Mondays are usually dreadful days for people all over the world. I only assume this wide spoken ‘truth’. My Mondays are like my New Year’s Day. They begin with an eve (in this case Sunday) in which I usually go to church and participate in a wonderful life changing sermon, making a mental note that this week shall be different. I will begin my ‘big transformation’ come Monday. It has been this way for as long as I can remember. In school, ‘I will finally start on my term paper’ became my chant throughout the semester. That line resounding in my head like an outplayed jam on the radio … needless to say, that thought rung through my head until the day BEFORE the term paper was due. Now that I am no longer in school, it feels like there are more pressing things to change about my inner self. Ironically, those changes that need to be made have found more interesting rationalizations to make me feel less guilty each time I think about my flaws.

Maybe it’s just me but I am the harshest critic of myself and I hate that. The past Sunday wasn’t any different. I went to my cousin’s Church (which I must confess I was skeptical of attending) and she gave a beautifully touching sermon. Almost the whole congregation was in tears by the end. I liked it so much I want to be part of the congregation. She preached about God’s Love and being anointed for burial. The sermon’s title seemed a bit strange given the fact that it implied being prepared for death but it all made sense after she started to speak. Christians are required to be dead to themselves so that they can live in Christ thus being anointed for burial was a perfect title for those of us who hadn’t completely died in the flesh. The thing that touched me the most was her choice of words. Everything made perfect sense and I couldn’t help but remember when this same cousin told me years ago that she saw God in the eyes of young children. It was through her statement that I too began to see God in people, starting with the little ones. She doesn’t know it but our years spent in sharing have brought tremendous growth to me as a person.

And so it was that this past Sunday left me making all sorts of plans to better myself as a person and a Christian. In my head, I drew up a timetable for prayer first thing in the morning, calm peaceful thoughts throughout the day and hourly thanksgiving to God for the blessings He showers upon me every moment of my life. It really doesn’t sound like much, actually, it’s a lot like that term paper in the third week of school but somehow life gets in the way. I read the other day in Joyce Meyer’s devotional that people spend far too much time worrying and stressing about life and the future when they can just be still and let God’s Peace reign in their hearts. It touched me to find such apt words at a time when I felt like every issue was cause for a panic attack. Lately, I’ve had a few of those, panic attacks I mean. Yes, mama’s been travelling quite a bit and that has called for me to step into her very big shoes (more metaphorically than literally) each time learning that taking care of a household is tremendous work.
In my mother’s house, there are many rooms and even more people. Her bedroom alone is sectioned into four little spaces that make one large whole. The people, they come and go but there are usually about ten people at a time not counting the help. There hasn’t been a little child for the longest time and now we are blessed with a cute one year old that brings sunshine into our lives with her constant singing and dancing. She is going to be an entertainer, I can feel it! Something about knowing that you are responsible for that many people’s wellbeing puts you on edge. At least it does for me. It felt like I lived in a supermarket, always doing groceries that turned up depleted by the next day. One morning I woke up to no breakfast because I had spent too much time getting ready and the night before, two large loaves of bread sat in the cupboard, one of which was whole wheat. I’d had wonderful visions of me savoring a slice of that very loaf in the car as I drove home the day before… only to find that the other ten plus people had plans of snacking from the moment the bread came to the next morning when there wasn’t any more to ‘snack’ on. It still is a great feeling to hold things down and have the master of holding things down come back and not complain or find a house that’s gone berserk.

This weekend, with the help of many beautiful ladies, we were able to pull off a somewhat decent bridal shower. I am not sure calling it such a ‘fancy’ name would do justice to the occasion. We started off slowly with not that many people showing… that thing about black people and time, it’s so true! The invitation said 5pm and guests started to trickle in close to 7pm. By this time, the organizers had taken to watching Two and a Half Men so when four ladies walked into the house, they were welcomed with turned backs facing laughing carelessly. The party soon got started and the bride arrived. A little chitchat here and there and a Ssenga was brought up. Bridal Showers in the city have taken a twist from the norm. They now incorporate old traditions with the imported western traditions of gifts, games and such…

A Ssenga is an aunt or woman of wisdom in the area of married life. She sat down with the bride and explained to her what it was expected of her when she started her new life as a wife and mother in the old days (and in the present still). When the girls learnt that we hadn’t prepared for one of these wise women to come and share, there was a sting of disappointment in the air. A cousin came to the rescue with a number for a Ssenga she’d had the pleasure of listening to just the night before. Calls, negotiations, and pick up times were arranged and we had ourselves a Ssenga!

What followed was a lifetime experience. So much laughter and jokes that I thought I might catch an asthma attack (do they catch those or just get them?). Ssenga started off by introducing herself, then by reciting her cell phone number slowly in Luganda and then in English just to make sure. Then followed the rules of conversation: 1) no one was to interrupt the Ssenga as she imparted her precious wisdom, 2) no one was to whisper or carry on meaningless banter, 3) no cameras or photos for the flash apparently disturbed the great Ssenga’s eyes. Failure to adhere to the above resulted in a 500 Uganda shilling fine.
When it came down to the nitty gritty, she used words I had never heard of before in my life. Apparently, making love was compared to playing a soccer match at Namboole Stadium. I thought this was supposed to be an act of gentility and passion? Guess not the gentle part. Sometimes she used phrases that weren’t familiar to me but at this point, I couldn’t get past the point that we were all sitting here, wasting an entire hour or more of our lives being told how to do what is meant to be natural, or at least to be a part of our reason for existence, to procreate.

There were times when she made perfect sense. Like the talk about not engaging in gossip with other people, actually more like with every living creature willing to listen to your rumor mongering. More often than pleasant, she repeated her phone number and implied that we would need her expert advice when we found ourselves falling short of her wisdom.
Although mostly funny, this woman left me wondering about the things we allow ourselves to believe simply because someone has spoken them. For example, I am sure that there are thousands of Ugandan women out there who have taken the Ssenga’s wisdom so much to heart that they have compromised their own happiness, have let some dreams slip away just because the Ssenga said to not question your husband. Now, I am not advocating for loud mouthed wives with not an ounce of respect for their husbands but is it too much to at least hope and believe that a dialogue between two adults can lead to a middle ground?

The night was perfectly complimented with a smooth pina colada that kept the irony flowing as twenty plus ladies huddled around and wished that they too would have a day when gifts were brought to them, praises showered upon them, and most importantly, another giggle and a sip as the Ssenga emphasized on not overindulging in the alcohol department as a wife.

My baby is crying now like she’s got a huge hernia throbbing and pulsating with pain but really all she wants is to be babied, carried in my arms as her head lays on my shoulder, my one arm patting her little back as her one hand scratches the inside of my arm and the other rubs at her eyes sleepily. I think I’ll let her try and cry this one out… we don’t want a spoilt brat now do we?

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