it was early evening at odanadi and i was hanging out with one of my ukulele students,14 year-old miriam*. i’d stayed late to catch a ride home with someone who had a car, and miriam and i were on the outside veranda overlooking the dusty courtyard.
the sun had disappeared, and the hushed gloaming enveloped us.
miriam, who had been bubbly a few minutes earlier, was now quiet and downcast.
“i want my mother,” she said as she gazed over the darkening courtyard. “i want my mother.”
I thought of my own mother.
“ya. i’m sure you do,” i said.
it was that magical time of day, and i flashed back to my own childhood, when the neighborhood kids would squeeze a last few minutes of playtime out of the dusk. and then we’d all scamper back to our homes and inside to our bright and cheerful kitchens and loving mothers who were cooking up something good to eat.
“but i don’t want my father,” she said.
she paused for a moment and looked up at me. “do you know why i don’t want my father?”
“no. i don’t.”
“because he killed my mother.” she looked away. “that’s why i don’t want my father. i want my mother. i want my mother.”
later that evening i learned that miriam’s father killed her mother in front of her and her small brother.
miriam is one of my most dedicated and enthusiastic students, and she has a smile and light about her that can make your day. but quite often, if something doesn’t go her way in class, for example someone gets a prize that she feels they didn’t deserve, she rails against the unfairness of it all, quietly places her own prize back in front of me, and lays down her ukulele. “i’m not coming to class anymore,” she says and flounces toward the door.
“i will miss yooooou!!” i call out as she exits the room.
she always does come back to class the next time. and always with a huge smile, ready to jump in and learn and play and laugh and have fun.
at the summer break after exams, sometime in early april, her uncles and aunts will come to collect her, and she will not return to odanadi.
i then i really will miss her.
and what will become of miriam? will she continue her studies? will she be happy? will she safe?
the survivor girl ukulele band is a short-term project with long-term objectives. it is my hope and prayer that the time we’ve had together and the work that she has put in to learning the ukulele will have dividends of joy and fun and hope and healing for years and years to come.
i don’t know what her future will bring, but when she says good-bye in april, she will leave with her very own ukulele and she will know how to play it. and she will know that i love her. and the rest is in god’s hands.
the more time i spend with these girls i more i appreciate my family and my friends back home. i’ve been so richly blessed with a loving family and an ever widening community of friends. thank you for the love and support that sent me here to do this thing called survivor girl ukulele band.