At age 62, Mother’s Day took on significant meaning when I was adopted into the Bushi tribe in Africa. My new sons pronounced me Mwamikazi “Queen Mother.” I have never been one to take the traditional path. In fact, I feel a little like Abraham when God told him in his old age, he would be father to the nations. Having no children of my own, I am surely an oddity. I have started collecting children and grandchildren in my old age.
Twenty some years ago was Robert, my foster son carefully selected from Central State Hospital, and ten years ago came Kirbie, my Florida God-daughter and partner in adventure. Then grandchildren Noelle and Natalie came from the McGill family. I was not however prepared for two sons, two daughters-in-law and eight grandchildren plus two special girls, making my African family 14 strong. I am going to need a bigger dining room table.
I first became a grandmother to Jerry’s children when a small gift was received as a miracle and my refugee friend Jerry lost control of his tongue and explained to his children that their Grandmother in the US had made it possible for them to return to school. See The $100 Miracle – Part 3
The children met me via a video conference and instantly accepted me as their own. In fact, they discussed among themselves “our Grandmother is very beautiful and she looks just like Joseph and Baby Anna.” David, the oldest drew a new family portrait. I don’t know why he drew me so big, but the truth is well documented.
Esther Is With Us
There is a figure in the background which has been erased and then he drew me in larger than life, except, I probably am that large! What I instantly knew is the figure that was erased (that I could still see the outline of) was their biological Grandmother Esther, (Jerry and Jonathan’s mother). No one knows for sure if she is still living but I believe she is in the loving arms of our Savior Jesus Christ and she is thankful with the surrogate acting in her place until we all meet face-to-face in Heaven. She raised her sons to love Jesus.
No One Reads My Stories
Jerry and I have been typing furiously for months and months as I documented the life of a refugee, ripped from his good life in Democratic Republic of Congo in the blink of an eye. With bullets flying, the house being burned and the women raped and brutalized, Jerry and Jonathan ran for their lives. Eleven years later, they find out each had survived the ordeal through a storyteller in Indiana. While no one else reads my stories, I am thankful that two brothers in Africa did!
And this is how I came to have two African sons.
And on this Mother’s Day, they have honored me with a very special African name.
“In giving you an African name, I would want to inform you that I find the name of Mwamikazi Polly, that’s the name that suits you. As our mother and as Mwamikazi of all; you are for us a mother, at the same time a father and a mother, an exceptional person. And as you know; you are playing both roles as parental authority. You have ceased to be an ordinary woman at last to take care of the education of Esther’s children and to take the direction of their destination from theirs young ages. You became Mwamikazi “The Queen Mother.”
You are for me a very special mother. Indeed, as Bushi, women are called upon to assume greater responsibilities than boys in the life of family education.
Family responsibilities are more aware of the mother. In my case, the meaning of your motherhood has been very powerful in the world and pronounced very early. Finally, you became the mother of everyone. With us, the Mwamikazi becomes the mother of all the population, and you are assuming this responsibility marvelously.
Tribal Rite of Passage
A rite that makes the mother a special woman for our tribe. You know that, having become Mwamikazi, she cannot get married anymore. At the same time, an initiatory rite of the Bushi was to be performed in relation to her new functions of Mwamikazi. Instead of a wood mixer (mudugo), she makes him prepare the dough (buntu) of sorghum with a spear (itumu). This meant that she was no longer fighting with a mudugo but with a spear (itumu) like a man, a warrior. This gave her an authority complementary to the traditional one of an ordinary woman, a stay-at-home mother. Her role is no longer just that of a mother, but also of a dad. She becomes “Mwami-Kazi”. That of a King (Mwami) while remaining a woman (Kazi).”
“My brother has very well described who a mother is for us and this is exactly what you are doing now. A mother cannot be defined by words. She sees everything and sacrifices everything. Gives everything, expects nothing. With you, I can see all these great qualities of a mother and whatever you are doing for us, you do it with unconditional love and you always make sure that we stay happy and in safety. Your heart is always very soft and like an open door to me.
In fact you are a mother who has the toughest job in this world. It is even more tough than any CEO. The CEO of any company runs that company while you, mother are changing the lives. CEOs make employees while you, mother are making CEOs. A mother is simply the greatest and very important person in my life.”
Milk and Cookies
It was prophesied to me that I would have a multi-cultural ministry. I would be like milk and chocolate-chip cookies, surrounded by little brown children. My sons are in exile, yet they have chosen to raise strong families. They are highly skilled and educated yet cannot find their way to freedom without assistance.
And You Will Know Them By Their Love
May we all remember the love and sacrifices of our mothers and fathers. May we appreciate the incredible freedom and opportunity that is America. May we not judge each other by the color of our skin, but by the love in our hearts.
I am Mwamakazi Polly. This is my tribe. Happy Mother’s Day to me.
Polly Riddell writing as G. Polly Jordan is a freelance journalist connecting people through the stories they tell. I am also Mwamikazi Polly.