Mothers Day has just passed, it’s always that time of the year when I see other women paying tributes to their amazing mothers…
I am happy mum, but no matter how happy I am, or how old I am, God has put a void in my heart that only a mother’s love can fill.
You went through the pain of childbirth. I know how that pain feels, I have given birth 5 times. I appreciate that you birthed me. And you named me Jean, which means a gift from God. I think when I was born, you rejoiced.
I remember some of your love, somewhere in my spirit I feel some of your love, but it doesn’t exist in my heart. Sometimes I tell myself that you love me, but each time I do I feel like a liar.
Mummy I know you don’t like my articles or my writings. Many a time you have told me to just stop all this writing. But I can’t mum, writing is the only thing which makes me free and happy. So please mum, allow me to take my pen, and go back in time, to my life as a little girl…
You used to make me kill chickens, but I loved them. My heart used to beat so hard when I held the head to slaughter it. I would see the pain of the chicken in its screams, and it felt like me. I would go in a corner and cry, but I could never tell you, “mummy, I am scared.”
One day I think you saw the fear and pain in my eyes. I had finished killing a chicken. I sat there plucking its feathers. “You must hate being a girl child, unfortunately killing a chicken is a job of a girl”, that day I felt something in your voice, whatever it was it was horrible, and it made me feel so unloved. I couldn’t answer, I fought back the tears and looked down. Yes, mum, you were right, I hated being a girl child, especially in Zimbabwe.
In primary school, one thing which gave me joy apart from reading books was singing. I loved singing hymns. I would come home and sing the hymns loudly. One day you heard me sing, and you started laughing. You laughed so hard and said I had the voice of a frog, and I couldn’t sing. I can still hear your laughter today.
I went back to school, and during assembly, I couldn’t sing anymore. I was afraid people would hear my voice like a frog and laugh at me. My heart would start to beat so fast, as though it was about to explode. The hymns I used to enjoy suddenly turned into a symbol of fear. I would feel something so terrifying, that was my first experience of unexplained fear. Since then I was afraid of a lot of things. It’s only when I grew up that I learnt that it was my first experience of many panic attacks to come.
I felt scared that people would hear my horrible voice. So I started to stammer. I was afraid that I would never speak again.
One day I came home and I couldn’t speak anymore. You shouted at me and beat me up. You said I was now like a cripple. You said I was stammering on purpose and you did not give birth to such a disable. You called me ‘chirema’.
But mummy, I wasn’t stammering on purpose, I couldn’t speak anymore. And I was so scared. I wanted you to tell me everything was going to be okay, but you beat me.
It hurt that my siblings would laugh at me. I never saw the world the same again. Everything became cruel. I felt so alone. I would go and sit outside and imagine another world. The world outside of Zimbabwe where I would be a princess and loved. A world where I would be normal and not be a ‘cripple’ or stammerer.
The only thing that comforted me was my power of imagination. I drew beautiful girls with happy faces. But I discovered I could do a lot more with the pen. So I started to write. The pen became my only freedom of expression. I wrote myself letters. Love letters. I would read the letters and feel some form of justice, even though I knew the letters were not real.
Every time you hurt me mummy, I used to write. When I wrote I felt better.
When I was 16, I remember one day you walked past me in town. I couldn’t believe you could not even show me affection in the street.
So I went home. That day I ran home. I had always said to my siblings that I am going to kill myself. I never really meant it, I would say this to try and get your affection and sympathy. But it never worked, you would say to me that if I wanted to die I needed to go into the forest where I would die alone and no one would help me.
So this day I thought of your words, as I ran home, for the first time in my life, I wanted to die. There was no one at home. I took some rat poison. I tried to drink it. It was so hot it burnt my mouth. I tried again, then a thought came to me. ‘I will not die, but I will live. One day I will leave this horrible country and go to the UK, and one day I will be someone” That thought was so powerful in my head. Somehow it stopped me from swallowing the rat poison that day.
Mummy, today people don’t understand me, but none of them has walked in my shoes, even for a day. They can’t understand why I have disowned Zimbabwe. They say the cruellest things about me. But it doesn’t hurt that much, the only person who ever had that power to hurt me was you and it made me stronger. Zimbabweans are insulting me, saying Zimbabwe is my motherland. They are saying kusina mai hakuendwe. (You can never go where there is no mother)
But I do not have a motherland. The only thing that saved me from dying in Zimbabwe at the age of 16 was that I had hope that one day I would leave.
That hope manifested and at 17 dad bought me a ticket to come to the UK. That was one of the best thing to ever happen to me. Leaving Zimbabwe.
When I got married and my mother-in-law could not accept me, you said it was my own bad luck (munyama).
All my life I believed I was cursed with the curse of being unlovable. I blamed myself for anyone who was mean to me. I thought God did not love me because I was such a bad person. If my own mother could not love me unconditionally, how could anyone else love me?
You said my lips were too big. You said my legs were deformed. You said my eyes were too big. You said my hair comes too much in my face. You said when I laugh I look like a mad woman, kunge munhu asina kukwana. You said my teeth were horrible. When I looked in the mirror I saw something beyond love.
My ex-husband used to say if your own mother can not love you, don’t you think it’s you with the problem. In court he tried so hard to have my children removed from my care, he would use you as his strongest weapon. He said I did not know how to love, because I had issues with my own mother. He would say how could his family be blamed for not ‘loving me’ when my own family could not love me.
When my ex-husband said I was mad, you were the first person in this world to believe him. But mummy I too have daughters and no man will ever come to me and tell me that my daughter is crazy.
After I divorced, you told me that no young man could ever love a woman like me, a divorcee with many children. You told me that from now my portion was old sugar daddies, for I was now a reject.
That day I learnt to fight you back, not physically, but in my spirit. I rebuked all the curses you ever proclaimed on me. I went in the next room, and I said I won’t cry. I said a prayer, that my portion will never be old men. And guess what mummy, today I have a young man, he makes me laugh so hard, and he tells me that I am beautiful every day. His people too, they don’t hate me, they find me lovable.
The last time I came to Zimbabwe in 2011, I brought the children to you so you could see them. I had a two-year-old, a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old. It was hard with no water or electricity in Zimbabwe. But you said you would never touch my children, bath them or feed them unless I was sick. You said when I was giving birth to all those children, who did I expect to help me?
That trip to Zimbabwe and all that went on still haunts me and the children today. I would sit beside the borehole and cry, I would listen to the still water as I sat on the green grass. I believe I felt exactly how David felt when he wrote psalm 23. I would miss my home England. I said to myself I will never come to Zimbabwe again.
Mummy I want to thank you, you taught me how to believe.
When I came to the UK, I heard a musician called Enya. Her music delivered me. Her song ‘May It Be’, is one of the greatest songs ever sung…it goes something like this…
May it be an evening star
Shines down upon you
May it be when darkness falls
Your heart will be true
You walk a lonely road
Oh! How far you are from home
Believe and you will find your way
A promise lives within you now
May it be the shadow’s call
Will fly away
May it be your journey on
To light the day
When the night is overcome
You may rise to find the sun
I know you dont support what I do, or believe in my gift of writing. But you taught me how to use the pen to express myself. I have been hurt by a lot of people mummy, and not once have you ever comforted me or wiped my tears. You never allowed me to cry. But you taught me how to survive.
Most importantly you taught me how to be a mother. You taught me never to cause division among my children. You taught me never to talk bad about any of my children to their siblings. You taught me to love each child individually. You taught me to listen to my children. To understand them. To hug them. To kiss them. To know their strengths and weaknesses. To know their star, and help them shine. I never want any of my children to feel what I have felt all my life, not even for one second.
You say I am the worst of your children, but I know in my heart I have done the most for you. I hate Zimbabwean culture because daughters are blamed for being unloved. We can’t speak about it because it’s taboo.
But today mummy, I have broken that chain that has kept me shackled all my life. I don’t know but I feel the sound of rain. I am free.
I am not cursed, or unlovable, I am Just Jean.
#PS I have not betrayed you mummy, all my life I have protected you. I have always put you first. But one day, when we were in the kitchen, when I was asking you why you don’t love me and curse me, you said if I wanted to write a book and tell the whole world that you were a bad mom, I could go ahead and you couldn’t care less. Mummy, I just did.