Sunday, September 1, 2013

Wishing you a happy (and memorable) Labor Day!

I hope that this Labor Day finds you well! As I prepare to travel to the Congo again in the near future, the holiday has me thinking about labor in the Congo.

Through my mother's efforts, I was exposed at a young age to the power of women coming together and joining forces to redefine the realities of what it meant to be a working mother in the Congo. The magic of their unified strength was truly revolutionary. As a wise woman once said, "when spiderwebs unite, they can stop a lion."

As we are working on the final chapters of the memoir (we plan to finish the manuscript by late fall/ early winter), I am pulling on my earliest memories of these scenes, remembering back to the way it all began....

Chapter 9 - Spiderwebs

The fervent buzz of conversation dwindled as one by one the women’s eyes turned to a single corner of the room. They were waiting for Nzol Akayimb to speak.

But makw Nzol sat silent, legs crossed in her faded, neatly tied makwemb. Her eyes shone out from the soft papery folds of her skin. The silence silence spread as she steadily met the eyes of each woman in turn. When her eyes rested for a moment on my own, I could see that they were deep midnight pools in which the reflection of the moon danced and played with a shimmering brightness. Her gaze held all and yet revealed nothing.

Finally Makw Nzol spoke.

“When one falls down, will we leave her behind? Will she stay on the ground when we have so many hands to help her back up, and so many arms to lean on? No, we are together in this. We are one. Where one falls, none can continue on the path.”


As the meeting dispersed, Mom and makw Nzol lingered at the entrance after the others had gone. Then, deep in conversation, they began the journey home in the darkness together, with only the moon to light their way. Quietly, I followed behind.

“We must help one another in this as in all things.” I heard makw Nzol tell Mom before patting her chest lightly once with her open palm. It was a quick and subtle gesture, but my eyes never left her diminutive frame. When the path parted, Nzol stopped and turned toward Mom again. “We will visit him tomorrow, in the evening. It will be better.” Mom nodded in agreement and the two women said their goodbyes.

I watched as Nzol turned onto the path and slowly made her way down the road, her bare feet sounding solid, reassuring thwaps against the clay road as she made her way slowly down the shadowy path, leaning on her gnarled old kashi stick.

Trailing Mom home that night after the meeting, I wondered at the strange turn of events that had taken place. And I remembered back to the day that had started this course in motion....


Stay tuned to read the next installment of this chapter--coming soon!