into the sitting room, continued out of sight, into the kitchen, still holding her basket; which was half-filled with the bottled drinks she had just returned from hawking.
For a long while the only sounds to be heard were Stephen’s frantic tuning search for his favoured BBC world service international radio channel and the annoying loud clinks of bottled glasses coming from the kitchen. She emerged with a tray and placed a glass of some white drink on a stool beside me.
“I hope you like it,” she said as she smiled warmly. “She makes it, sells it and we all drink it,” Stephen joked and laughed alone, as he would often do to his dry British styled jokes. I smiled and thanked her, picked up the glass and sipped the drink.
For that one moment I felt all alone with a decision I thought was beyond me and Stephen’s “Well?” startled my hurried, still undecided mind. She had hovered around, waiting for my opinion. I didn’t have one; but I simply said ‘It’s good,’ without the slightest inkling if I had lied or not. It was all so new to me; that is not the odd tasting drink but, a mother and son like them.
The Soya milk I am certain I had never seen before then, but its new taste was lost to the amazing nice warmth she made me feel effortlessly. “By the way, shouldn’t you be in school?” She abruptly asked me, with a concern that was not the rebuke it insinuated. ‘I had finished for the day,” I honestly lied and she smiled her comprehension just before she disappeared again into the kitchen. It was to become evident much later that she had literally filled a vacuum in me and I felt she liked me. I became envious of Stephen and I wanted her for my mother.
I couldn’t keep away as I returned to their house again and yet again. Time spent with the family told me a lot about her and myself. Then I knew for certain that it wasn’t just me, she just liked everybody. She saw goodness and polished badness off any person. Her family always came first and she had a large heart that included people like me into her family.
Her motherhood wasn’t some natural task or a kind of human responsible duty; it was a right she fought for with every breath she took. She lost very few of her physical battles against nature or man, but she won all the emotional ones. And finally she won the whole war hands down, with many years to spear.
I didn’t start meeting the rest of the family until about my fifth visit. I met Faith first. She is a female Stephen, much the same looks and countenance. But that is all the similarities they have. She never really made up her mind about me and the feeling was mutual for all the time I knew and related with her.
We seem to size each other up repeatedly and endlessly. This is probably because I seem to have met and discussed with her least of all. But to me what mattered most of all about her was the fact that she recognized their mother’s virtues clearest of all.
Faith saw the unique gift given to their whole family in their mother and her tent was pitched permanently in their mother’s lush green lawn; she never budged, no matter what. Then there was the lovely chubby Janeth, a darker and more expressive girl with a fair mind and a quite formal personality. I thought I loved her, but then honestly at that age I thought I loved every girl that showed she enjoyed my company. I spent the most time with Janeth, after Stephen and their mother.
We talked about everything reasonable and she came across as a very timid girl that was having an honest go at being in charge of all her feelings for the very first time. She loved a good gist but wouldn’t or couldn’t lie to spice up a story to entertain her listeners, like I would or most teenagers are prone to doing.
When together, Faith and Janeth spoke to each other like two dressed up, barefooted English ladies, walking on a graveled courtyard. Carefully they choose words, as if trying not to trigger off an old quarrel they had paused some time back. But they loved each other in a respectfully yet competitive manner, that is both sisterly and friendly in its face, flair and faith; a truly unique friendship that could only harbor genuine respect.
The younger boys were the mother’s best work. Albert is wise and his name had nothing to do with it. In his early teens he showed traits that made you notice him. He had confident traits that could swing anywhere with age, from an honourable humanitarian to a very successful villain. That is the beauty of the mother’s work in him particularly, because you could see his effort to be fair and the joy it brought him always. The main worry still visible in his always carefully picked out words and deeds, that seemed painstakingly executed from well thought out details sent out from deep inside his highly intelligent mind, was that he was still making an effort to be fair always.
Bernard is his mother in lots of ways and she must have seen herself in him and what a wonderful sight it certainly is. In the last child, you always know the happiness a family enjoys. It must be said that the last child always carries all the bits of everyone else in every functional family. If the final combination is good or bad, it always shows in that last child of the family. Bernard as the last child of the family was a wonderful sight to behold and experience, like the whole family.
The father showed his disappointment in his very evidently detached poise. I met him a number of times as the months passed and he was never in a truly happy mood. Relocating with his whole family to his country of origin, after so many years of residence in England, he discovered after a few meaningless years of an almost pitiful existence, stubborn loyalty and finally spiteful resentment that he shouldn’t have returned.
He stopped living in the country long before I met him and was only living in the dream of returning back to England with his family again. The entire family took up this exact quest of his obviously and the family’s plan was extensively being executed systematically. As the months passed and I became much more familiar with them individually and with the family as a whole, it was mentioned repeatedly and I knew that those large carton boxes of home items I had imagined piled up in some inner room, waiting, were never going to get unpacked.
It was clear that those boxes where filled with non-physical items, with hospitable emotions of communal acceptance. By that year’s end I had entered every room in their house, with a good reason on every occasion. A chat with Janeth as she cooked had me entering the kitchen and to help chase a frightened but frightening rat, I had entered the master-bedroom.
I ate countless meals and drank lots of drinks with the family. I played games and enjoyed memorable times with members of the family. I learnt to be who I want to be as I spent countless hours with them. They existed for only me, like my personal characters in a well made family soap opera I followed daily on a true life television, I alone can see. Like most of the country’s youth of my generation, I was mainly a television educated boy.
That family completed my education; rather informally, as I concluded my formal post-primary education at the college I went to, near their home. But when I started to come over less, I missed out on two of the family’s saddest moments. Strangely though, in all the time I enjoyed the family’s hospitality, my friend Stephen only came to my home once. It was like I wanted it. The family were like imaginary friends; my own private pastime, which I wasn’t willing to share with anyone else.
I knew my own family wasn’t even keen on knowing the friends I kept, much more care about some imaginary friends I might have. But while I kept away the family had experienced two unfortunate sad events around this period that I missed. The first sad event I missed out on was an incident that got Janeth injured.
Some thugs had molested her and struck her wrist with a blunt knife. She got stitches and when the strings were removed, she was left with a slightly deformed hand. It hurts me to just imagine how frightened she must have been and how frustrated and anxious the incident must had made their whole family.
The simple are always confronted by the complex, who always seeks to tint their simplicity and make it more complicated. It is a tough struggle to remain simple, surrounded by a world of complexities. Personal lives have gone beyond live and breed. Man works to walk, not walk to work and he inevitably strives to out-walk the next man and the next, again and again.
Honesty is not seen as it should be anymore, it is not seen as a wholesome noble act of justice and not even measured and scaled properly or ensured or indeed insured. In its place is an insatiable quest for a luxurious life style that guides a preference scale of needless priorities. As the family became the least of my priorities, I stayed away for much longer spells. When I strolled over again one humid afternoon, I also heard the second and saddest event I had missed out on.
Janeth was alone at home and was reading in the sitting room when she let me in. I had no idea she would be alone because I had stayed away for many months. I was sure we could still enjoy each other’s company and was all smiles as I bantered on about nothing really significant. She appeared tensed and I asked loosely about their mother, deliberately digressing before I could figure out why she was so tensed up.
“Mother had cancer and mother died.” It was instantly real as soon as she said it and it startled me into an instant deaf mute. Open lipped, tears filled eyes and startled for a complete minute as she kept her eyes fixed on me, just as I did her. It was rather naive and impolite; on both our parts, but quiet humanly expressive. We speechlessly waited for the moment to elapse.
My tears broke their separate banks simultaneously and raced each other down wards, to the two edges of the sad curves my unhappy lips had made. Janeth said nothing still, as she appeared not to have notice this, because she might have turned away too as I discreetly wiped my tears, hurriedly. I wanted her to say she was sorry or something. God! I lost a mother too. Another minute passed before I got my wits back. “I am so sorry for your loss,” I think was all I finally said, after reminding myself that she lost her mother and not me.
I can’t remember much of the rest of that sad day. The family subsequently moved to England but not after a horrid couple of years or so in another house somewhere else in the outskirts of town. They left separately, but they all left. I got an address for Stephen, which I never used. I still have it but I just never contacted him or any member of the family. I choose to remember them like I last knew them, for the time being.
Victors don’t flourish if their vanquished had perished and death can only lose. If the fear we bear of death doesn’t give death peace of mind, then what has death? He can’t keep us for he passes on only, going through us for the briefest of moments.
Death reveals the two most important lessons in our lives. These are; where there is a life, there are lies and every road leads to the same place. Death’s power ends where it starts. For I see the mother still, like I first saw her. First impression lasts? It has been advocated, but it doesn’t just make a case for my view of her brief reign in my life; it embodies it.
‘A gust of strong air threw the door’s twin curtains inwards and they hung horizontally in mid-air, like you imagine an angel’s wings majestically would. Then walked in the mother and I had my first brief glimpse of her before she shut the door behind her with a loud clatter and the twin curtains returned down swiftly with the seized strong air, covering her all up in the door way. One of her light complexioned bangled up fore-arms emerged through the gap in between the twin curtains and she moved one curtain aside as she stepped out of their covered space.”
She had epitomized an angel stepping out of her wings and into our mortal world. It is true that God sends his Angels to live amongst us. He then takes them back when he misses them; out of our world, when we cherish them the most.
A strong gust of air blew
And twin curtains withdrew.
Float horizontally in mid-air,
Like Angles’ wings would pair.
The mother walked in her peace,
Embodied in that first brief glimpse
From within a curtained covering;
Into our world an Angle steps in.
Unique as, loving every person;
Everyone passes her tests’ reason.
Saw goodness, polished badness;
Her large heart sought happiness.
This world her one own family,
Which will see her out, sadly.
Her motherhood a duty not a task,
In her circumstances that lack.
A right for which she had fought,
Is her motherhood in every breath.
She lost physical battles down here,
But won the war with years to spear.
Then she had cancer and died,
Joining all those from us deaths hide.
The victor hasn’t yet flourished
When his vanquished all perished.
Death can only but surely lose,
Yet the fear of him we choose.
He doesn’t get the peace we see.
Then what really, really has he?
He can’t keep us as ornaments,
Passing for the briefest moments.
His power ends where it starts,
Coming and going, never ever lasts.
He reveals two very key lessons
In this very life for all persons;
Where lies a life there are lies
And all roads to a same place plies.
It is really true then and no fuss;
God sends his Angles amongst us,
Takes them when he misses them,
Out of a world that cherishes them.