To Mama Linda!
When I was 8 years old, my family moved to Tanzania so my parents could work with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and Tanzanian artisans. The move brought many abrupt changes: in climate, in language, in culture. It also brought a new person into our household: Mama Linda. Mama Linda helped keep our house in order and cooked many meals, doing her best to satisfy two kids who'd long ago decided to evenly divide all edibles between them; I hated anything that my sister Justine liked and vice versa.
One of Mama Linda's more surprising culinary experiments was feta on pizza because we were out of other cheese. After returning to Tanzania a decade later, I realize we were lucky to have cheese of any kind; dairy products (other than milk straight from a cow) are rare indeed in Tanzania.
Mama Linda joined our life at the beginning of what I might call my contentious phase. Ornery, disrespectful, rebellious, whiny: all are adjectives that applied to me at that time. I wouldn't have dared yell at Mama Linda of course, but I remember telling my mom to tell her not to clean my room. That was also the age of LEGOs covering the floor, and I didn't want any little bricks accidentally swept away or any projects disrupted. I have a clear memory of Mama Linda looking incredulously at me, probably for this request. I think mostly she just chuckled.
|Photo Credit: Jill Humphrey. Lego Credit: Eli.|
My clearest memory of Mama Linda is actually pretty self-centered (as most memories are). In fifth grade, at age 10, I tripped while running down our hallway (to read The Fellowship of the Ring) and hit my head hard on my concrete doorway. Bleeding profusely, I screamed, and my mom immediately knew that I needed to see a doctor but my dad had our only car. Luckily, Mama Linda had called a taxi for her ride home and quickly shoved us into it. I remember a look of concern and her clucking noise.
My memories of Mama Linda are likely corrupted by the decade that's passed since I've seen her. She has been jumbled up, too, with my fresher memories of my (depending how you count) 3 or 4 host mothers on my Study Service Term in Tanzania last year. They all showed the same incredulity at anything I did, whether I succeeded or failed. I was a constant source of amusement for them, but in the way an infant is. I was completely reliant on those women, for food, drink, and shelter.
I owe those women a great debt of gratitude. Asanteni sana Mama Linda, Mama Michael, Mama Abel, Mama Albert, na Mama Johnson. Ninawashukuru sana!
Okay, am I the only one tearing up? Thanks, Ted! Really there are two universal truths: Little boys will tote their LEGOs all over the world and Mamas will always cluck at them.
Anyone else have a Mama story to share? Let us know.
You can read more about Ted at his excellent blog: http://gebani.blogspot.com