Tea Talk : Mother’s Day: Reflections on a mother’s experience

Mother and son ... Me and Mish

Mothers come in different packages. The holiday and high day celebrations trigger memories and wounds for many.

I am not a fan of Mother’s Day, etc, because it seems to be so commercial and obligatory. I would rather have something from the heart on a random day. However, that may never happen, so perhaps, enforcing a day to honourmothers or fathers, women or Valentine’s does create validation and joy.

A surprise question from my son, who has his own children now: what was itlike to be his mother?

That stopped me in my tracks as I had always been concerned about how he had felt about being our son! And no one had ever asked me that thought-provoking question.

Mish came into our lives when he was four years old and he argues that he was younger by a year. His father was ill, and his mother had apparently been overwhelmed by not having the means to look after him and ran away. His aunt found him crawling on the floor without a wrapper or nappy and took off her “chitenge” to cover him.

After that,his grandmother, Ambuya Dorcas, took care of him in Mutoko. They stayed there until they escaped from the Rhodesian Army. Ambuya Dorcas said that Mish ran barefoot with the other children across the river.

Ambuya Dorcas was working for me in Mandara and had brought Mish to stay as his aunt’s mother-in-law had indicated that he couldn’t stay as there wasn’t enough food for him.

Mish peeked out from the laundry one day when I arrived home from work and his enormous eyes and smile melted my heart.We had an instant bond. He loved meeting me at the gate when I came home from work and would sit on my lap and hold the steering wheel and drive the car. I took him to the doctor to be checked and got the details on how to handle his malnutrition. He had a big tummy, the rest of him skinny and his hair was sparse and had grey skin tone and covered on his back with scars from measles.

I called my husband at the time, who was travelling on business and said I think that we have got a kid and his response was as long as he wasn’t a baby. Upon his return,he also bonded with Mish.

We sent him to nursery school to learn to speak English and I wanted to enrol him in Courteney Selous School. To my astonishment, his application was rejected as the school said that he was the child of a “servant”.This was before Zimbabwe Independence. We saw the headmaster who said that there wasn’t anything that they could do as they couldn’t let standards down and he wouldn’t know how to use a toilet. We were furious. By this time, Mish had moved into the main house and was staying with us.

The explanation that he was living with us, spoke English,etc, didn’t make the headmaster budge.

My ex-husband was not deterred and contacted lawyers who said that we could get an affidavit that we were his guardians as agreed by his uncle, the eldest brother of his father who had passed away by now.

Mish didn’t have a birth certificate because Ambuya Dorcas said that his parents didn’t register his birth nor were they married. A birth certificate was obtained in Mutoko and then an affidavit from the lawyers for the school.

I shall never forget the headmaster pouring a cup of tea for himself without offering us and holding the affidavit up to the light to check the seal’s authenticity. A sigh of resignation or maybe exasperation and the headmaster accepted Mish into school. He was the only child of colour that year.

We were determined that Mish would not be relegated to a life of perpetuated poverty with no fixed abode. We wanted him to be our child. It was a match made in heaven really. I do believe we all have a soul tribe and regardless of colour and creed, we know each other instinctively when we meet up.

My parents thought I was crazy at first, my sister and her family in the UK were very embracing. Other members of my extended family were in shock and perhaps some still are! The volleyball crowd and their kids all jelled with Mish. Bradley asked his mom one day when he would turn black like Mish as he was really looking forward to it!

Parents of some of Mish’s friends had mixed reactions. Some would comment after he stayed for a sleep over that he had amazing manners and surprisingly could use the toilet.

What on earth was this toilet thing with people? I would get so mad.

I mostly refused sleep over but, in the end, had to relent as Mish would say he would be fine.

Mish’s  dad would ask people in the movie house or in restaurants what they were staring at and pull a funny face! Mish loved going to the Sheraton Harare Hotel for their buffet as waiters would not give him a menu, but give his friends one. One day he asked the waiter if he was invisible.

My father and mother became his biggest supporters, and they had a close bond. Granny White (her surname was White) supervised his homework as he didn’t want to listen to me! She also baked him a chocolate cake every week when he was in boarding for high school.

Mish is the only person who can phone me at any time and my heart lights up – he is now 47 years old, married with two adorable children of eight and six years of age living in Scotland. (To save you making calculations I am 20 years older and was 24 when we met.)

What a joy it has been being Mish’s mother. So many stories. We are going to write our story for his children so that they understand their Papa’s roots. Love and destiny and God are the factors that decide who our children are. They do not have to be biological to be loved deeply. What a lucky mother I am.

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