I certainly didn’t regret learning new facts about Uganda in the process, however! You will find many of these woven into the story. The more I read, the more my burden increases for the people of Uganda, and the more excited I become about my upcoming trip this summer. Please enjoy the story.
Of Blessings and Curses
By Sharlyn Guthrie
“Come quickly, Mirembe!” The girl’s grandmother called from the doorway.
“What is it, Nyanya?” Mirembe climbed down from the tree, carefully cradling five golden delicious apples. Grandmother held a squalling bundle in her outstretched arms.
“Mirembe, you must take your newborn sister to the kitchen. Keep her warm. If she cries, that is good. She is breathing. Now go!”
Questions fluttered through Mirembe’s mind like untied hair ribbons blowing in the breeze, but Nyanya’s tone said, “Don’t ask,” so she did as she was told. She sat cross-legged on the dirt floor, intuitively singing and rocking the swaddled infant. Slowly, the crying ceased.
Nyanya found the sisters locked in each others’ gaze when she entered the kitchen an hour later. “It is a blessed and cursed day,” she said gravely. “Your mother has died giving birth to Bacia.” Mirembe said nothing, but large tears coursed down her cheeks as she clutched the baby to her chest.
If Mirembe thought her mother’s death was the worst that could happen, she was mistaken. Fearful neighbors summoned the witch doctor. He met Baba, Mirembe’s father, on the path, returning home from market. “Your wife has died giving birth. It is the apple tree,” proclaimed the witch doctor through narrowed eyes. “You must cut it down. It has brought death to your home and our village.”
“No!” shouted Baba, breaking into a run that brought him breathlessly bolting through the front door. One glance around the room confirmed the truth. Mirembe sat next to his wife’s still form, cradling a sleeping infant. Baba turned, facing the doorway from which the witch doctor glared. “We had nothing before we planted the apple tree. Now we sell the apples and have enough money for food. Go! Leave my family to grieve.”
“Those who gave you the tree say that they know the One True God. This has made the gods angry. The tree will only bring more death.” His words hung like morning mist in thin mountain air long after he was gone.
That night Mirembe slept little. When Bacia cried Ananya let her suck a piece of cloth soaked in sugar water. Mirembe knew they needed a wet nurse, but the witch doctor’s curse had scared the women away. Beating drums welled up from a distance, spreading news of impending doom along the mountainside.
“Wake up, Miremebe! I need your help.” Baba crouched over her in the dim morning light. “Come help me gather the apples.” Mirembe rose, wiping the sleep from her eyes, and followed her father outside. Their precious apple tree lay on the ground, a few apples still clinging to its branches, many more scattered around it.
Even as Baba and Mirembe filled five sacks with apples, they knew that selling the cursed fruit would be impossible. Ananya cooked some for breakfast. The three were eating in somber silence when there came a knock at the door.
“I hear you have some trouble here.” The man offered Baba a crooked smile. He was old, but dressed in fine clothes. “I have come with an offer. I will pay a fine price to make your daughter my wife. My first wife will nurse the infant. You will have enough money to start over, find yourself a new wife.” Mirembe’s eyes grew large and she trembled with fear.
“Mirembe is not old enough to marry, and if she were, she would not be for sale. Be gone!” Baba returned to his mat, sinking down, and allowing his head to drop into his hands just as another knock was heard at the door. “Go away!” he shouted. “I told you. My daughter is not for sale!”
“I have come to buy apples, sir, not your daughter.”
Baba’s head snapped up as he returned to open the door. Mirembe recognized Brother Amos from the mission. He also wore fine clothes, but his smile was real. “I am so sorry for your loss. Here. I have brought formula for your baby, and some clothing, too.”
Ananya bowed, accepting the package of baby clothing, bottles, and formula.
“Would you be willing to sell us some apples? We will pay a fair price for them.”
“You are not afraid of apples from a cursed tree?” Baba asked.
“We fear only the God of Creation. What He has made He does not curse.”
“Then we just might have some apples for sale.”
Mirembe grinned, cupping in her extended hand a large, golden apple.
Bacia: family deaths ruined the home
Polygamy is common in Uganda. So is the purchase of young girls as “wives,” who often end up living as slaves.
Planting apple trees is a new, prosperous venture for some Ugandans. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6549609.stm