I have a photograph on my screensaver, it is of Jacqueline and our two children, taken somewhere in the Cedarberg. She looks beautiful as mother, our children younger than they are now. I have watched her mother for over twelve years, through cities and mountains; times of laughter and tears. Always she is mother.
With the rising sun I watch Tumi return from her nights solo. She is an older participant in this group. Mother of two children. Awhile later we sit in sacred circle and listen to her story of mother.
“I lay in my sleeping bag, afraid of the aloneness, of this wild place. I knew that the night would take me to a place that I feared and yet had to know. I lay in my sleeping bag and in this was back in my mother’s uterus. I was graced to be born – and in my birth my mother died.
“I was so fortunate, I was adopted by a woman who loved me deeply. Loved me as mother. In this I grew well and I grew strong.
“And then it was my turn to mother. One day sometime ago I walked down an aisle to a man who was to become my husband. A short time passed and I was pregnant. And I longed for a child who would look as I do. For a time when someone would pass in the street and say, “Haai Ma this child looks just like you.” And this is what happened, my son does look like me and people do say this thing. My heart is happy. I am indeed blessed for the love of the mother who raised me, for the love I have as mother. One day soon, I will adopt a child. I am a mother.”
The group sits, somewhere in the depth of the Grootwinterhoek mountains, voices call into the valleys and peaks honouring mother.
“Yes we were poor, but my mother never let us know hunger.”
“She was beaten so badly by my father, one day my brother and I could take it no longer that we fought against him – why wouldn’t we, she loved us.
“One day she spoke to me on my own. ‘Be strong, be your best, you have enough courage to do well in this life. She is dead now, but I remember her words and always try to act as she asked.
“If I think of the person who has supported me more than any other it is my mother.”
I sit with my backside on the soft earth, my back resting against my backpack. Think of Jacqueline, who on this morning is rushing through the million tasks before taking Emma and James to school. I think of my own mother, her gifting me with an unfathomable love for the wild places of the Earth.
There is really nothing profound to add. A particular course in the mountains – a collective voice found in a small group of people bringing forth stories and memories that honoured women who birth, raise and love so deeply – Mother.
A few days later I return to Cape Town. Jacqueline and the children are waiting for me at the Educo office. Children run, laughing arms calling for hugs. J leans against the bakkie watching. Strong children, strong mother.