I think I was about 13 or 14 when I lay on my bed hallucinating from the effects of tick bite fever. My walls were covered in posters of all the famous actors I believed to be in love with. They were waiting for me to grow up and become a famous actress too, and then we would marry. We were living in Harare at the time, but had probably been in the bush somewhere, walking around with ticks. One had bitten me and a week later the symptoms began. Shivering fevers, spinning nausea, and pounding headaches crippled me completely for days. Thankfully a good dose of doxycycline and endless conversations with Ethan Hawke took care of it. We stayed up all night talking about a dead poets society and a wolf he once befriended, called White Fang. Just Before Sunrise the medicine had done its job and I woke up to Reality Bites. He was gone, as was the fever. Though this did not stop me from diving head first into an imaginary life of the girlfriend of a great American actor. I even managed to rope my best friend into it. We’d spend evenings chatting on the phone about Ethan and Keanu, and their sweet gestures of romance. Innocently excusing their actual existence due to their busy filming schedules. Thankfully we were sane enough to differentiate between the real and the imaginary. We did have real boys to snog at the bowling alley on a Friday night. But the dream world was a fun place to visit and an ideal escape from any kind of conflict a teenager might experience. It’s the power of your own decisions, your own craft, your own play to produce. At times, it made more sense and allowed for more laughter amidst the monotony of our school days.
Naturally it didn’t last for very long. We grew up and broke up with Ethan and Keanu. In the end, we never saw them, they always put work before us, and I think age also got in the way. The break-ups were dramatic but we had each other for comfort and consoling. And onwards we leapt into the harsh reality of real boys, real bitches stealing them, at times those bitches being each other, and living pretty decent teenage lives. Susie and I were play-it-safe risk takers. Before bunking out and climbing 8-foot walls in the dark, we’d prepare our rooms like Ferris Bueller then hit the Harare nightclub scene. Occasionally bumping into one of our parents’ friends. “Shit, so-and-so, what are you doing here? Please don’t tell on us. We’ll keep it to ourselves that you were here with so-and-so’s husband.”
We used to play this game called who are you going to be when you grow up? It included who are you going to marry, where will you live, and how many children will you have? After a very complex process of mathematical calculations and eliminations, Susie always ended up with marrying Keanu, living in Hawaii, as a photographer, with 5 children. I, at best, got so-and-so’s husband from the nightclub, Bulawayo, farmer’s wife, no children. There’s nothing wrong with living in Bulawayo as a farmer’s wife. But there is if it comes with being married to a cheat without any children. What would I do all day? And night? I think the thing that perturbed me most was the fact that this game revealed that I would not become a mother. Fortune calculated and written down.
For most of my life, growing up, I only ever imagined having a bevy of babies. Become a mother of many. Building up a team of disciples, each in pursuit of their own discipline. An army of loaded life-lovers, practising peace and making magic. It was never about the husband or the home, the career or the car. Just the kids. We’d plant our family tree anywhere in the world, so long as the soil was fertile and the space sufficient for the roots to run deep. We’d live with the changing colours from one season to the next, embracing his existence. We’d tickle her armpits under her branches, and wrap ourselves around her trunk. We’d eat from her fruit and take shelter beneath his leaves. We’d nurture her, whichever way he swayed, in preservation of our family faith. We’d watch the others wander past, take a glance, pick some fruit and rest on a root. We’d be so proud to attract the crowd.
As Susie’s gone on to marry Keanu and live in Hawaii, about to give birth to baby number 2, my nipples go nuts with envy and my womb wobbles with want. She’s the most beautiful mother, was always going to be, just as she was and is the most beautiful everything. Ok, my sister and my other friends, my cousins and some of their friends are also the most beautiful mothers. But we are in keeping with a tale about Susie and I, here. She’s ploughing down the fast lane of procreation and I’m proud of her. As I am of Dollar and my other friends, my cousins and some of their friends. Mothers are needed today. It still remains the hardest job. Deepak Chopra quite simply states that Motherhood is the most noble profession in the world.
And so lately I’ve found myself not so sure about it. It’s got nothing to do with independence and sacrifice. It’s got nothing to do with money and making enough of it for us all. It’s got nothing to do with my fanny and pushing something out of it. And while we’re on that topic, it certainly has nothing to do with losing my figure or fighting to get it back thereafter. I’m often asked in a pilates class if I require assistance with the expectant mothers’ positions. No matter how many years I’ve worked on my core.
I do still imagine that raising children is probably the greatest quest a human being can undertake. The moment one gets to recognise a little something of themselves in the body of a little being says a lot more than just an ego boost. A reminder of what you might have acknowledged at that age, and never had the ability to remember. There it is in front of you, that little facial expression in response to a simple moment. The taste of a sour slice of lemon, cold water on your feet, wind in your lashes, a feeling flooding from the gut that surges out a burst of laughter. It all happens for the first time, again, as you get to experience it vicariously through your own child. And this, I know, is but a teeny tiny part of it. The fears, the shits and giggles, the bonding, the freeing, the wings spreading, the denial, the panic, the ownership, the resistance, and the rest of it. Isn’t this what life is all about? What we are inherently designed to do. Allow the legends of ourselves to live on. Carry the name and carve it into our family tree.
So, as I sing Happy Birthday to myself year on year, and reflect on how my tune once sounded, resonating riffs of my twenties, echoing the pitch of my thirties, I feel the burden of what being a mother would entail and have lost my breath. I question myself right through to the base of my core and back. How will I be able to protect my child from a blood sucking parasite, that wishes to drain the body of belief, from her veins? And in doing so, cripple her from her own integrity simply because she chose to go out their walking. Walking through the long grass that’s been growing for her to walk through, selected, seeded, harvested, cultivated. How will I find the words to explain to her why the tick had the liberty to grab onto her pussy and get away with it? How would I demonstrate to my son the progression of gender equality amongst the fields of gold, without him being made to think all men are bastards? To affirm his power in his vulnerability. Do I have the ability to dose my children up on the antibiotic of imagination, preventing them from the fever of reality? That we have allowed the bridges to be burned, the walls to be built, the ice to melt, the coral to die, the love to dissipate and the hate to suffocate. What kind of Bionic Woman Mother Theresa of Steal do I have to be today, to feign the fertility of our soil? And what part of my ego has the right to populate the planet any further?
Are we ever going to take that Long Walk to Freedom with the sentiment of Judgement being based on the Content of Character and not the Colour of Skin?
Maybe I’ll just open up a school like Zoolander, for children who can’t read good. I’ll build it big enough so that they can all fit inside the building. We’ll dance to David Bowie barefoot on grass that’s tick-free. And we’ll play the game, who are you going to be when you grow up?
1 thought on “Poly Ticks”
Maybe you should be asking – who am I to deny the world of the wondrous offspring I will one day produce?