Joy and sorrow.
Birth and death.
“The common lot of mankind”. Old Will would have said.
Only a few months ago I wrote the story of a ceremony I’d witnessed as a child in Africa: the presentation to Society of the Colonel’s son. In the immediate years after Independence, the Colonel (whom I named Boubakar) and his wife (I called Asmatou) were great friends of my parents. The ceremony followed old African customs to the letter, including whispering the little boy’s name in both his ears before saying it out loud. I hadn’t heard the little boy’s name. Or I’d forgotten. I was just a child myself and all those events took place half a century ago. If you haven’t read “The Colonel’s gardens”, click on the link below, lest you… don’t catch what follows. 🙂
Refreshed your memory? Good. Now sit back and read carefully. Mid July in Paris. While struggling with other issues, I was browsing through my mails on my phone. One caught my eye. A comment on WordPress:
“K. Diaby (The little boy’s sister) Has commented…”
I thought: No way. Diaby? That was the Colonel’s name. Though a not uncommon name in West Africa. “The little boy’s sister”? Impossible. I kept on reading:
“The story about colonel Bubacar and his baby boy has reached home. Asmatou and the baby boy are well and living in Dakar Senegal. Thanks for remembering.”
Before I could… get over my surprise, I realized there was another comment, from a new “follower” (“sharer” is the word I prefer as you may know), a gentleman called Lamine Diaby:
“Dear Sir, I trust you will very soon understand how much your story has touched me. I’m the then baby boy who never knew his father and who’s missed all his life this father figure who’s always been praised by whomever mentioned his name. My mother Aïssatou (Asmatou) became a doctor and never remarried, she just turned 80, three days after I turned 50 last month. She retired in Dakar in 1999 after a career with WHO. Thank you for sharing these memories that I can only imagine. Kind regards.”
I now know the little boy’s name, Lamine, and his sister’s. Both are alive and well, probably have children of their own, and their mother, my mother’s friend, is alive and well after a long career at one of the greatest organizations in the world: World Health Organization.
The story took 50 years to come round. About a little baby in Africa. Written in English in Mexico, and posted through billions of posts. I have virtually no contacts left in Africa except for a handful of friends, but the story of the Colonel’s gardens has come home and it is incredible.
The Colonel’s gardens, Conakry, Guinea, West Africa. Mid sixties.