Ikibasumba Mutabonwa

“Come, I have something to show you.” I hand her an envelope.

“What’s this?”

“Open and see for yourself”

She then looks at me…

“You do really love me, now I know.” She says.

We both smile.

Later she tells me that it was not really necessary. That there are lots available for rentals, that I could have used my money for something else. For something more important. But what’s more important than my mom? Or who is more important than my mom? 

She’s got 3 kids, a husband, a house and bills to pay. On her to-do list and budget, there’s unsurprisingly no room for shopping for luxuries. She’s constantly coming up with excuses not to treat herself. Too busy, no time to go. Bills to pay. Priority issues to solve. Too worried about her kids to spend any money and time indulging herself. And she forgets herself. 

I wanted to spoil her with something she loves but would never buy. For me, it was umushanana/umukenyero. Umushanana is the Rwandan traditional attire. It wasn’t her birthday. It wasn’t the festive season. There was no major event coming up. I didn’t need a reason to spoil my mom. I just wanted to buy her something randomly, as a sign of appreciation. So, I saved up money to buy her one.

However, it was hard finding the perfect mushanana for her because she’s this type of woman that I have never fully understood.

The next Saturday she wore it to a wedding. 

As a kid, I hated my mom. Because she was the disciplinary, I thought she hated us. Whenever we stepped out of line, mom was the one who delivered the whippings. In my eyes, she was a very mean woman. Mom was super strict. I hated school, though I got excellent grades. In fact, I have always hated school. The only thing I’ve loved about school was having Father Christmas at school when the festive season was coming. When it came to Maths, I was an annoying lazy girl. I deliberately made mistakes because I would get bored while solving the problems. But mom wasn’t going to allow that. She would make me repeat, and beat me if need be. She never gave up, till I got the correct answers on my own. Never did the homework for us. I hated her for that. Then I got to high school (boarding) and I was on my own. No one to check my assignments. What if I got the answers wrong? I remember wondering how I was going to make it on my own. 

I did. We all did. Because she has set us on the right path. She has powerfully shaped our lives. I often find myself wondering what we would have been without her around.

The thing that mom dreads the most is hearing someone say “Uriya mwana yishwe na Nyina” or “Nyina yamureze nabi”. The statement is like nails across a chalkboard. It breaks her heart. The thing I also fail to understand is why, if kids don’t turn out right or are badly behaved, the mother takes the blame even when she is doing the best she knows. And the twist to this story is that most of the time, the fathers take the credit if the kids behave well or are successful in life. Wow! The upbringing of a child is affected by many factors such as parenting and environmental influences. And in parenting, it takes two to raise a child. Fathers are equally responsible for how the child turns out to be. So should anything go wrong the mother alone should never be blamed. 

Anyways, for that reason, my biggest fear is disappointing her. My worst nightmare is to make her (and/or my dad) cry. And being her only daughter, I never wish for her to feel like she hasn’t done enough for me. I have disappointed her once but I pray I never will again. I don’t want to put her through the excruciating heartbreak again. Not when I’m alive. So, help me God. 

My mom has been and still is the best life coach. Without her there were many occasions I would have missed, things I could not have achieved and I don’t think I would have grown into the person I am without her influence. I look up to her because she is strong, loving, caring and beautiful. In her other life, her name should be Grace. Grace, because she is graceful and kind. Generous and giving. Quiet but caring. Because she cares deeply about those around her. I always asks myself what kind of heart the Lord has given her?

Now that I’m an adult, I realize how blessed I truly am to have her as my mother and how fortunate I am to still have her around. There’s nothing I enjoy more than seeing my mom smile. I take joy in seeing her happy. For I now know how unconditional a mother’s love is.

And we’ve now become friends. I am glad that she is still alive. The little girl who hated her years back has grown up to love her more and more with each day that passes, to see what a gem she truly is. I miss her when she’s not at home, that when she comes back I almost feel like jumping around shouting “Mama araje”(hehe). I now tell her jokes and we laugh. She tells me stories and I too tell her stories.

My one wish is that she lives long enough to see her grandchildren. The last time I was on my periods, I’d serious cramps (never been that painful before). She came to my room to check on me…

“Tete, uracyahumeka?”

Painful grunt.

“Icyazakunyereka warabyaye”

So, I hope she lives long enough to see me crawling to the toilet after giving birth. I hope she lives long enough to help bathe my babies after they’re born. I hope she lives long enough to carry my babies like she carries Ivan. I hope my babies get to feel the warmth of her love. I bet they’ll fight to be adopted by her! Haha

I could write a 10,000 words or more blogpost, but the truth is I don’t have enough words to express my love for my Mama. I could write about all the other things she (and Dad of course) does for us but you’d say, “they’re supposed to do that” *rolls eyes* But they’re awesome.

So, today I’m celebrating the phenomenal woman that God saw it fit and made my mom.

Happy Birthday Mom.

I love you beyond time and distance.

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Sent with love

My dearest love,

Every morning (that comes too early, wondering why, yet again, our time together has been cut short) I hit the snooze button an extra 6 times because I just don’t want to leave you. 

I know that there was a time in my life when I used to take you for granted. That time when I used to just expect you to be there for me, without giving you any appreciation. That time when you came second to dozens of others and it might have made you feel completely worthless. How could I have done that to you, my love? It was a mistake. A terrible mistake that made me wonder silently if I’m not probably the most terrible person alive? For that, I am really ashamed and I apologize. I didn’t know any better. My love, one thing I can assure you is that I will never take you for granted again. Never.

I know we’ve been together long enough for you to see that you’re the longest relationship I’ve ever had (and I hope we’ll be together forever). As we’re going through a rough patch right now, I know that you’re feeling the pangs of our separation too. They say that every relationship goes through ups and downs. Maybe you’re having your revenge for all of those times when I treated you wrong. But, my love, can’t we let bygones be bygones and find a way to come together again? Because I haven’t given up hope that we’ll find our way back to each other again. And I hope that you haven’t either. We need more time together to make our relationship work.

I never treated you right before. Sometimes, you even agreed to things simply in order to keep the peace. Perhaps love is truly blind. However, I can assure you that I am a changed woman now. 

Now, I know that you deserve the best. I really do. If I could, I would just take you with me everywhere. Sadly, the reality is that it’s not possible but I hope you realize that it’s the thought that counts. My love, just so you know, I might be a 1000 miles away but you’re the first thing on my mind.

From now on, I promise, to always give you the respect and love that you are due.

Because really, my dear Bed, I miss you.

Comfortably and exhaustedly yours,

One very sleepy girl

Kazungu

His name is Kazungu. He’s an alcoholic. The last time he was sober was in 2004, when he made a deal with his sister. A deal not to drink for a week. Not even lick a drop off the bottle lid. The reward was 70,000 Rwandan Francs. That was 10,000 Rwandan Francs for each day he was sober. The deal was to collect the whole sum after the week. But for how long could he be sober?
He was trying really hard not to drink, counting off every day until he could get his money and get wasted, again. Before the deal, he was never sober for a very long time. Except maybe in the womb. But who knows? He probably was drunken there too. He’s been drinking for as long as he can remember. The deal was meant to be a reminder on why he had to quit hurting his wife and children. If he could make it to a week, then he could make it to 2 weeks, then a month, then 2 months and so on. Till when he was sober.

Then a week later, he walks in with his coat slung over his shoulder, staggered over to the table, smiled slightly and said “Mwiriwe”

Kazungu is a binge drinker who seems to have a death-wish. He drinks morning, noon and night. He prefers the feeling that he gets from drinking to the negative consequences that follow it. His drinking has been affecting his family…messing, spending, coming home drunk and verbally abusing them…Life with Kazungu is unsettling. Most of the times, they don’t know what kind of drama will be waiting for them when he comes home stumbling through the door. His affair with alcohol is unrelenting. He’s become an unbearable drunk. Every moment is an uphill struggle.

When he works, all his money is spent on booze. He doesn’t contribute anything.

“If you want to destroy your life with alcohol, fine. Go right ahead, but…” 

“It’s my money, I’ll spend it however I please” he cuts in before his wife finishes. 

His wife, Beatrice, who does part-time jobs, is the sole bread winner of the family. The couple have 8 children. 7 girls and 1 boy. One of their daughters gave birth. That’s 11 people in their household. Beatrice does everything financially, struggling to make ends meet. Someone is sick? It’s her problem. The children need shoes? Her problem. Fieldwork? Her problem. Food is over. Her problem. And when it gets worse, Kazungu sometimes steals items from the house that he sells to get money for booze. As his wife and kids eat ubugali na dodo, he be eating some brochettes with urwagwa at the local bar. 

Beatrice has probably thought of leaving Kazungu. Been probably told to follow her heart. “You deserve better”, “You can make it on your own”, “You should grow a pair and walk out for good”. But then her heart tells her to give him one last chance, again. Her heart tells her that he can’t make it without her, bla bla bla…following her heart is what has kept her in this marriage for so long.

His son passed PLE and joined high school. He did one term but then dropped out. Because of lack of school materials. Like many low-income women, his mother is preoccupied with their survival and is unable to save towards educating them. His mother couldn’t afford to buy him books which she thought of as luxuries, yet there are 11 stomachs to feed. His father couldn’t provide his school materials. He dropped out due to the unfortunate fact that his father is an alcoholic. They have had to watch the neglect in him. They watched him drown his son’s future in a bottle of urwagwa. There have been many times in his life when he wished he’d been born into a different family… 

Few months ago, Kazungu got mysteriously sick. First, his throat became sore. Then he had difficulty swallowing and his jaws couldn’t move. He could barely down a glass of urwagwa if anything. Couldn’t even swallow a drop. He was like a fly that’s about to get splattered on a windshield. He was dead. His drinking buddies couldn’t do shit for him. He was lost in his own private hell. 

Fortunately, he was cured. He was ordered to stop drinking. He’s been sober for 2 months now. Even though his family desperately wanted him to get sober, that doesn’t guarantee that all the bad will be forgotten. That can’t fix everything that he broke. All he can do is not drink. 

So, he won’t do it today.