The day was still young when we had an unusual guest in our home, he was not like every other man I had come across; he was neatly dressed and seemed to be nice. He was wealthy from the clothes he wore, the vehicle he rode, the way he spoke with authority, and the cologne he wore. These things were not new to us for we could tell a person who was wealthy by observing these things. Who are we? If you may ask, we are the Martins. Ranking as peasants the social hierarchy, my father was a farmer who had few to harvest at the end of every season. We used this for our consumption and the few remnants were sold by my mother at the market. Time without numbers we have been mocked at the market place and in town hall meetings alongside those who had a related financial issue as we did, but never relenting we held strong our hopes knowing someday things would turn around for good. I have a sister; I know she would grow up someday to become a beautiful woman. She was only a toddler when I was about leaving my home with this stranger. I sat close to my father listening to their conversation, not understanding all they said completely, what possibly could a child of twelve totally understand in a conversation between two adults. My mother stayed in the room, sad. She held my sister close to her. For some reason I felt bad; all was not well for certain this time. I heard my name been mentioned countless times as their conversation continued; at some point my father would pause to look at me and give a smile which I knew he feigned. These men were talking about me; why else would my mother sit quietly looking so sad in the room? It surely had to be because of me. I looked up at this man who sat adjacent to us; my father never called his name but instead, called him Chief. He caught me starring at him only to give a smile but I was in no mood to smile back. I wondered if I had committed an offence which I knew nothing about. I was a school dropout, so certainly this man was not my principal or a teacher, I pondered. This was the exact time to hang out with my friends, but I was restricted in order to meet with Chief. Finally my prayer was answered, he was about taking his leave when all of a sudden he stood up and walked towards me. He rubbed my head and left me with words that sounded frightening, “see you tomorrow morning,” why was he coming back tomorrow, what business did he have with my parents that made them sad? These were answers I was eager to get as the sun got to its highest. He was gone now, but the sadness in the house was not gone, only my baby sister who had no worries in life crawled round the house. My father sat me on the ground before him telling me how important I was to them, but these words were unusual from my father. He never spoke to me like this before. My mother was now in her room sobbing for what I had just realized; I was going away for eight years to serve the man who had just left our home. This was new to me, I had never left my parents for a new environment, eight years away from my family seemed like eternity to me. My brain shut off from the words my father said to me. I was enveloped with fear, this was not how I had thought life to be, this was so sudden for me, “please father, I don’t want to go away, I promise to be a good boy, can I just stay?”, hearing the innocence in my voice broke his heart, tears could be seen in his eyes as they went red. He pulled me close and buried me in his arms, he wanted the best for me and I knew that. Like I said, we are poor as you can imagine. I dropped out from grade four due to lack of funds and went to the market with my mother to sell the little farm products we had remaining. What a life we suffered, but our source of joy was found in each other. My father was, and is my hero; he never quitted on us and protected us in his best power. I knew why he made this decision of making me serve chief; he only wanted his child not to end up as he did. All he wanted was the best for his son and his family. This was the beginning of a new life for me, my heart went sour as I walked into the room to see my mother sobbing as she placed my clothes in a bag. She held out her hands beckoning on me to come to her. She knew my father had said almost everything she had at heart. She lifted the pillow bringing out a bible, “always read this my child, the day you forget God is the day you lose everything; including your life. Love God and he would always be there for you, he would take care of you better than I did”, seeing my mother cry was one thing I could not withstand. I wished she could stop but she didn’t. My father was now in the room with us. He sat at the other end of the bed not saying a word, maybe tears was the only remedy for us to ease our pain at this moment. This whole event was sad for me, but looking at my little sister cause havoc on her doll made me smile, I did manage to cultivate a smile out of my weary heart.
I walked quietly to the stream to fetch water not minding what my friends discussed; they noticed my mood and probed me to tell what the matter was. They cheered me up for a while; they were not in my shoes and never understood my pain of leaving my home for another land. Chief never lived close by, he only came back to the village during the Christmas holiday and I would never get the love I got from my father staying with him. They played all the way to the stream and back home, but I partook in none. After I was done with my daily chores in the house; which were to be my last, I headed for my quiet place. It was a large log of wood which I sat upon whenever I got sad over anything or someone; deep in the woods was my quiet place. I cried there for a while, then I got distracted by looking at a young quail bird learning to fly, it flitted at intervals crashing to the ground, until it was finally able to get back to its nest. I found hope in this little quail bird; it never gave up on its condition, how much more a human. Life is so large and complex, mine was about to begin this way, maybe this was what God had planned for me, I had to become a better man and make my parents proud. I would be twenty years of age when I would be able to return home, clearly I won’t return to school, but I would be a better person in the society, people would surely look up to me, I made all these promises to myself on that wood. It was now getting dark as the sun set, I rushed back home; it was an ugly mud house which had battled with the elements for years. We had a rusted leaking roof, cracked walls, few windows, broken wooden doors, but I never cared about all these things, for the people who lived in this ugly mud house made it a home. They were my family. My home was quiet that night; we ate our dinner in silence, thank God we had food to eat this night. I laid on my bed unable to sleep as thoughts ran through my head, knowing this was my last night on this bed made me worry. Tomorrow morning would be the beginning of a new chapter of my life. I prayed for the night to stay forever, I wished I could pin the night with the stars in the sky and buckle it with the moon. I was soon fast asleep to awaken into a new dawn.
We all sat prepared the next morning waiting for chief. Each moment that went by seemed to be perfect for me; I wanted more time with my family, knowing it would be a very long time before I had the chance to see them again. My mother kept going through my things, making sure nothing was left out. My little sister never cried often so long as she had an object in her hands to obey her every command, I loved her so much that I felt bad once again for not being able to see her grow under my care as a big brother. My father gave me a smile, tapping me at my back as a sign of encouragement, “remember all we told you my child”, he said. This time he was no longer sad, it was for my good that I had to live with chief in the city. A vehicle drove into the compound, its driver was chief. He got out of the car but never stepped away from the door, he pointed at his wrist watch to show we were already late for our eleven hours drive to the city. He knew how emotional it was for me to leave my parents at such an age, so he waited patiently as we held ourselves for the last time, “father, I don’t want to go”, my voice struggled with the warm tears erupting from my eyes, “I know my child, but this is for your own good, someday you would look back and remember this day. Be a better man than I am, God is with you and so are we, right here in your heart”, he replied, touching my chest. My mother said not a word, she held my sister in her hands as she wiped her tears. I walked toward the car quietly without an argument, this was the very first steps of my journey into life itself, and there was no turning back this time. I sat quietly in the car looking at my parents as they waved me goodbye. Taking a glance at chief, he looked so serious handling the wheels of this colossal vehicle, we were really late this time. I never took my eyes off my family as we drove off; within seconds they had disappeared from my sight. Here I was in a vehicle heading for a place, a far away land where I had to forge my destiny and make my parents proud. For certain, I knew I would return to them; but not any time soon. They were now in my heart; forever would they be my motivation to being successful, crowning it all with God’s grace. So I looked ahead and never looked back again; for I was away from home.
Author- Tito Ubabuko