At seventy eight years old, Lapony is still strong and works like she is still in her thirty’s. She sweeps her compound and that of her tenants first thing every single morning. ‘Lapony’ means teacher and she has been called that for as long as she can remember. Lapony has been a teacher all her life.
Now though, even if she can still teach, she has decided not to. The walk to and from the nearest school is too much for her and besides that she is not getting the pay that she would like. Lapony has decided to stay home and look after her animals and her garden. Her garden measures over an acre and she plants anything from groundnuts and potatoes to maize and cassava. This is how she has managed to save and build the six small houses right next to hers in her compound.
Lapony stops sweeping and sits down slowly watching three little girls running after each other. They are one of her tenant’s children. When they see her, they run towards her and kneel in front of her respectfully.
“Good morning, Lapony”, they say in unison.
Lapony smiles as she replies, “Good morning, what are you up to today?”
“We will go to the well and wash our clothes”, one little girl says.
“Then we will come and help Mama cook lunch”, another adds.
“No school today I see”, Lapony teases.
The three girls giggle at her, “Oh Lapony, we are on holiday.”
“Oh, I forgot”, Lapony says with a smile on her face.
The girls get up and run off to continue playing before they can go to the well. Lapony smiles after them as they run off and wave at her. They have so much energy and are so happy and oblivious about what is going on about them. “So much freedom and not a care in the world”, Lapony thinks to herself.
The smile on her face fades slowly and she looks down as she starts to remember her own childhood…
She and her sister used to run about like that when she was that little. Lapony could remember it as if it were yesterday. Being the oldest of seven children, she was expected to take care of all her siblings as well as herself. Their father died when she was fifteen and her Mother remarried. Her brothers and sisters were mistreated by their new step-father and Lapony vowed that she would take care of them as soon as she was able.
When she turned seventeen she got into a teacher’s training college and she graduated two years later with a teaching diploma. Lapony could now take matters into her own hands. Her siblings were all very bright and rode on the back of scholarships all through school. All Lapony had to do was make sure that they were clothed and that they had a place to stay when they came home from school. They did not have much but at least they had each other. It did not matter what their step-father did or did not do for them anymore. They were able to take care of themselves.
Lapony starts to smile even as tears run down her face. Both her sisters are dead now but their memories still live strong in her. One of the little girls looks just like her sister, Amelia. She was light skinned and had big hips even at a very young age before puberty. Lapony remembers how she used to tease Amelia.
“Eh”, she used to say, “Your hips are going to pierce someone some day.”
Amelia always laughed and never took any offence. She knew that Lapony did not mean her any ill and was only teasing. Besides that, Amelia took a great pride in her hips. She was a real beauty and she knew that it was her big hips that made her stand out amongst the other beauties.
An excerpt from an upcoming book “My War Song” by Achiro P. Olwoch