Last week I asked my mom if she had read any of the posts that I’ve posted on this blog so far; she just smiled apologetically, “I haven’t, but I intend to read each one of them.”
“I don’t know how it happened, but you seem to be the leading lady in most of my stories”, I teased. “So you should read them”.
“Sure I will,” she assured me. I smiled at her. That little talk gave me a lot to think about; how did it happen that I’m always talking about her? Then it hit me; I’m talking about incidents that have happened in my life, and she’s been a major part of my life…she has almost everything to do with the person I am today; she used whatever ways she found suitable to instill good morals in my sisters and I. We didn’t always find her ways appealing, but we complied and even if though I know we weren’t the best of kids, she reminds us constantly that she’s proud of us.
Basically, most children think their moms are the best; I am no exception. Most of the valuable lessons I’ve learnt in life have either been taught to me by her or by learning from her experiences. Some of the things I remember are a few scary stories she told us: When my sisters and I were young, she told us this story about a guy who had stolen his neighbour’s radio. Before long the guy’s hand, ended up paralyzed, and so did his entire right side. Absent-minded, he would mutter, “I stole a radio”. For a kid with an active imagination, that story freaked me out.
Again, she told us of a story about a woman, who owned a large maize field. One day the heavens opened, and as the rain hit the ground, it flattened all the maize plants. Later, when the rain had subsided, she went to assess the damages made. “What idiot, did this to my maize field?” she gaped, horrified, as her eyes wandered across the vast field, taking in the depressing sight of her destroyed crops. No sooner had the last word escaped her mouth than a forceful blow landed on her cheek, deforming her face permanently as her jaw dislocated. Like many of the scary stories my mom had told, this one sent the proverbial chill running down my spine.
I couldn’t help shuddering at the thought of receiving an ‘Almighty’ slap. This story helped me to be optimistic; I didn’t want to harbor negative thoughts about things that were clearly beyond my control. So if I was walking under the blistering sun and I couldn’t take the heat anymore, I would remember to not curse.
Early this year I watched the movie, ‘Ted’, where Ted and John-his thunder buddy-were singing the ‘fuck you thunder’ song… the ‘Almighty’s slap’ instantly popped in my head. I thought the two were well…brave. I imagined them being struck by lightning, or being slapped, like the unfortunate lady. Chilling thought.
When I remember the stories my mom told to keep us in check, I laugh at times; they worked just perfectly… as I think about them now, I don’t find them horrifying as I did back then…
If there’s anything those stories taught us was that picking up money on the streets was wrong; Mama told us a story about a woman; she was walking to work in the morning, when she bumped into some money. She couldn’t resist the urge, so she took it and put it in her leather bag which had some of her personal belonging.
Later that day, while she was in bed at night, she heard something hissing…with her heart pounding, she traced the noise to her bag. Carefully, she walked closer and when she looked inside, there was a huge ‘reptilia’ coiled, where she had placed the money she had collected earlier in the day. Instinctively, she let out a loud scream that woke her husband, who had been deep in slumber.
He rushed to her rescue and luckily he managed to get rid of it, unharmed. As the two lay in bed after the scary ordeal, the woman told her husband how she had picked up money earlier in the day; they couldn’t understand how the snake had ended up in her bag, and she had also realized the money was missing. “That’s why you shouldn’t take money that doesn’t belong to you”, her husband had reproached her.
Needless to say, that horrifying story saw to it that neither of my sisters nor I picked up money lying on the ground, if none of us had dropped it. I don’t know if it was a coincidence, but we frequently bumped into money; the thought of finding reptilia slithering or coiled up in our bags squashed any temptations of picking it up.
As years passed, I understood it was wrong to take things that someone else had dropped; things that didn’t belong to us and that little concept applied not only to money, but to everything else. Mama’s scare tactics worked. She knew how to manipulate our way of thinking. I bet in the silent depths of her mind she knew physical punishments weren’t always effective, but a little scary thought would keep a mischievous kid grounded.
Now that we’re all grown, I’m glad my mom nurtured us the best way she knew how, but at the same time I can’t help but feel that the scare tactics only made us prone to fear. They made our minds hyperactive. I understand the concept behind each story, but I want to believe there were better ways of bringing the point across without necessarily freaking us out.