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African American Creative Nonfiction

It had been twenty-four years since she’d last seen it, but the place looked exactly the same, blue sky, open air, with tall trees that reached the sky. Past the vineyards, beyond the trees, was the old house that was once home. Like a loaf of bread taken out too soon from the oven, it seemed to have collapsed inward on itself. The windows that were no longer rectangular had no glasses, and the termites had feasted on the wooden framed doors. The grass around the homestead was the same height as the oak trees that once acted as swings for her and Peace. They always desired to climb them, but their mother convinced them to wait for a few years until their bones were stronger. They waited, but it turned out to be a long wait, and by the time they presumed they were now fit for that exercise, they couldn’t climb anymore. Young ladies could not climb trees or ride bicycles. Not that they were mature by then, but they were 7 and considered being of age. They had 6 years left to become wives to men as old as their grandfathers, start working for a baby, and become mothers like their own. Without a doubt, that joined the list of the things they never did but could have done. It was a tough time being a girl growing up in the countryside. You were a birthing machine, and that is all they prepared you for. You had to learn from your mother while waiting for the time you would be ripe to perform the same function. Formal schooling was unheard of; waste of precious time that would go to dishwashing, cooking, knitting, or doing laundry. Their widowed mother had learned the hard way what it takes to raise two children. She had lost her husband a few months after giving birth, and much as she received help from different hands, it was never enough.

Venturing into the man’s territory of work to make ends meet, she welcomed whatever paying job she came across with open hands to provide all that her girls needed. This came with a fair deal of ridicule, as it’s expected when breaking stereotypes, but she persevered and was the first one to demand the right to education for her two girls, whom she often left home alone. School seemed the perfect haven for them compared to the house where she often left them alone. She loved them and wanted them well equipped, which didn’t come at a cheap cost. Wearing the shoes of both father and mother, she did whatever she came across and took radical decisions for the welfare of her family, including sending her daughters to the only willing school 5 miles away which accommodated them. Her efforts were not in vain. Her daughters took their education at heart, and both ended up as public school teachers. They found employment in the city, got married, and their mother, in her frail state, went to live with Peace, who was more established, with a bigger house and wallet. Twenty-four years later, transferred to head a new all-girls school, Hope was now back to the place she once called home. Much as the job came with accommodation, the house she grew up from drew her heart close. They abandoned it for twenty-four years but it was still firm regardless of the encroachment by dry leaves, grass, crawling insects, and birds. She hoped it housed no reptiles, but of course, there had to be some geckos and lizards. Standing at what was once their porch, it amazed her at how fast time passed by and the things it carries with it. She had never seen her father, but saw most of the things her mother went through to bring them up. She remembered how they treated them as different species in school because they were the only girls, but how they persisted because they had no option. “It’s funny that I am now going to head an all-girls school,” she thought to herself.

Time hadn’t taken away some things, but also brought about a great deal of changes in the general way of life and traditions. Girls would now own bicycles and even race with the boys. It was now almost a taboo for parents to offer their thirteen-year-old girls for marriage. Having sexual relations with a girl of that age was now “defilement.” Women were no longer confined to their homes like before, but also took part in the pie in the world of work. But the greatest change of all was in education. Being literate was so paramount and at the core of everything. Parents introduced children to formal education right from infancy. They taught them classical music, stories, geography, history, art, and foreign languages. It was a known fact that the more knowledge one had, the better for survival. Parents sent their children to camps, and anything they believed could make them excel in the world. Her illiterate mother without knowledge gave them the best gift any parent could ever give to their children. Now that she was a mother, she was doing her best to be proactive and give her son, whom she considered privileged the best her mother would have done if it were her. Because her mother, in defying all norms, earned a position in being among the best if not the best mother in the world. But life had not been so kind to her, and she was rather disappointed with everything going on. She had failed at her marriage, her career was not as progressive at least as compared to her twin sister, and she had no considerable material wealth. Much as her mother was proud of her, she did not feel the same, and accepting this job in Wisconsin, where she grew up, was the perfect escape to the pressures of the urban life. She only cared about her only child, her ten-year-old son, and that was all that mattered.

November 17, 2020 15:50

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What an educational, emotional, and wonderful story. It really touched me. The only thing is that I would've loved to know where and when this took place. You did such a good job with this, Violetta! Thank you!

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11:31 Nov 27, 2020

Thanks Rose. I should have included that.

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