The sun on that Friday afternoon kissed my dirtying white shirt. Calm lakes manoeuvred on the insides of my armpits but were not caused by the sweltering heat. Rather, my anxiousness released a wave so hard it could drown the Liverpool heat. In my hand, my school report card felt heavy and wet. My heart pounding only slightly and knees trembling, I stepped up to my front door. I never really did like this door. The overgrown leaves that rested on the frame always seemed to be eyeing me as if to prevent my entrance. Above my head there was an old lamp that had died years before we moved into this house. This house was never a home so we felt no need to resurrect that light.
It is only now that I see that mama does have a certain charm about her.
I finally unlocked the door and stepped unto the groaning floor that had just been laid the week before. "Right" I told myself "I am brave and I am going to go in there and be...brave" Yuck, even the word made me want to regurgitate the awful lunchtime tuna pasta. I walked through the creaky hallway and was now standing in front of the kitchen door. My entrances had always been joyous and bright. This time, my school bag felt remark-ably heavy on my back and my feet were shifting sluggishly across the floor. I opened the kitchen door to find her preparing some food for us, as she usually did before she started her night shift. She looked me up and down, carefully and disapprovingly eyeing my dirty collar and visible sweat patches.
"Good afternoon mama" I greeted. "Fine afternoon. Put that shirt in the basket and go and iron a new shirt for school tomorrow" "Yes mama" I replied, extending my hand with the report card in it. With my head down I gave her my report card and refused to look at her because I'd once again disappointed her. Of course I had. “That's it, Sherida, you've really done it now” I muttered. How could I in all my distinction glory get a 'D' on a subject I'd studied so hard on? I dreaded this moment from when I received my grade from Mr.Moore. My mother had always been the first person on my mind whenever I got a good or bad grade. I was always the A star pupil. However this time, walking through the front door to tell her what grade I received felt premeditated and unnatural. Was I going to lie about why I got the grade or say it was actually all Mr.Moore’s fault because he wasn’t a very good teacher?
As she unfolded the paper I got ready to receive the displeased tongue she trained so much over the years. I was ready for whatever. To my suprise, she hugged me. I felt as though time had slowed and I couldn’t believe what was happening. Was I confusing reality with the hallucinations of this heat wave?
Bewildered but enchanted at the same time I didn’t dare move the tight grip in which my mother held me. She hugged me. She hugged me and told me well done. I was perplexed and reiterated that there was a D on my report card and not an A. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why she was hugging me, not that she had no right to, for she was my mother. Instead I felt that I had no right to be embraced in such a way that I did not deserve. "Why aren't you angry?" I fluttered? "I got a D for Maths, mama, a D!" She shrugged and put her work Apron on. "Wa-ya-di3 (Well done)" she beamed. "Wa-ya-di3". There was calmness, a tranquillity that made me feel somewhat uneasy. I couldn't believe it and I wanted to make sure I heard her right. "Well done?" "Yes, well done" she repeated and with that she left the kitchen, leaving me alone with my thoughts. Well done. Well done. What did that even mean?
We didn't speak about it again. From this day on, the relationship between my mother and I changed in a way that I never ever imagined. It seems strange to think that I once resented my mother. Her methods and mannerisms were often the subject of my bitterness. It irked me that she didn’t enjoy all the things I thought a woman would. “But of course she must enjoy cooking!” I’d yelp “what else is she built for?”. At 14 years old, my sexist-trained mind hadn’t yet grasped that my mother was a human being, just like myself. I’d often look at my aunties and other mothers and think they were the ideals—charming and collected.
It is only now that I see that my mother does have a certain charm about her. Not the Clair Huxtable kind and she's far from traditionally elegant. Whether it’s dyeing her hair bright purple or travelling across Europe just for the sake of it, I love my mother’s quirky nature. She laughs from the gut and doesn’t care who hears. She doesn't cross her legs when she sits, uses her fork like a spade and opens beer bottles with her teeth. She never tucked me into bed or read me bedtime stories as a child, well I'm sure she did, but my memory refuses to bring that experience back to me.
My mother does have a certain charm about her. She's far from traditionally elegant
To say that I love my mother is an understatement. In learning what makes her, her, I’ve learned so much more about myself. How I respond to certain situations is a direct correlation to who she is. In knowing my mother I've become certain of myself. Confident. She has the last word in everything I do, if my mother approves. I approve. I'm this confident in her confidence is placed in Jesus Christ.
I know that all her actions are lead by God and so as she imitates Christ, I imitate her. Almost as if we have a spiritual umbilical cord wrapped around our waists. Despite our closeness, we've come a very fierce long way to be where we are now. We’ve had to re-establish our relationship and now we continue to learn more about each other. She inspires me and pushes me to always strive to be the best that I can be.
When I was younger, I confused this encouragement as her never being satisfied. I'd aim to get the best grade because I thought it would be the greatest way to please her. Not knowing that all she wanted from me was to just enjoy being myself. My mother had always made it abundantly clear that after 18 years old, you were no longer a child therefore her job would be to guide you. This was at first a very scary thought, but she’d emphasise that she needed to make sure I had room for mistakes and little to no room for regrets.
Now I look back on when I showed my mum my report card with the D plastered across it, and the penny has finally dropped after four years. I understand her reaction in the kitchen that Friday afternoon. She hugged me because she was proud of my efforts. Proud because she'd seen me studying every night, taking on extra classes to get those acute triangles in my head. She'd seen me striving to get it right even if it meant going the extra mile. In that respect, my D grade was worth more my than my Distinction in art because one came naturally and the other didn't.
I guess I should stop here because I really could go on forever and I’ve written 1306 words so far already, so I’ll leave it here, until I can write a book or something about her, because I will! Whether she lives to read it or not. I will write about how her roars of laughter cause me joy and pain at once. Joy because her laughter sends contagious shivers down my spine, pain because I cannot bear the thought of the day when this laughter will cease. I thank God for this woman whom I can call my best friend, but also contempt because it cannot be possible to love one person this much.
The anxiety is always there, for this very reason I know I must hold on to God and not depend on any human, but oh my goodness, it’s hard. One day my mother and I will travel, backpacking around the world, to be precise. Mama loves to travel, go places where her eyes have never wandered before. To scan the earth with her inquisitive mind, always looking for a shelter in a different place from here. I will take her wherever she wants to go and hug her until this umbilical cord dries up around our waists. I’ll let her know that no man posing as God will ever step into her temple again and leave it in ruins. And even when we lay each other to rest and sing melodies and recite bedtime stories, she’ll always know her worth as a queen. Though no band will brace her finger, she will still be “worth far more than rubies”.