Growing up, there were days when you would feel ignored. Extremely ignored by the adult of your affection in the homestead. The neck of the house. The human whose core is the center of your happiness. Your mother. If she was happy, you were happy. If she was sad, you were sad.
If her Chi was in a turbulent mood, the entire household would be inside out. There would be a heaviness that everyone stayed away from because of lworo. Fear. And most times you would not be able to pinpoint the cause of this judu. Her brooding.
She would pout dangerously from the eye of the morning while mindlessly sweeping the chicken coop. We all knew yweyo cet gweno was usually left to the boys. So the day she did it meant a storm was gathering. Close.
You would go about your given chores and do them to perfection. Your bed would be laid out neatly like the dormitory matron at your boarding school-St Magdalene insisted on. You would be at your best behavior and remain spotlessly clean all day. All the while wondering why you are being ignored.
You would ditch your mates and give the one who was sent to ask you to join in the day’s play that look like he carried the worst plaque. A two-gemo. Not happy with the messenger, they, your friends, would all gather at your house, to check if you had caught the malaria again. Or anyo; since there was a measles outbreak anyway.
You being clean and clothed in your best garb all day long meant you were heading to Ot Yat Madit (the Referral hospital), Ot yat Mission (that Catholic hospital run by the Italians), or visiting your father’s favorite sister somewhere in Kitgum Quarters. Your family always dressed well for hospital, for a visit to your auntie’s home, and on nino Uhuru. This day would be different though. You were clean but going nowhere.
You would tell them; your friends, that you weren’t playing that day. Then, crestfallen, head back indoors. You would sit at the corner of the children’s side of the family red-almost-maroon-beaten-down sofa like your uptight cousin Peter does every time he visits.
A series of questions would race through your mind about what was bothering your mother as your bottom sinks into the softness of the sofa.
Is this about the bowl Adaa gave her on their wedding day that you broke last Uhuru? Is it about the stone you intentionally threw at Peter’s uptight head and he had to get 5 stitches from Ot Yat madit? Is it about the time her best friend visited and you hang around the cupboard too much, eavesdropping on their gossip?
Is it about the time you fractured your right arm and couldn’t do exams from school and the kind class teacher Baba didn’t like had to bring the exams to your hospital bed? Has she found out that you know that she and her best friend lace their tea with arege ?
Is it about not cleaning the dishes to precision like she always wants? Have you run out of your year’s pardons already? What did you do?
You would shuffle through your list of misdeeds wondering which one was causing her distress for a second time. You would find none and look outside your box of mischief to your father’s. He had many of those. Well, according to your mother.
You would ask yourself again. Why is Mama giving me the silent treatment today?
Is Baba over drinking arege again? Is he spending more time at the Tee Okutu drinking joint and putting all his salary on kongo arege doki? Or is it about that secret trip he made to Gulu?
You remember how she went and beat up the owner of that Tee Okutu bar once and pray it’s not that. Because the last time that happened, she was in a mood for a whole month and kept mumbling in song that Jesus was her husband and the father of all her children while your Baba tiptoed around the home like a lost thief. And your friends kept teasing you about it for a whole school term.
Is Baba hanging out with Mukungu Omona again? Your mother has called him that-good -for-nothing-drunk-who-ruins-people’s homes countless times. Your home is not ruined. Your friends’ homes aren’t ruined. Mukungu Omona’s home isn’t ruined. So you wonder how does that art of ruining homes. But your mother is always right. So he must be a ruiner of homes somehow.
You continue to wonder off in thought of how Mama and Amaa (your grandmother) never get along. Amaa loathes your mother. Your mother loathes Amaa. Your mother says she’s a bad mother-in-law. Your grandmother says your Mama is a bad wife. You are all used to it. They are always at logger heads. It’s like that callus; that acany on your toe the good Dakta said is harmless. But it’s there anyway. It makes wearing shoes uncomfortable sometimes. But you still wear shoes on Easter.
The only glue between your Mama and your Amaa is you and your siblings. Apart from that, these two women are never nice to each other. There is always a frightening cold war between them, except for where you are concerned. So they tolerate each other under one roof because they all love you intensely.
But today you don’t feel so loved. Your mother is upset over something. Something you can’t put a finger on. And your grandmother is a distant storm afraid of the wind. She is evasive today. She has been sitting under the mango tree all morning, her back to the house. Your siblings aren’t home either. You are alone in this today. Itye keni.
You keep wondering and wondering. Itamo hard. Matek. All day you are caught up in this space of worry. Of par. You want to find the cause and treat it. But it eludes you. You want to talk to your Mama, but she is not in the mood. She is like this thorn in your foot whose location you cannot pinpoint.
You have spent a whole important 12 hours of your school holiday wondering what went wrong. Why is Mama like this today? What have I done again? Did I put too much sugar in my tea again? Is it about the torn shirt yesterday? What is it this time? What did I do? What did Amaa say now? Baba dok otimo ngo? Why is she like this tin? Is it the neighbor’s goat again? What is going on?
Then suddenly she comes breezing through the living room door like the sun after the dark clouds have moved from underneath the eyes of its rays. That evil shadow of darkness has left her space. She is a floating happy cloud! Her Chi is dancing larakaraka now, not the sad myel-lyel; the grieving dance it was doing earlier. When her Chi is dancing myel-lyel nothing good happens.
She enters the room and finally notices you. Smiles and compliments you on being such a wonderful and clean child today. Brilliant kid. She asks where your siblings are and says you can go play outside with your friends. “You have been cooped up all day in that corner like a sick chicken. Go out so the wind blows on you. Wek yamo okuti” she quips brightly.
You get up. Confused. But happy. The worrying for the day is over. You cannot put a finger on things. These adults confuse you most times. Their ways are weird. You smile back at her with your full upper mapengo in view and head for the door.
“Here” she says as she hands you a mug with steaming millet porridge. The aroma wafting off is of tamarind and odii. “Take this nyuka kal to your grandmother before she tells the whole clan that I intend to starve her to death” she adds as she leaves you with the mug of hot porridge. You are still confused but take the porridge to Amaa.
Your Amaa is still gazing blankly into space, her back stiff with resistance. She does that when your mother is upset over things other than her. She smiles at you and receives the porridge. She says “Apwoyo Coogo na. Since she gave it to you to bring, it’s not poisoned. Come. Tell me. Has the dark cloud left her yet? I am tired of sitting under this tree. I need to move to the verandah”
You nod in excitement. She rises up. You fold the mat she’s been sitting on as she picks up her walking stick, her porridge in the other hand. And you all get going towards the verandah. You are back to the happy child again.
This is how I generally feel when heading home on a heavy traffic day and the powpow have finally let my lane through after a long unexplained one hour plus forced delay. Why they do this beats me.
You can be ignored and not let through for one solid hour. And you will see 4 or 5 of them chatting away while one incessantly blows the whistle beckoning those heading out of town to Entebbe, Nsambya, Namwongo, Kabalagala, and wherever like these places are loaded with Jadeite and the entire continent’s survival depends on it.
I just wish this would stop, especially in the evenings. I know they are clearing the city but hey, we all are heading home somehow after a long day. Help us cross too. On time. That wait is not fun. Aren’t we all valued citizens?
Yeah, I know. This whole thing was about certain routes being ignored most times during heavy traffic.
By Laker Winfred L