I wrote this piece 3 years ago, but for some reason I have never published it anywhere. I think that now is as good a time as any…
I’m not sure when you’re going to read this but I’m writing it on the night of your 50th birthday. You’re thousands of miles away and we’ve just finished a long conversation. Talking to you today brought back memories. For example:
- Do you remember when I was 7 and came to you and told you that I knew you weren’t my real mother? You never once yelled or scolded over the next 2 years as I told all and sundry that my real mother was away and coming back to save me from your evil clutches. 21 years later, I smile as I look into the mirror and see a face that becomes more and more like yours with every passing day. I realize that you taught me something about that time; love doesn’t need to claim, assert or demand. It rests securely in the assurance of what is.
- Then, when I was 10, I fell very ill and no one seemed to know what was wrong. I’ll never forget the hot afternoon when you put me on your back and carried me to the road to pick a taxi to take us to the hospital. I don’t know what fears and prayers ran through your mind during that long walk, but I look back on it and realize that even though love comes with responsibilities, there’s nothing you can do that is too much for those you love.
- I remember those nights when we would stay up late making snacks for some wedding or the other. For some reason those nights always seem to be so full of laughter and fun. It was more pleasure than work to stay with you as we put finishing touches to what needed to be done. And now, as I jump into one project after another, I think back on those times and see how I have learned the virtues of hard work and the dignity in honest labour.
- When I was starting university I had no clothes and we had no money, so you took some of yours to your tailor and had them taken in for me. I walked proudly into school the following week, uncaring that I wore hand-me-downs. Funny enough, no one mocked me or said anything. So today when I stand with people who are older than me, and I speak and they listen, I realize I had learned what you were trying to teach me; that self respect does not come from the money in your pocket or the titles after your name.
- There were new friends that you did not like, new habits you did not approve of, and I would get very upset at you as you told me that I was underperforming. Now, developing my multitudes of skills, I see that you saw a far bigger me than I did then, and you were not willing to sacrifice my potential for my comfort.
- I think back to when our world shuddered on its axis and you seemed to fall to pieces. I had never seen you cry so much…or pray so much. As you turned to me, I learnt that love is a 2 way street, sometimes I’ll lean on you, and sometimes you’ll lean on me.
- This evening, talking to you on your 50th birthday, I listened to you talk about your plans for the future, your hopes and your dreams and I realized that I’m still learning from you. Youth is not an unlined face; it’s a mind that has never stopped asking questions, it’s a heart that is still yearning for more.
In the 27 years that we have known each other, you have been many things to me: a rock, a comfort, a terror, a hand of God, an antagonist and a task master. This evening, laughing with you, I realized that somehow, you have become my best friend. I don’t only love you Mummy, I respect and admire you. The person I am and that I will be was built on the foundations of the lessons that you taught me; not just with your words, but with your actions as I learnt to look at you and truly see you. It’s an honour to be your child, and if I become one tenth the woman that you are, I will be a proud person indeed.