The evenings are marked by a constant shedding of tears. Yes, we have a reason to be sad, but we cry because the firewood never dries these days and so the smoke stings our eyes. Gone are the days when sitting around the fire not only warmed our feet but our hearts too. These days, it is cold even around the fireplace. There is no more gossip, no stories, no singing either. The hut looks bigger these days, even though the chicken still occupy their corner and have dozed off with their heads buried under their wings. The gourd still hangs directly above the fireplace, on its three strings, but it is empty these days. We still sit round the fire, the three stones, but nowadays the circle is incomplete, there are two unoccupied stools.
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He never comes to the kitchen. These days, he comes home very late. He never seems to have an appetite for anything except water that he always drowns in big gulps. Once or twice, I think I have smelled alcohol on his breath. The two unoccupied stools in the kitchen, one belongs to him.
Outside, the weeds are overgrown. All the vegetables are choked, and there is more black jack in the vegetable patch than onions. The tomatoes flowered but never put forth fruit. The grass around the house is increasing in height really fast. Water containers are almost always empty, and yet, grass has hardly grown on her grave. The flowers that Tamima planted around it have all died — blame it on the lack of rain.
When a Mother leaves home, need I to remind you that you will never have your meals on time. When a Mother is not at home, suddenly warm nights become really cold, laughter dies down, children forget to urinate before going to bed, and so help themselves right to bed. No one remembers to air the beddings.
Fathers forget to come home on time; they forget their children; they forget themselves. Neighbors forget about your home, relatives forget to visit, the chicken lay their eggs in the bush and hatch there only to be eaten by wild cats at night.
When a Mother is not home, everyone feels lost.
The tea will either have too much water or too little tea leaves. The rice will either overcook or undercook. The vegetables will certainly not be enough for everyone. The hatched chicks will never grow; they die of starvation, with some falling in to water and drowning. Wet clothes are forgotten in basins for days, tempers become shorter, tears are constantly shed, family ties become looser, and nothing ever happens on time.
Breakfasts are missed, baths are skipped, appointments are forgotten, the shopping is never done, because the pillar, the string around which a family is woven, is not there.
How then am I ever going to learn how to cook? Who will teach me how to wear a pad when the periods come? On whose shoulders am I going to cry on my wedding day? Who will walk me down the aisle?
While she is there, it is hard to see, but a Mother is the main player in family life. Everything revolves around her. She is a Mother, a wife, a link between the children and their father. She is a cook, the one responsible for cleanliness, a link between her family and other families. She is just irreplaceable. Mama, is someone a little greater than words can describe.