I was pounding away on my laptop. Distraction came in the form of freezing my limbs. They went numb. Hamle is the coldest in the rainy season. To beat the cold out of me, I got up to sweep. It usually takes me an hour to sweep the yard. By the time I am done, bounding energy carouses through my body. I carried the laptop outside to play Sileshi Demissie's full album. For the last three months, his songs felt like a daily dose of inspiration. Each song speaks volumes that nourishes my soul.
Knock on the gate. The swishing sound the broom made on contact with the fallen leaves froze. Who could it be? I opened it. Four relatives all the way from Wadjitu, mother's birthplace: Adadda Alemi, her husband Tolossa, Uncle Mengistu, and his son, Siime. All wore masks. My heart went out to auntie. This must be her first time. Did she wear a mask willingly? She must have resisted. Corona Virus and its precautions are least of their worries. I recalled the February incident at Yatu.
How strangely relatives and invited guests regarded us! Uncle Mesfin's daughter was getting married on that day. We drove for an hour out of Addis Ababa to reach the town of Yatu. Mom; my sister, Timmy, with her kids and four men entered the tent masked to attend the wedding lunch. City people and their ways seemed to be etched on their expression. We felt like invaders. No congestion where they are at. They enjoy fresh air and abundant health compared to the city people.
Tons of things raced through my mind as I ushered them inside. Kiss your writing goodbye for the day, lady. Make a fire right away to warm the dining room. Lay out the coffee things. You need to cook food before you sit down to make coffee. Who would show them where the hospital is? They travelled all the way here to see Uncle Mesfin. They need to be guided to move around the city. Should I call mom? Too soon. She went to the hospital to deliver Atmit in a steel thermos for the patient.
Gracious teen, cousin Siime offered to help. I declined. When was it two years ago? Ough yes on Zewdu's wedding day. People were dancing in the yard. I was washing dishes all by myself. He joined me. I noted how helpful he was. Now is the time to rest after a long journey. They travelled on foot from Wadjitu to Dukem. A bus ride saw them up to the capital city. They walked more from the bus station up to the minibus stop. Two different mini buses completed the day's journey. They must be worn out.
I made them comfortable. They freshened up before they settled. Adadda Alemi draped the gabi I handed over her shoulders. I turned on the television and hurried out. Dashing here and there sets me up for any action. Creating energy doesn't mean I am efficient though. Domesticity isn't my specialty, right? Every chore is taxing on me. Bruck should have been home this morning. He gets things done quickly. He serves our parents hand and foot. Dad prefers his cooking when mom is away.
Making fire took me a while. Draining the previous day's ash out of the charcoal grill is the first task I embarked on. I arranged splinters of wood on it. I piled up coal over the wood, spilled some gas and lit it with matches. Would you believe I wasted ten matchsticks the other day? When I tried to ignite it against the striking surface, it failed. Timmy teases, 'You know what they say about people who find it hard to make fire right away? They are the ones who don't pick up fights.' 'Good for me then!'
Laying out coffee things! Why do I act like mom? She may make coffee after she cooked and served. The coffee things must be laid out on the coffee mat: cups with saucers and spoons arranged on the Rekebot, sugar in its holder, Jebena( coffee pot), beans to be roasted, incense holder and wooden Dhoop Dani. Making coffee is an unhurried affair. It strengthens bonding. I put on Gonder Hager Libs after I served food. This traditional dress adds festive atmosphere to the coffee ceremony.
As my guests ate Firfir, I roasted coffee. The smell filled the room. I rose, shaking the roasting pan to let them smell better. I used an electric coffee grinder to crush the beans. When I make coffee in the yard, I use wooden mortar and pestle. As we conversed in Amharic, I attempted to throw in Oromigna words I knew. The first round was ready. That's Abol. I poured. The couple asked for Tena Adam(Herb of Grace) instead of sugar. Sime brought bits of the herb from the garden.
The siblings talked about their youngest brother lying on a hospital bed. The accident happened a month ago. Uncle Mesfin was on his way home riding inside a bajaj. The Sino truck which moved close to the bajaj must have nudged it. The vehicle started tumbling over. The driver jumped out, saving himself. My uncle tried but wasn't lucky. A piece of his clothing caught restricting him. He rolled inside the bajaj with the engine still running. He was hurt badly. He regained consciousness two days ago.
Uncle Germame, a survivor of a car accident less than two years ago, is the one who nurses his brother at the hospital. He lost his wife because of a terrible car accident. He raised his children by himself. He didn't remarry. Adadda Alemi kept lamenting, bad omen are in the family. I cringed inside. Grandpa's third wife had never been accepted in the family because of her personality. She bore and raised five of her children in the house grandpa built in Yatu, at her birthplace.
My mother never liked it when I confronted her about grandpa. 'Why would he have three wives?' Grandpa remarried after his first wife died due to illness. Mom is one of the seven children from this marriage. 'My aunts introduced father with his second wife! He didn't love her. He sent her back to her family blaming her for his fall from a horseback. That's the only reason he took a third wife!' Mother's arguments don't justify her father's actions.
'Echumo! is how I addressed Mesfin when I visited him a week ago.' I volunteered to steer them away from the intense interaction. They lightened up. Auntie once again gave thanks to the gods for her brother's progress. Dear auntie looks and acts like a grandmother to her siblings. Adadda's then the men, showers of blessings snatched me out of my reverie. I stood up and bowed respectfully. They were thanking me for the hospitality. Three rounds of coffee: Abol, Tona and Bereka took me two hours.
In the afternoon, the four of them rode in Sammy's car to the hospital. I thought of Uncle Mesfin before the accident. He reminds me of grandpa in most ways. They share the same loving nature which draws people to them. Mesfin is often called upon to settle disputes. We don't chat at liberty because he doesn't speak Amharic. 'Ask her why she wears her hair the way she does.' My cousins willingly translate the way they want. I feel left out when they roar in laughter. I don't hold grudges against him.
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