03 March 2018

Sous le manguier... or... Under the Shadow of the Mango Tree

I've often been known to remark that I'm not a sentimental mother. 
First day of Anna's last year of high school, August 2017

Don't get me wrong. I love my children, I love being with them more than almost anything else. But I don't long to return to those earlier days of this journey. My heart is too full with the right here and right now. My days are full enjoying life and just being with this gang - as my babies have become little people who have become/are becoming bigger little people who then morph into tweens, teens and finally emerge as young adults. 

I love discovering that I just don't love them because I birthed them and because they are mine.

I really just like them and the people they are becoming.

So this mama-thing, watching these kids grow up and become - more often than not in recent years - has kept me going nonstop, regularly takes my breath away and often leaves me without words (hence the much less frequent posting in this place).

So today, I thought I'd share some of her words, first in French because that's how she first wrote it for a school assignment. She agreed to translate it so that I could share it here. 

I'm proud of this girl. 

Anna giving cross country skiing a try this winter. 

She's always surprising me and it started from day I learned we were expecting her. I'd had a complicated (i.e. requiring a medical procedure) miscarriage just the month before and wasn't planning on another immediate pregnancy. She was the biggest of my babies, always happiest when she had all of her people within easy reach. We almost lost her once (that story is here, if you want to read it), and gratitude that we still get to enjoy her frequently catches me off guard, completely overwhelming me as thankful tears fill my eyes. 

In public, she's introverted and shy, so much so that it amazes me when her clownishness surfaces once we are back at home. She's a planner and she's not afraid to try something that interests her (like the time she made croissants or roped me into a three day bike ride that has us now planning a much longer one as soon as life permits it). 

She's a Senior (or Sec 5) student this year. Academically, she's doing fabulously - taking the most challenging classes and playing varsity basketball - all while working as a cashier and helping in one of the Sunday School classes as church. School has never been simple for her. In addition to her shy introversion (in a system that rewards outgoing and extroverted leadership), she has dysgraphia, which means writing (as well as a few other things) doesn't come easily or naturally. What takes other students 30 minutes can easily take her three times as long. 

I remember times while she was a student at École Alliance in Niger, when she and her classmates were required to copy lesson texts from the blackboard. She struggled to finish the entire text that others had completed in minutes. Her handwriting was usually illegible and her copied text was filled with spelling and orthographic mistakes. Each time she'd look away from the board to the paper, or vice versa, she'd get lost and by the time she refound where she needed to be, she'd have forgotten the sequence of letters she was trying to copy. 

Fortunately, she's always loved to write and God gifted her with a natural perseverance and "sticktoittiveness" that kept discouragement at bay, even in the most difficult seasons. Her hard work and refusal to give up have paid off. Last year, she passed two of her required ministerial exams (in French, mind you) - one with a grade of 98%; the other with a 100% score. As I was leaving the school one afternoon last week, her French teacher poked her head in the room to say that she's never seen someone make such a marked improvement in such a short time. Anna's slightly embarrassed smile at that comment sent my mama heart soaring, and I silently thanked God for this girl and all He's done in her life. 

I could say more, but instead, I'll just share Anna's words ~ 

Sous le manguier

Les samedis matin ou les après-midis après l’école, on sortait dehors pour jouer. Pour échapper au soleil brillant on trouvait refuge à l’ombre des manguiers. Les trois arbres étaient plantés dans une rangée. Notre préféré était le plus grand, car il était le plus proche du tuyau. 

Pendant que nos parents prenaient leur sieste ou que notre mère cuisinait, on construisait des villes entières autour du manguier. Avec la boue, les brindilles et les feuilles, on fabriquait des maisons, des ponts, des magasins, des fermes et des enclos pour nos petits chevaux en plastique. Le tuyau simulait la source d’une rivière qui entourait notre petit paradis. Au centre de la ville se tenait l’arbre. Parfois, il était un château, un gardien ou un lieu sacré. Son rôle changeait toujours. 

Plus loin que les frontières de l’ombre était un désert. Vaste et inhabitable, il représentait un danger constant pour les villageois. Lorsque le tuyau arrêtait de couler, les jouets s’organisaient en une caravane pour traverser les dunes. Sur l’autre côté de l’étendue aride attendait une nouvelle oasis. 

Quand on s’ennuyait de nos jeux imaginaires, on se couchait par terre et le sable, refroidi par l’eau et l’ombre, rafraîchissait nos corps. Parfois on observait les margouillats qui grimpaient sur les murs en ciment de notre maison. Si on était fatigué, on fermait les yeux et l’odeur du manguier remplissait nos narines. Même aujourd’hui, le parfum sucré des mangues me transporte dans un autre monde.

Under the Shadow of the Mango Tree

On Saturday mornings or sunny afternoons after school, we went outside to play. We sought refuge from the scorching sun under the leaves of the mango trees. There were three of them, planted in a row. Our favorite was the biggest, because it was the closest to the hose. 

While our parents rested or our mother cooked, we built entire villages around that mango tree. From mud, twigs and mango leaves we constructed houses, bridges, stores, farms, and corrals for our little plastic horses. The hose was the source of a river that surrounded our haven. In the middle of our town stood the tree. Sometimes it was a castle; other times a sentinel or a peaceful, hallowed place. Its role was always changing. 

Outside the safety of the shadow was a desert. Vast and inhospitable, that desert was a constant, endangering our villagers and their livestock. When the river dried up, our toys formed a caravan. Together, they marched across the endless dunes where a new oasis awaited them on the far side of that wasteland. 

If we got bored of our imaginary games, we stretched out on the ground, demolishing our village. The sand, cool and damp, refreshed our sweaty bodies. Together we’d watch the margouillats that effortlessly scaled the cement walls of our home. If we were tired, we’d close our eyes, relishing the sweet perfume of mangoes that filled our nostrils. 

Even now, the fruity odor transports me back to those days, that time.

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