"Remember Mamma" is a story about two brothers who never got to see their mother, she died whilst giving birth to them. One of the brothers has been mentally affected by this experience and dwells on the memory of his mother which may or may not be real.
It is very cold, this Sunday morning on this side of the eastern hemisphere. I am debating whether I should go and visit my manic brother who lives all the way down the bottom of the road. Whilst thinking of a decision to make, I decided to dress as warm as I can and start trotting off in my grey fur coat and black steel boots. The journey to visit my brother Adam is taken by foot. The decision is made then; because I am clearly already on my way.
The walk is very unfriendly. The ice-cold winds from the Alps mountain range are smacking my face and stinging my eyes almost freezing up my eyelids, and the depth of the snow forces me to pick up my feet high and drop them very hard as not to sink into the heavy snow. This is exhausting and I lose breathe with each step I take. Finally, I arrive at around 11am, gasping for air and regretting my decision to visit my brother. We have very opposite believes and our judgement of what is real or not varies. I put aside all prejudice and in the name of family I gladly accept that this is my duty to my brother. This is “Ubuntu”, which is an ethical concept of African origin emphasizing community, sharing and generosity.
Adam does not take time to take care of his physical appearance, let alone his ill health. I have cooked us a late breakfast because I can almost guarantee that he has not yet had a meal for today. There he is, the crazy old man is sitting back so relaxed in an old wooden rocking chair that still rocks back and forth even though it is now over 50 years old. I step carefully onto the wooden porch trying not to alarm him as he sits and rocks to and from. He does not take kind to any sudden moves or sounds and just my luck that the front porch makes the loudest and craziest sounds, sort of like something out of a horror movie. My brother is more like a character in one of those scary movies. He has a deep and devilish voice, he hardly shares a smile and he is not friendly at all. Step by step, breathe by breathe I take as I have to be cautious around him. Adam spends his time dreaming of the past. He has never gotten over the loss of our mother and it is a ghost that haunts him every day. He insists that he can hear my Mamma singing to him. I insist that he is insane and needs to get help from a professional.
Our mother died whilst giving birth to us and we never got to see her except through photo albums given to us by family members. We also got to know her through a journal that she kept which was also given to us. She must have been a gentle person because she only spoke soft words in her journal. I managed not to get so emotional about the loss. I accepted that I would live my life without any parents or family.
We were adopted by an Eastern European couple at four months old. Adam on the other hand has suffered the loss since the first day he could remember things. I decided that our mother’s journal and photo albums were better off with Adam because he seemed to feel a connection to the past whereas I just wanted to forget about it and focus on our given reality. The sun comes up sharp and is blinding my sight as I stare up into the sky trying to get at least one ray of heat onto my face.
The yellow- orange glow gets sharper each minute and I cannot help but close my eyes and drift away for a moment. I come back from my dreams as Adam’s loud and noisy chair creeks. I look away from the sky and stare straight into his dark eyes.
“What do you want here?” “I have come to visit my brother or is that forbidden”
“Only if you’re presence is not wanted, then yes it is forbidden”
“Did you bring me food again?”
“Adam, my dear brother, when are you going to realise that I am the only family that you have left on this earth and that we should cherish the time that we have left with each other. We are both of age and could kick it any time soon”
“I would be happy when that day comes, and then I can be with the only person that loved me on this earth, my Mamma. Do you remember Mama Joshua, she was a beautiful woman, and her eyes were majestically blue; the sound of her voice was Godly, she had the softest hair and her skin was fresh and smelled of lilies”
“We never got to see Mama; she died the day we were born, so stop your nonsense. I am too old to have this conversation with you, day after day”
“I got to hear her voice, she spoke to us and I could sense her beauty”
Adam goes into memory lane again, he starts singing a lullaby that he claims Mama used to sing to us when we were in her womb. He continues to hum for hours on end and all I can do is sit frustrated by him, on his porch and watch him dive into a past I do not believe existed. He gazes at the rising of the sun and so I decide to join him. For me the day we were born was a glorious yet bitter day. Our mother had birth complications and died the morning that we were born. The pain is too hard for me and I stop trying to remember anything.
My grandmother took us to an orphanage because she was too old, extremely poor and could not take care for us. We have no memory of any of this except for the stories that we receive from Gogo (our grandmother). The sun is out; it is bright yellow and warm. Adam awakes from his daylight dreams of his mother and smiles as he enjoys the sun. Adam steps onto the porch and looks over at the lake that flows beneath it. He sees a clear crystal like reflection of himself. The shimmering waters are not still and so he cannot focus on a still image of himself.
My brother is a grumpy old black African man with tough thick skin that has many wrinkles. His hair is coarse and afro like. Not a neat or shaven appearance, a very scary and gruesome looking man. He hardly smiles and never shows any friendliness to people who attempt to make some initiative of kindness. One can see the craziness in his eyes. The dark rings around his eyes are a reflection of the dark path that he has chosen travel on which is living in a memory that is not real. Adam looks hard at himself; he catches a still moment with a clear mirror reflection in the lake that flows beneath his porch.
There is sadness in his eyes and a feeling of disbelief floats in the air. A sound of hope whispers in the water beneath us: hope that I will remember Mama the way that Adam does. My emotions for all these years have just been pain and anger. This harsh emotion may be the reason that I cannot remember, the reason why I do not want to remember. It hurts me deep in my soul to think that my being alive caused my Mama to take her last breath. I fall back and start to choke on my own breath; I stop breathing just to give her a moment to live again. I gasp and there it is; the sound of her voice so clear in the air.
Adam glares at me and starts to sing along with the wind
“Thula Thula Mtwana………” Mama sang this lullaby to us and now I remember.
“Adam is this a dream”
“No, Joshua this is real”
“Mama is here, and she is singing to us”
“Why did you leave us, we needed you, we were too young to be left at an orphanage, now we are in a strange country with no family Mama.., we don’t belong here.., we have no one, no one.….”
“She never left us Joshua, she followed us all over even across the seas into these foreign lands and she is with us every day, watching over us and singing to us. You are not alone Joshua, you have me and Mama”
At that moment I stood up and looked into my brothers eyes, he is not mad, he is just as sad as I am. He is just missing Mama.