This weekend we celebrate Mother’s Day; an occasion for honouring these ladies who are rarely recognised for their numerous roles in the life of our society. Reflecting on the day has reminded me about my own mother and her remarkable energy and wisdom in raising me and my siblings (along with many cousins and other children she chose to take under her wings in order to grant them an opportunity in life).
Anachanza (as we all fondly call my mother) was born in a family of seven (three men and four ladies) a few years before the Second Great War! Though her parents weren’t educated, they encouraged her and her siblings to attain education from Mlanda Mission until she later attained her diploma at Soche in the mid-60s (thereafter she taught at Malosa Secondary before being introduced to my dad by a mutual friend of theirs). The opportunity that higher education opened to her world has been foundational to the subsequent opportunities her own children have been able to pursue in their lives.
Mom retired from the public service in the mid-90s after over three decades of teaching practice (she taught English, History and Chichewa). Every time I accompanied mom into town, we would be greeted by so many of her former students (from Malosa, Chichiri and HHI secondary schools). Some of her former students are quite prominent citizens in their own right. Her simple delight to watch her students do well epitomises the spirit of selfless public service which has been my inspiration in choosing a similar path.
Mom’s commitment to her job was evident by the diligence with which she handled all her lesson planning and later grading of exam scripts at the end of each school term. She would always be the last person to go to bed and the first one up (long before dawn). In addition, she would work very hard to fry fritters (mandazi) or take some of our farm produce (various fruits, cassava and the like) to sell at school in order to augment the family income for our common welfare. During winter, Anachanza would knit warm woolen sweaters for all her children: and later we learned how to knit simple stuff like ‘leg-warmers’ as we called them.
It would be no exaggeration to say that I never quite saw my mother being idle, except maybe when she would doze off in the chair with her exam or test scripts on her lap. One very fond memory is when mom would place you on her lap and begin to remove dandruff in your hair; Anachanza really devoted herself to her job as our mother in every respect. She had a knack for turning your name into a song and would often sing it over you when going through the house or as you did some chores around the house (how we all enjoyed hearing her voice then!) As a typical school teacher, mom was also very strict on discipline and that melodious voice would as readily scold anyone who displayed any indiscipline or other inappropriate behaviour around the home.
Whenever the time came for any of her children to leave home for boarding school, Anachanza always prepared one very special present without fail: a full bible with your name inscribed in her distinctive handwriting and duly dated. That was a constant reminder of her desire to see us all grow into children who never forgot our roots (remember it all began with her attending a mission school way back in Mangoni and later meeting a man who himself had been to a Blantyre Mission school as well!) At the time I left home, I did not quite appreciate the value of that present, but with hindsight I better understand the love behind such a thoughtful gesture from mom.
Anachanza had a stroke around November 2014 and her health has never been quite the same since then. Nevertheless, we remain very grateful to The Lord for the privilege we (my siblings and our families) have had just to take care of someone who invested so much of her productive years into our lives and those of many others too numerous to list here. Quite recently, some of her former students sent a delegation to come and cheer her up. Occasionally, some of her former classmates and professional colleagues do visit to cheer mom up. The church too continues to visit and minister the relevant sacraments to someone who has served long teaching Sunday school.
Today, I just wanted to say, I love you Anachanza. We are all very grateful for your love and devotion: Happy Mother’s Day!