Better Days


“Happy birthday, Mama!” I shouted as I stepped into the large compound. It was an early Saturday morning and many people in the community had been resting from the previous five days of work. Mama’s compound was surprisingly silent and I felt like a fool for shouting so loud and disturbing the peace. I quickly made a mental note not to ever step into any place with a shout.
I quickly looked around to have an overview of the whole compound. The dry leaves at the entrance of the large compound told me that someone hadn’t swept it for a while. The wind brushed my face, reminding me of why I loved visiting with Mama. The weather around here was one to die for, especially in October.
I moved into the compound and spotted Mama sitting outside of the main building. I couldn’t help but gasp at the state of Mama. She looked so forlorn, sitting there on an armless stool. Her hair looked unkempt and spoke of poverty. But Mama wasn’t poor. Everyone in this community and others knew of Mama’s wealth. Mama’s wealth was an open secret. Her children boasted of her wealth world over.
But something was different about Mama today. Something was wrong with Mama today. She might be sick, I thought. But someone should be taking care of her if she was sick. Among all the mothers in our community, Mama’s fertility was legendary. Everyone knew how many illustrious sons she had. A mother so blessed shouldn’t look like this.
“Happy birthday, Mama,” I said with a sweet boyish voice as I reached her. No answer. Mama seemed to be lost in thought. She didn’t seem to hear me. I sighed. For one so old, I could understand how many things that she had seen. Mama was over a hundred years old, but since she got her freedom from her masters on this day, many chose to celebrate this day as her birthday.
“Happy birthday, Mama,” I said once more, this time more coolly. And this time, Mama stirred at the sound of my voice. A weak smile appeared on her face, but she still didn’t raise her eyes to meet mine. I bent down directly in front of her and asked, “How are you doing, Mama? Is everything okay?” She slowly raised her head and looked at me straight in the eye.
I looked at those weak eyes and I saw years of suffering and pain in them. Coups, looting, massacres, all that her children had done to themselves and to her. Tears threatened to burst out of my eyes. It hurt me to see one who was a beauty not so long ago reduced to this by the very ones who had sworn to protect her honor and her glory. I held back the tears and smiled. I took her feeble hands in mine and said, “I love you, Mama. And I’m here for you. Things will get better and you’ll smile again.” Somehow, I knew that she needed to hear that.
But Mama looked at me as though I had said nothing at all. I repeated myself. And this time, Mama smiled and replied, “I know, son. Now let’s go inside and get something for you to eat.” She rose up with amazing agility and went into the house. I stood behind her and smiled. I knew that she believed me, that better days were ahead, and that her glory will return.


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