Between Thatcher and My Mother

I will never forget the first day I stepped on England. It was April 8th, 2013. The television in my hotel room announced her death. All night they broadcasted her controversial political career and the big impact her policies have brought to the Great Britain, until today.

What touched me the most about her was the notion that she believed in the value of the traditional family. Moreover, she enabled the Britain’s working class to have their own house. Her words were witty. Her personality was strong. A decisive leader whom hated by some and loved by many. She stood strong for three periods in office, before betrayed by her own party. She was dubbed The Iron Lady. The first and the only female Prime Minister of United Kingdom. And, somehow she reminds me of my mother.

My mother is the only female among her three siblings. She was born soon after the World War II ended. Growing up in sheer poverty, like her brothers, she was forced to support the family since early childhood. Day in and day out she helped my widowed grandmother to earn something to eat. Early in the morning, before going to school, she would wrap cassava cakes with banana leaves and arranged them on a tray. She then put the tray on her head, walked to school while balancing the tray and shouted out for anyone to buy.

Sometimes the cakes were sold out, sometimes they were not. When there was left over, she would eat them to calm her empty stomach, so she could concentrate on her study. Food was a really scarce commodity in her household. My grandmother planted yam potatoes in her backyard and my mother dug them out when there was not any meal on the table. The poor nutrition left its mark, she became stunted. The hardship of life also rendered a melancholy in her. Yet, she determined to change her fate. She believed that the way to a better life had been put by God in her own hands. She worked her way up to college, while at the same time selling my grandmother-made cakes. She overcame the low self-esteem stemming from the rags she wore to school and inability to buy the needed books.

However, for some reasons, her trials was not to be ended soon. Even after her marriage, she struggled to keep our family survived. She would do anything to make sure that her children get the nutrition she lack of in her childhood. One time, she was pregnant and she knew that extra-money was needed to buy high protein food for her  baby. My mother tried to sell whole coconuts in our traditional open market. She was the youngest and the most inexperienced one among other sellers. She found out that she had to climb up a truck, competed with other male sellers to get her lot of coconuts. Right until her late forties, she tried to sell all kinds of stuff until finally become comfortable as an apparel retailer.

Despite what seemed to be long and insurmountable obstacles, she stood up strong and held our family together.

My mother is a living proof of the virtue of hard work and determination. Every time I am down and feel like giving up, I will recall her fights to bring me to life and that will take me back to my feet. My mother, my Iron Lady.


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