I was buying fresh vegetables in a hurry last week and as I moved around quickly picking various items, I was reminded just how much I absorbed from my mother in the time I spent under her roof.
Every Saturday morning growing up, I accompanied mum to the market. Those were the days when parking was never a problem and you not only found your car where you left it, but it was also completely intact. You could even forget to lock it and that would be okay. Those were also the days when my siblings and I were occasionally left in the car while she ran her errands. Her only instruction as she put coins into the parking meter (that’s how far back I’m talking about) was: “If anyone comes to steal you, just start crying loudly.” We never knew if she was being serious or not. Thankfully, no one ever tried to steal us.
The market was very clean and orderly – back then, the City Council collected full dustbins and replaced them with empty ones every week (if you remember ‘machokolo mapipa’ then you know what I’m talking about). Having said that, my older siblings actually grew up in a time when fresh milk was delivered to one’s doorstep daily!
Okay, back to the market and fresh vegetables. We carried our own baskets in those days, so I don’t really know why I’m having so much trouble remembering to carry mine in these post-plastic bag times – I have had to buy so many that I’m thinking of starting a business re-selling them! Anyway, my unofficial job on market day was Mum’s taster. By the time she was done shopping, I would be as full as the baskets we carried home, having sampled bananas, oranges, passion fruits, custard apples (which you can’t pay me to eat today), pears, plums…
I still remember the mangoes of those days. They were small and green, even when they were ripe, and were best eaten in the comfort and familiarity of home because of how messy they could get – with the juice running from palms to elbows and from lips to chin – but oh, how sweet! We also had a pawpaw tree growing right outside the kitchen and often “booked” the fruits as soon as they began to grow. Those remain the best pawpaws I have ever eaten.
But there was apparently something else happening in the market as I followed Mum around. Only recently did I realise that I had absorbed knowledge about choosing the best fresh produce possible. When I started shopping for my own home, I often dragged our young ones to the market with me. After a few times of following me sullenly from stall to stall, they began asking why I picked certain fruits and vegetables and not others. So I shared with them my years of going shopping with their grandmother and learning, accidentally, how to choose good fruits and vegetables.
Looking around my house over the years, I have realised it’s not just picking the best fresh produce but also soap, toothpaste and dry food brands, cleaning tricks, storage methods, cooking styles… all borrowed and perfected from Mum. What’s more, today I can see some habits that our young ones have picked from me. The other day our older girl went, “Nkt! I carry this because you carry one as well!” When I looked at what she was pointing at, I saw a pouch that she carries in her bag, much like the one I carry in mine. We had a good laugh discovering what else she has “copied” from me.
Of course there are limits to how far they will imitate their mum, for instance, in matters fashion. While we generally agree about what’s in and what’s not, there are items in my wardrobe the girls wouldn’t be caught dead in. Then there’s my taste in music, which makes them shake their heads in sympathy, and my idea of a great weekend – curled up on the sofa either napping, reading a good book or watching a comedy movie.
As they laugh at some of my ways, my consolation is that someday they too will have children who will imitate them – but only up to a point. They too, will be considered old fashioned one day. Then we’ll see who has the last laugh. Meanwhile, I will continue to send them to the market to buy my green groceries, confident that they have absorbed enough from me to pick what I like.