“Pay them no mind, you don’t need them now…or ever.”
Boys, my mother always insisted that my sisters and I stay away from them. For her they were the devil reincarnated, out to destroy her children. She would have rather died than see boys breathe in the direction of her girls. Being a mother to four girls worried her like crazy. It nearly drove her mad, her mind was never at peace until all of us were under her roof, where she could hear us, see us and perhaps reach us. The worst thing that she could imagine was one of us falling pregnant before we got out of high school. She was not going to have her daughters fall pregnant by what she called “good for nothing boys” and bring shame on her and the entire family.
She had dreams that her daughters were going to achieve. Hell would have to freeze over before her daughters failed. It was not going to happen, she wouldn’t let it. She had a whole plan, her babies would get through high school and would graduate college before settling down with any boy. And she would be damned if that didn’t happen, especially at the expense of a boy. This was a thought she didn’t even entertain.Because of this she kept us close, never allowing us to stray passed the gate without her permission, she wanted us to be within the yard, never straying far. Such that if she called you once, she had to get an answer immediately and if she didn’t she would come looking for you. And if you did leave the gate, you had to have a very good explanation for why your feet left the gate. If your explanation didn’t meet her standards, we would all get scolded for one persons crime. No one ever wanted to get a beating from her, because if you did, you would feel it for days. And my sisters and I just dreaded making her mad, but being children we always tasted the waters. So one persons crime was everyones’ crime, she believed we were responsible for each other and if one of us strayed we were all in trouble. Believe it or not this is what has kept us so close to this day.
Our parents didn’t have much, but since birth my mother decided her children would have the best of everything, that was necessary at least. So even when we had a home it was borderline, just outside the compound and just near enough the high class neighbourhood. So we could see, and most importantly aspire for how the other half lived. Others may view it as torture, she saw it as inspiration. And slowly we got what she wanted, into good schools even when we stood out as the kids with very little. Her one rule was ‘eyes on the prize,’ even when we had nothing as compared to our peers, we had to focus. And if any of us came back home with little gifts from friends, she made us return the gift, to this day I don’t know why.
So we lived in a little town called Katengo, the little forest. It really was in the middle of nowhere. Hours away from all the big cities, Lusaka felt like another lifetime. It was not much but it was our home. My mother made it so. The trend in the neighbourhood was that, at about 5:00 pm all the girls would be all bathed and seated at the bridge by their home gate hoping to catch the attention of any boys who would pass by. The bridges at the gates would be like branches the pretty birds would perch on, showing off their beautiful colours. So the girls would be at the gate looking pretty and all dolled up. The streets would be filled with teenage couples, whispering sweet nothings to each other and falling in all types of puppy love. Girls were getting rose stems smiling ear to ear, wearing clothes two sizes to small struggling to show off their figures. The boys wore their pants too low, underwear sticking out trying to look cool so the girls could be impressed. It was a scene right out of a teenage movie. This is what happened in the neighbourhood but never in my mothers house.
If she caught you parading yourself at the gate, you were in for it. The beating you would receive would stay with you for months. I remember one time, her friend had seen me walking out of the school grounds with a boy and told her. She got so angry she was unkind in her words, but looking at it now I can see where she was coming from, she wanted a better life for me. And she was so afraid of me falling off the course. Especially in a neighbourhood that was filled with teenage pregnancy stories, it was horrifying for her. So I for one steered clear of the gate, because it came with a scathing beating, that I was deathly afraid of. And I was considered the trouble maker in the house. My mother was never to be crossed, and sitting at the gate was you parading yourself like a harlot for all the boys to see. And she refused for her children to behave like that. So while my age mates were out flirting with the boys, learning how to kiss I was in the house getting ready to make dinner, or putting out my uniform for the next day for school but I definitely was not out there, I feared my mothers wrath too much.
I would of course encounter boys when I walked to school and they intrigued me, and some of them took some interest in me but unlike the other girls I could never get out at the weekend to meet up with them so it always amounted to nothing. Besides that I went to an all girls convent school, no chance of meeting any boys there, my mother made sure of it. We only ever got to see boys at the school when schools came for competitions and then we would all lose our minds, but that was it. I got off school at 3:30 pm, and mum gave us 45 minutes max to walk home, anything after that was trouble. My mother really didn’t want boys around her girls at all. I recall this one funny moment, although we didn’t think so at the time, we had a young aunt who stayed with us and attended high school at the time too. A boy who had liked her quite a bit lost his mind and decided to walk into our yard and asked to see her. My sisters, my young aunt, my mum and I were all seated on a reed mat chatting away while she pounded ground nuts when he came in. I think the boy was trying to prove to the girl of his interest that he was brave enough to walk up to my mothers door and ask for her. You should have seen my mother look at him, if looks could kill, the boy would be dead, three times over. All of us went dead quiet because we knew war was about to break out. She asked him one question, ‘ufuna chani?’ ‘What do you want?’ and the boy had the nerve to respond, telling her he was looking for my aunt chisomo. What transpired next is what I will never forget, she took flight after the boy with the pounding stick in hand yelling after him to never set foot in her yard ever again. I had never seen a boy run out so fast, his books that were earlier in hand were flying up in the air and he had abandoned his shoes. Funniest scene I had ever seen and my mother was furious. We all paid for it dearly, we had an ear full for weeks about how we had lost respect for the house and we had now started inviting boys to the door. Thinking about it now, it kills me with laughter.
So up until I turned fifteen this was my life with boys, very few encounters at all. I avoided them like the plague, and they did the same, simply because they knew who my mother was and she was not afraid to cause a scene, at any place and time. But I wanted so badly what my friends had. Boyfriends and love letters, and all the stuff I thought was cool, I wanted that, I wanted all of it. I found a way though, I found the sweetest romance books for a chance to feel how all my friends were feeling, I used my imagination and it sufficed at the time. I read lots of romance novels which my mother disapproved of those too, I would cover them in news paper to conceal them from her, she never asked what I was reading, what mattered to her was that my head was buried in a book, not any other foolishness. I can see now why she disapproved of them too, they really distorted my view of what love is. Or what a real relationship would constitute of but unfortunately at the time that was all I had to go on by. So as much as I could I borrowed them from a friend whose mother had them in stacks. She snack them out of the house and I would sneak them into the house and hide them so my mother couldn’t find them. So for a long time I was looking forward to meeting a tall, dark and handsome Greek or Italian looking man, who ran an empire and owned a yacht. This was what killed my initial interest in my fellow teenage boys, I wanted older and wiser, because I thought I was older and wiser than the lot of them. So this tycoon in my mind would of course come and sweep me off my feet and we would sail off into the sunset.
That was the plan and I would also have a much cooler boyfriend than everyone else. And I could rub it in every ones faces. I was going to to have the perfect life. And my mother would approve of it, no matter how much she loathed boys, I believed in my mind she would approve of this one. Far fetched but an ideology that sustained me still. As life would have it I lost my mother in her sleep, for a fighter she left in peace, in her sleep.Indeed in life, what will be, will be. How you take it is what matters My shield was gone, the protector of the realm was just gone like that, snuffed out like a flame. Life had changed, she left right at the moment when I need her to hold the leash just a little tighter. To keep me from my own distraction. I was fifteen years old and hurting, in active pain and in need of comfort and I wasn’t getting it. The person that held me together, kept me in check, just like that was gone. My biggest worry was that I would lose my way but on the other hand I was also afraid that if I did anything stupid, she would come for me. Afraid of her even in her grave. Its been over a decade now and my mother is still the most influential person in my life today.
So after her death I still kept to the the rules, but my father was more relaxed about them and we eventually would be out on the street more but still with caution. Afraid and excited, mind over matter, deathly afraid and overly excited. I was finally out there And this is how my encounters with frogs started. At the age of sixteen going on seventeen, some of the biggest train wrecks started and the best life lessons ensued.
2. Chembe: The Story teller
If you tell yourself lies long enough, you begin to believe them.