“Go right back to school, now!” - A Tribute to my Mother.

(Note: For legitimate reasons fictitious names are used for our neighbors .)
Lalomanu Primary School in the 70's
It might have been another beautiful morning, as the usual sights and sounds of the wakened village started to percolate. The tree shadows slowly shrank as the sun steadily climbed the semi-crimson sky. The last patches of thin morning mist had dissipated and disappeared. A rooster crowed intermittently in the distance. Across the road, on Lupe’s paepae (house stone foundation), a hen pecked and plucked at some edible object while her hungry chicks huddled, chirping. Tala, our early bird neighbor, was feeding his pigs and piglets. He was calling out “Sau! sau! sau!” (Either he was saying “Come” - translation for “sau”; or “Sow” - another word for pig.) Tala stretched his hand high holding a basket, then dumping a mix of breadfruit leftovers and dry coconut pulp from it. Below, and in front of him, the sniffing snouts wiggled and waited and soon the slurping started amidst the grunts and oinks.

A little farther still, Lata’s chickens were clucking and cackling home to her loud feeding calls of “Ku! ku! ku!” (apparently for “coo-coo” as of birds and pigeons) drowning the simultaneous scraping of grated coconut feed. Meanwhile, Lupe’s dog rose from its bed under the faleo’o (stilted hut). It whined a low and lazy yelp, then stretched and staggered to the umukuka (cooking hut) where it assumed a sphinx-like posture. Soon a gradual transfer of crimson occurred, from the sky to the uniforms of the children walking to school. Simply paradisal!

If all of these were one-time events, we - my brother and I - would have missed them, because on this particular morning, we were late getting up, therefore, we were late for school.

And now the indelible and vivid memories of the morning that had a lasting effect on me.

My brother and I stood at the main entrance to the Lalomanu Primary School. We froze. We were late. The main building, about sixty yards directly in front looked forbidding. It seemed more like a slammer than a school. We could hear faint recitations and other usual classroom activities. Immediately before us was the malae (field) which appeared tapu (taboo) and ominous. We looked at each other, grimaced and decided that we would dare not cross it. Not on this day; not this morning. Everyone - students and teachers - would cast stares of scorn and scoff. The malae slowly evolved into an imaginary gangboard of humiliation and jeers. Punishment for tardiness was whipping - not spanking or paddling. Hence, I couldn’t fathom the school grounds anymore to be a field of dreams, but of screams. So I again eyed my brother and immediately, as if on cue, we both retreated, like rodents from a lurking python.

My brother was older, so I followed his lead. A few tense minutes later, not far from the school, we found ourselves in a togafa’i (banana patch) - hiding, or ... trying to hide. The decision was desperate and naturally stupid. Our red uniforms against the green background violated the principles of camouflage which we were trying to beguile and befriend. We had decided to wait until school was dismissed in the afternoon and we would walk home with the rest of the kids. But, again, because of contrasting colors, a passerby easily spotted us and said he was going to let our mother know about our shenanigan.

We reasoned quietly. We compared our mom’s whipping to the teacher’s and opted for the former - the lesser of the two evils. (Normally, a parent’s whacking should be different and lesser than the teacher’s. I personally would rather be whipped by a parent than by a teacher.)  So we stepped out of our hideout and timidly started what seemed to have been a long trek home.

The dreaded salulima (handbroom)
About half an hour later, we were right back at the main entrance of the school, this time like an echelon, with Mom standing right behind us holding a salulima (handbroom). My bare back was already bleeding and crimsony - as my uniform - from the open cuts inflicted by the coconut midribs of my mother’s broom. My brother had his share as well. We were both in pain and crying.

Then came Mom’s order: “Ia lua koe o gei lava i le a’oga!” (“Go right back to school now!”).

We immediately complied and started our walk of shame across the malae while students watched through the school’s wire mesh screens, scorning and scoffing - I thought. Despite the pain and shame, I was able to endure the day’s school exercises, though I wasn’t sure that I learned anything. Well, perhaps not totally true.

Because I did  learn something that day, albeit the hard way; and what I learned I had not forgotten; nor will I ever forget.  It was my Mother - not a schoolteacher - who had taught it.

Thank you Mom. I love you!

(Mom passed on several months after this incident.)

1 comment:

  1. Hearing this story always makes me tear up. It makes me realize just how important education is and how I need to listen to and obey my parents. Lol. Thanks Dad! :)