I have been here for decades…
I can barely remember when I spread my roots wide and deep almost becoming part of the landscape here; part of lush garden filled with greenery, part of the fruit trees that become fragrant with ripened fruit, part of the African soil. I have become part of the family that I have watched changed and grow right beneath me; and of the children who have climbed these branches searching for the sweetest of fruit, and the conversations enjoyed and endured underneath my shade.
It was the old matriarch who placed me where I stand today, barely a sapling she buried my newly formed roots deep into the moist soil, the wet earth so fragrant I was almost fooled into thinking it had rained, the earth so rich and fertile I was sure there had been a helping hand of the richest of manures that coaxed me into stretching these tender roots deeper into the earth. And what a joy it was, to be tended, to have my leaves sprayed with water on the hottest of days! When the first fruit came oh so long ago, I remember as the old matriarch bit deeply into the yellow ripe flesh, the sweetest of juices tricking down her chin. I recall she had said “all that hard work had paid off; the mangoes are sweet as can be!”
She was still strong then, the head of a family that was soon to have another addition.
It was on a warm Easter’s morning the youngest of her grandsons, Reuben sat under the shade. His head darted back and forth, his eyes watching the gate, for surely at any minute she would arrive from mass, humming a hymn softly to herself, making slow calculations in her mind, gearing up for the house to be filled with her children and their children so they could enjoy the Lord’s supper together. The gate squeaked open and surely enough her sturdy frame appeared. He jumped up and went to her, her face lighting up the moment she laid eyes on him.
“When did you get here child?” she said
He held her hands in nervous silence and led her to the shade and both sat down. Wise old woman that she was, she realised that this wasn’t any trivial kind of visit.
“Gogo, do you remember Catherine” he said solemnly, his eyes now fixed on the ground.
“Of course I do” she replied, “And I only have one question for you. When is the child due?”
The boy looked up her, surprise written all over his features. His mouth opened and shut only the words refused to come.
“I knew it the moment I met her, we old ladies know a thing or two by now” she said tapping her nose. “And don’t worry child, I will support you when you tell your mother”
The boy could only gaze at his grandmother in wonder, his shoulders relaxing and all his anxieties melting away.
“We may as well tell the whole family today being that we will all be together” the old matriarch said tenderly. “How old is the girl?” she added as if an afterthought.
“She is 18” the boy replied.
“You wish to marry her one day?”
“Yes Gogo” He said steadily, with a lingering smile on his youthful face.
“Well then!” she clapped once in satisfaction. “Perhaps the two of you…and your child may come and live with me once the proper rites have been fulfilled of course”
“What proper rites Gogo?” he replied his brow furrowed
“Well you can’t expect to put a young girl in the family way without compensating her family and apologising for your irresponsibility, and if she is to be your wife you need to consider lobola (bride price)
All this was discussed right under my canopy, above the ground where my roots had come one with the soil, but I am just a tree, I could do was watch as life ebbed and flowed all around me.
Part 2 coming soon….