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First 10 Years -Years of Happy Innocence
  • Story Owner: Anonymous
  • Story Created: Monday, July 22, 2013, 8:26:00 AM
  • Chapter Author: Anonymous
  • Chapter Created: Monday, July 22, 2013, 8:29:00 AM
  • updated: Tuesday, September 04, 2018 6:35:00 AM

11 is a very important number in my life.  Let me tell you why. I was born at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year, the 11th child of the 12 that my mother and father had in total. Of the 10 that had been born before me, only four were still living when I was born; four of the six who had died had not  reached their first birthday. Of the four then alive, only two survive to this day. So out of 12 children, only the last four , including me, are,as at the time of  starting writing this story in 2013, still living.

And, as with most births at that time and in that part of the world, mine was not at a hospital and, I am told,  there was no birth attendant or nurse to help. My mother was busy doing her daily usual chores  at home(and in this instance,tethering goats on their overnight pegs) and... I made my grand entry  onto Planet Earth.

We, the Rwaheru family,  were what would have been considered a  well to do family  back there in one of the remotest parts of what was then Toro Kingdom. My father was working as a  a local Chief  of the area and, from what I remember, commanded  a  significant amount  of respect and influence. Many a day I would wake up to find any number of people(out in the fore compound) bearing all kinds of gifts and presents, ranging from goats, chickens, banana clusters, basketfuls of beans and peas,and the like. Some of them trying to curry favour with my father, so he could put in a good word to the headmaster of an oversubscribed local school, or have a word with a neighbour to smooth out a land dispute, or something like that.  Others I could hear had come with something to show some appreciation for something  my father had done for them or for  their loved one.Several times, my father would graciously refuse a gift from someone whose case he was involved in judging or in which he or someone close to him had an interest in.

We always had lots of visitors, many staying for several days at a time.In fact, that may have been the reason my father had had another house built behind our main family house to cater for the incessant flow of overnight guests we received. Many were relatives, both distant and close, from the villages in the counties of Burahya and Bunyangabu where my father was born and raised  or  Mwenge ,where my mother hailed from.

By the time I entered the scene, my parents had been married for 22 years and I was for a time considered to be the last -born, tradionally a very enviable position, where one was petted and openly favoured over othes!.My younger sister,Elizabeth, popped up as a surprise to many several years later than the time that usually spaced  those  of us that came before her. I am told I did not give up my pet position of 'last-born(macura) without a fight!

In those early years of my life, I learnt to  enjoy the freedom to laugh long and loudly; I  was encouraged to participate in family activities and memories, deepen my roots in the rich, rare soil of  a nonjudgemental, loving atmosphere so necessary,I now understand,  for authentic happiness. I know from experience that the beautiful music of living is composed,practised, and perfected in the harmony of a home where everyone recognised  that the father,the breadwinner and head of the home, had all the power while  the mother, the manager of the home, confidently exercised all authority. No tension, no competition between them, no confusion in our minds and hearts.

Starting school for me wasn't a very dramatic event. You see, when my sister, Maria,  who was my fulltime playmate since I was born,was six and a half , she started going to school-a good six miles away. I was almost five( four and a half, they would never cease to remind me) and  they wouldn't let me go with her. But I would sneak behind her and get as far away from home following her,unseen by her, until we were too far from home for her to tell me to go back home. My problem, however, didn't end there. The teacher wouldn't let me into her class either; so, every day ,I would stop at the entrance of the doorless classroom and wait for her to come out for break  and then later on  walk/play/run home with her after school ! The unintended consequence of all that was I didn't need to attend  Primary One when my turn came for me to start as I had followed all the classes from outside all year. Talk about the brain of a five-year old soaking it all in,effortlessly!! So it came to pass that instead of doing my Primary education for the normal six years , I  had only 4 and a half years of Primary School. Pretty smart,eh?

The other unintended consequence of all that was that I tended to be the smallest and youngest kid in the class throughout my primary and secondary shool years! This was even more accentuated in Primary Scool because many of the other parents in this part of country didn't send their children to school until  three or four years later than they were supposed to...for any number of reasons but I suspect it was because they themselves hadn't gone to school and, unlike my father, they did not appreciate that much the practical value,immediate or long-term, of education.The kids were deemed to be more useful doing home chores and helping in the gardens. In fact, many were forced by the local chiefs(the likes of my father) to send their children to school with a threat of imprisonment, if they didn't. So, I remember in Primary Six, I had a classmate who had a beard ...must have been sixteen or seventeen and I was hardly 11!

So Primary School for me was, for the most part,  pleasantly uneventful  except for the corporal punishments which were regularly meted out to us for the slightest excuse, ranging from being a few minutes late for school(that is,  for example, finding that  the Duty Master  has already started   the  Pre-Class Assembly) . Primary Two, Three and Four were the worst for me on that score.

In Primary Two, I think the teacher was a sadist. How he enjoyed caning us!! He would even ask you to go to the coffee plantation nearby to bring yourself two or three canes for him to whip you with until they were broken! I ,however, didn't get beaten as much, and as often as, my other mates, possibly  because I was really the youngest and smallest in the class and word had reached him that I was bright enough to have skipped Primary One!.The truth was that I was  really so scared of him that I did  not dare to get him mad with not doing anything he taught us,talking in class or not doing the homework or learning the tables. Again, the unintended consequence of that was that I developed a learning model of quietly absorbing all that  I heard the teacher say. This has stood me in good stead throughout my school life.

In Primary Three,  the teacher was  an extreme disciplinarian and he would  show his power with the cane  at the slightest infringement. The positive thing,for me, about Primary Three, was that this was when we started learning in English and I found the language fascinating and luckily, I caught on faster than many of my mates. One likely reason for this was that I had my sister and my elder brother, Sabbiiti,(six years older than me) with whom I could  talk to and practice at home and our parents were very supportive. Instead of getting angry with us for speaking in a language they did not understand, they encouraged us. I remember overhearing my father vehemently  disagreeing with my aunt (his sister) who wanted him to rebuke us for disrespecting him talking in that foreign tongue among ourselves in his presence.  " I spend a lot of money paying school fees for them to learn that tongue, so  shouldn't I be happy when I see some fruit of my money?" we heard him say. Wise man, my father!

The fact that I enjoyed the new language I was being taught in,caused me to be a little more active in class answering questions when almost everybody else hesitated and was afraid. This could have contributed to the extreme disciplinarian  often going  easy on me!

I got caned most in Primary Four because a new subject which, I admit, I was neither interested in  nor was any good at, was introduced in the curriculum. It was called Handwork. and it was allotted a disproprtionate amount of class time, during which  we were supposed to start doing  things like basket weaving,  plaiting mats,doing pottery and the like. I preferred Reading, Writing and doing Arithmetic,  listening to history stories, drawing maps in Geography,learning and memorising  the Catechism in Religious Knowledge classes and  Civics!  ! Oh, how I dreaded  Handwork time...because for me it was almost always Cane time,as I had nothing to show...

So it was such a relief when I went to Primary Five. The teacher, Mr Daniel Kyamuhangire, was so different, ever so gentle, so neat... and really got me to love school. I daresay, it was my most enjoyable year in primary school and it set the tone for the rest of my school life,  I have no doubt it was the reason that out of 43 pupils sitting the  nation-wide Primary Leaving Certificate at the end of Primary Six in that backwood  Primary School I attended, of the two who passed to go on to Junior Secondary School, I was the only one who attained Grade A; the other( a brilliant boy ,my only schooltime friend,by the name William) got Grade C. He later graduated to become a Medical Doctor. and served for a  while as an elected representative of his people in the national Parliament..Could it also be partly the reason I am now, as I write this, a  teacher/trainer/lecturer, fully qualified to teach in all  levels of institutions  here in the UK!

However, two things happened around this time that shaped the course of my life. A young,fresh-faced,gum-chewing  American Missionary priest,,of the Order of the Holy Cross,Fr. John Keefe, was posted  as a Curate to  Bugombwa,the Parish church  next to the school. In those days most,if not all, schools were founded and run by either the Roman Catholic Church (as was mine) or by the Anglican Church. He was assigned to run some classes in Religious  Knowledge in our Year(Primary Six).  He had not yet quite learnt the local language and so was very relieved to find among his new pupils in that remote village school  a person who could hold a fairly decent discussion in the English Language, and who loved reading  books, He lent me quite a number of books, actively encouraged me,and  watched with awe as my vocabulary and language knowledge grew almost by the day.We spent many an hour talking-him mostly answeing my  never-ending questions about things I had not understood in the story books he had lent me. I also plied him with questions about his homeland, the USA,which I found endlessly fascinating!. Needless to say, the R K classes were,for the most part,  a two-people affair, sometimes joined in by William. By the end of the year, we had  developed a curious but firm friendship. So,when he learnt that I had passed the PLE in the first grade, he offered to, and did,  write me a recommendation to  a fellow priest,a French-Canadian White Father, who was the Headmaster of one of the better Junior Secondary schools in the  town  of Fort Portal. (St Michael's Junior Secondary School, Virika, which, in the following year became  St Mary's  Minor Seminary to train  boys destined for the priesthood for the recently created  Diocese of Fort Portal). And set me on a path(unmeditated and therefore not intended) to study ,and excel in, Latin in my O Levels. But now I a'm going ahead of myself.

There is one other event that was  so significant, especially in its timing  and  the irreversibility of its consequences.

The day started like most others on the Equator  with the morning sun coming out punctually at 7 am but it ended quite dramatically differently. At around noon on that fateful day I saw  a group of about three men( one elderly and two middle-aged) come hurriedly through the banana plantation next to our  back house. They were wearing concerned faces and asking for my father. I remember having seen at least one of them several times  in my father's barazas. They were shown into the house and my father joined them there. They talked in hashed tones and  even in my innocent naivete I could sense something very serious was about to happen. About half an hour later, they left just as stealthily as they had come.  After they'd gone, my father  called in Maama, my mother, and they disappeared into their bedroom talking in urgent  quiet tones. I later learnt that that night the Bamba were  planning to torch all the houses belonging to Bakobe, as the Batooro were locally and,not flatteringly, known, The instructions were that they kill and  spare no Mutooro, whether child, man or woman They said the Batooro among them treated them, the native Bamba,  like lower class humans and enjoyed all the good things of their fertile land. That the Batooro, who were the chiefs, the shop owners and were employed in almost all the white-collar jobs in the area,  looked down on them for eating rats, house mice and snakes.  Apparently, these three men considered that my father was  not like the other Batooro and always treated  them with respect, fairness and benevolent firmness. So, even when it could have cost them their lives if they had been seen, they came to warn my father and told him to immediately  leave all and flee with all of us  out of Bwamba or .... They said they would hate to see him and us being hacked to death while we have always been nice to them and treated them like human beings.

So in the dusk of that evening, after hurriedly putting together all that could possibly be carried, we set off on foot , leaving the place we all knew as home, to a land  over the mountainous slopes, unknown and strange...

That night I saw my father in  a totally different mode:a brave, serious, calm-under-pressure, and business-like, giving crisp instructions in  the clipped  low tones of  an army  commander in battle.

Like the Abraham of the Bible, we just left without knowing exactly where we would  end up. It is to the credit of my father that being forced to leave the relative comfort of home and all the possessions of his life  at that late stage of his life ,when most people would be eyeing a comfortable retirement, (he was 56 at the time)did not drive him into bitterness  and , as far as I remember, he tried very hard to shield us from any undue discomfort. The journey  was long  and hazardous but  a day away into the mountains we coud see  from afar   soaring flames and  billows of smoke as Batooro's houses were being reduced to ashes.

Looking back, there were not many distractions to occupy folks  back there. So life was simple and real. I grew up with no hangups about sex: we routinely witnessed it in nature, in the gardens, in the bushes, in the cow kraals, as the goats and chicken fed, as dogs and other animals mated and also as young boys and girls  met and courted... yes, it was one pastime that didn't need expensive toys and apparatus: and the folks went about it as naturally as breathing, and we accepted it as such..   I got the distinct impression that it was a particularly enjoyable and pleasurable activity to be indulged in  as frequently as possibe as soon as one was old enough. Most girls married very young, almost as soon as they reached puberty: there was nothing else to do and that was what was expected.I remember a couple of times as we were walking to school with one of the older girls softly  told me that she'd have had no problem 'giving' me but I was too young!!  But she also said (which made the whole effort worthwhile)she was happy I had asked. Thus giving me hope that she would 'come through' ...at the right time!! For the record, however, I better add, she never came through:I must have outgrown the fantasy, I guess!

 

 

 

 

 

Comments
Comments 1 to 1 of 1
  • Well written. Suspense is created many times to keep me interested, then you give the relief of the suspense and we are on to the next part which builds to suspense. I am amazed that you can tell such a life time long story in such few words. I love the respect shown for your father. I would enjoy more on the dynamic of power/authority sharing in your family. Didn't quite understand the brief reference to it. The last paragraph could perhaps be expanded. The simplest expansion would be a "who" after the word girl. But I feel a little more info about the asking would increase the interest of the paragraph. Thoroughly enjoyed reading. I'm also working on a Memoir.

    Daniel 12/30/2018 4:15:00 PM
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