BY IMELDA YABARA
Dedicated to H Tuka who inspired me to write this story
A LITTLE BOY DOWN THE STREET would watch his mother every day. When the other street kids came out to play, she would ask them about their day. If they told her they had had a bad day she would look at them ever so seriously, shake her head in dismay and ask, “Was it something the teacher had to say or did someone bully you today?”
Every day she would hear their tales when evening came, feed them and send them along their way.
On school days, when morning came she would shake wake him to wake up his friends so they would not be late.
As each child burst out their front door pushing empty SP cans and Diana tuna cans out of the way she would yell, “Child come this way”. When they came over, each one was given a small plastic bag of fried flour and K1. “Just in case,” she would say.
Then, after school, it would start all over again.
“Mum,” he asked. “Why do you always ask about their day? Are you really interested in what they have to say?”
His mother would smile and reply, “It’s our way. ”
They all grew older yet still not a day would pass without her asking ask if they were okay?
Then one beautiful sunny day he heard her ask his neighbour and best mate if he had ever heard the banana’s tale?
He shook his head and looking up with a black bruise marking his face. “I hate this place!” he raged, “I’m going to run away.”
“Shhh my child, just wait and listen to my little tale,” she said. Then she turned and called them all to gather round, something she always did when she felt an intervention was needed.
Just as they sat down, he heard his father call to him, “Son, we need to be on our way.”
You see, his father was migrating to another place but his mother refused and said she would stay!
Ten years later, the day before her funeral, he came back. He sat on the veranda, angry with her for not going with them when they went away.
Then he looked around and noticed a difference in the place. Broken houses once filled with holes and yards filled with rubbish now had mansions in their place. The street was in perfect state!
That night nothing disturbed this peaceful street, laughter had replaced the screams of pain, a far cry from back in the old days when many a mother would cry till daybreak because a father would come home in a drunken rage.
When morning came, he heard someone whisper, “Psst are you awake.”
Looking up he saw his former best mate and neighbour peeping at him through the louver blades.
He walked outside and did not know what to say. For they had all gathered, spouses and all, in the very place, where she had been when he had left for a better fate.
“We need to tell you the banana tale so you can understand your mother’s decision to stay,” he heard his best mate say. He sat and listened as each person told bits of his mother’s tale.
In a time long ago, when the country was in an appalling state, the fruit trees and vegetables decided to migrate. “Over the sea there is more food to eat,” said a nutrient deprived Tulip tree.
They all rushed to leave but the little banana disagreed.
“Are you coming where there is heaps water and food for all of us to eat?”
She shook her head and said, “Leave me be.”
“Suit yourself, there is no water and won’t be for many years,” and they left.
The little banana tree reached her roots deep, sucking up all the water that she could knowing soon there would be nothing left to eat, and waited until the next time rain fell down on the field.
As years went past she grew big and strong bearing so many children that they covered a small portion of the field. Birds would come and eat dropping many a seed from which other trees, plants and flowers grew attracting humans to come, see, eat and live.
Around her, a village came to be. Every day children would play around her, and eat. Once a week, they would come and sit around her. She would tell teach them how to plant bananas and what things could be made out of her trunk and leaves.
“You see,” he heard his best mate say. “What your mother said to all of us that day was..…,” he stopped to wipe away the tears streaming down his face, “if we all left who would make this a better place? Who would show our kids our ways? Who, if we all gave up and went away? ”