This Saturday I turn fifty. Both of my brothers died at the age of forty so I'm acutely aware that every year I am given after forty is a blessing. So far this year has challenged me, I have broken promises to myself, my house burned in a fire and I broke my pinky toe.
Yes, good people, I am including a broken pinky toe in my list of trials this year. As someone who has given birth four times without medication, I can honestly say a broken toe deserves to be on the list of major trials in my life. The pain when I broke it was sudden and shocking. It was a level of pain that would have forced me to swear profusely even if my mom, the pope and the Dalai Lama were in the room. After the sudden shock the pain radiated but it didn't go up my foot and leg. That pain - equal to birthing four babies stayed. Concentrated. In. My. Pinky. Toe!!
I could spend more time and words on that but I came to blog about the "trials and tribulations" (yes, that's from the description of the Mukadota Show) of the summer of my 50th year. So, as I was saying, before I broke my pinky toe there was a fire that destroyed my home in Maryland. I was at my sister's home in London about to take a bath when my husband phoned me. My sister's house is designed deliberately with lots of bits and bobs to to make you feel good and if you already feel good her house makes you feel better. Her footed bathtub, that I was soaking in before aforementioned phone call, is deep and surrounded honey scented bath creams, fairy lights in glass bottles and little rose shaped bath bombs in antique Swan shaped containers. I was luxuriating in the tub, reading Oscar Wilde’s poetry from one of the miniature books she keeps by the tub feeling more pampered than Victoria mukadzi wa Albert, my favorite diamond-thieving colonizer.
As I was soaking-like-Victoria my phone rang. It was my husband FaceTiming me. His first words were, "Babe where are you? I need you to sit down."
There have been three other times that he’s told me to sit down in that tone. When my brother Richard died and a few years later when my brother Nhamu followed him. My brain immediately lined up all my loved ones he could be calling about. Then he said,
"There’s been a fire."
I saw that he was standing in the courtyard in front of our house. I had left three of my four children and my grandson in America. My brain put them in the front of the line. Fire, I can't help but think how cruel fire can be to human flesh? In those few seconds I realized that if any of my children were hurt or worse I would be finished. Done.
There’s a fear that settles inside you when you become a parent. It's a fear is that somehow, one day, fail to keep your children alive. It makes you throw your arm out to cover them when you are driving and have to brake suddenly. It makes you cover the corner of a table with your hand two seconds before your toddler's head hits it. It wake you up at 3am when you realize that you’ve fallen asleep before your college-aged party animal had made it home safely. That fear stopped time and stole my breath. I could not hear what my husband was saying.
"Where are my children?" I used his name and asked again. "Where are my children."
I have seen women have to bury their children, my mother is one of them. It is not a seat any of us ever want to occupy. It calls for a resilience I don’t believe I have. it's less than three seconds before he answers but in that three seconds my life pivoted and anything that I thought mattered didnt. All that mattered was that my kids were alive and well.
"They are fine." I heard him but that fear was still sitting next to me and I did not believe him.
"Show me." I said. He handed to phone to my son and I see his sisters behind him. Taking the phone back my husband repeats that there has been a fire and our home had been destroyed.
The little evangelical girl who occupies the church in my head with ribbons in her hair and lace on her socks is already doing a mental praise dance! What a mighty God we serve! What a migh- what a migh! What a migh! I'm about to start speaking in tongues. Handi, Mandi, Bear, Nyasha, Kash and our Phil. Did he say the house burnt down? Who gives a "flying fuck" about a house? My children have been spared. I want to rename them. Chipotsiwa, Touchandgo, Mandifadza, Mazvita and Lucky. I am joyful, and I am humbled and just like that my perspective on life is re arranged a few weeks before my 50th birthday.
Later that week my friend Oni calls me. Or maybe I called her. The thing is she is one of those people I initially acquainted (I might have made that word up but I needed the word that comes right behind befriended) because her child is one of the students who I believe will take me to one of the two “O”s on my bucket list. The Olympics or the Oscar’s. Anyway, I acquainted her then we became good friends. I never know if she called me or if I called her because by the end of the phone call I feel that I’ve gotten exactly what I needed. Anyway, one of us called the other and I told her how the top floor of my house was completed destroyed by the fire and the ground floor ceilings fell in from the weight of the water the firefighters used to put out the flames. She explained in her loving crystals and incense kind of way that fire and water come to cleanse us and give us new beginnings. That's exactly what has happened, good people. There is an excellent reason my ancestors, great-aunts, uncles and brothers on the other side have decided to send me into the next 50 plus years limping, but cleansed by fire and water with an adjusted attitude about what is important. I'm not sure what the reason is yet but I'll let y'all know as I figure it out. Happy birthday also to Karmyn Pittman, John Murillo and all the other beautiful people born on the 3rd of September!