You were not the only, but for me, you were definitely the best. I was too young to remember the first time we met, but I certainly remember how you made me feel, growing up in your care and that of all else we lived with. Before you, there was Mam, who took care of Amie and I very well and we got so attached to her. When she left, there was probably one other person before you. Of the three I remember very well, you were my favourite and I hold precious memories of you.
Every morning, you would wake up as early as my mother, to get us ready for school. Sometimes, you still looked tired and sleepy,but you never complained as you made us breakfast and sat with us to eat. Some days, we would get mad at you for eating the stuffing in our bread and leaving us with the light crust. This would only last until the driver sounded his horn, announcing his arrival. We’d wave you goodbye and hurry off to school, leaving you to your work. In the evenings,we would come back and find you had already finished with your tasks, only waiting to give us a bath before taking one yourself. You’d listen as we fed you with news of how our day had gone and separate us when we got into our usual fights. When Saturdays came, we would be sad to see you leave. We’d gotten so attached to you and could never wait for Mondays, when you’d walk in with your bag, ready for another week of serving us.
Eventually, you became a part of our family and would hardly go home to yours. Some evenings, we would walk with you to visit your aunt and cousins, who’d jokingly accuse us of stealing you away from them. Our small mouths would respond that we loved you more and would never let you go back. Back home, few people knew that we were not blood relations. Most of the girls… my cousins and I… were tall, dark and skinny, just like you. I grew tall faster than usual (blame the genes) and by the time I turned twelve, I was already the same height as the oldest girls. This gave me liberty to hang around you and even follow you to your boyfriends’ houses. You stayed for many years and would only leave us during the summer, when you had to go back to your home village for the farming season. Those were tough times for us, as the replacements you brought in never really filled your shoes.
You worked for my mother and you got paid, but no one can ever pay you enough for all you’ve done. You were the only one who would give in to our many demands, even if it meant multi-tasking. Amie and I had weird food demands and would usually persist until they were met. Our neighbours recognised our daily calls of ‘Sarjo, kai defaral ma tea’, even when the sun was at its hottest and cold drinks would be the ideal choice for people. We loved the delicious ruye (coos porridge) Ya Marie sold each morning, and you’d always buy enough to last us for the day. Sometimes you’d join us in eating it cold, after hours of sitting in the fridge. I guess my excess intake of these two foods at that age has led to my sudden dislike of hot beverages and the usual ruye with milk. On weekends, I’d sit close with a book, while you washed our clothes. I’d force you to listen while I read and explained the stories to you. I’d bring in bits of paper from the street and read everything to you. I still remember you telling me ‘Jama, if you don’t stop picking printed paper from the streets, you’ll end up reading something from a genie and go mad‘. I was scared, of course, but that lasted only a short while before I resumed my habit. When I was old enough to wash my clothes, I’d sit by you and watch as you dug into the basin filled with soap-suds, handling your task like an expert. You spent weeks teaching me to do it like you and produce that ‘petch petch’ sound while sending sprinkles of water all around us. This, and a lot more, I learnt from you.
As fate would have it, you would find love and leave to be united with your sweetheart. We cried and begged you to stay, for we were losing a sister and a friend. While we sulked, my mother prepared her ‘ebb‘, making sure to send you away like she would have done with Amie and me. You promised that you would stay on, but packed and left when we were in school. We were obviously heartbroken when we came back and you weren’t there to welcome us. Days turned to weeks and then months and we eventually got used to the fact that you were not coming back. Others came after you, but none really gave us the same feeling you did. Needless to say, they didn’t stay long and my mother ended up letting go completely. We were now old enough to handle the chores and did them just like you’d taught us. A few years later, you came back to visit with your son. It was the greatest feeling, but too much time had gone past. You had grown old too and had lost that glow in your face, but I dared not ask why. We enjoyed the few days you spent with us and bid you farewell again.
Sarjo, you spent almost ten years with us and we never really said thank you for your services. You did them with joy, and would never complain, even when we were a pain in the neck. You taught us to share, even when we had so little. From you, we learnt the importance of respecting others, no matter their place on Earth. You were God-sent and we will forever treasure the great lessons from you. Wherever you are today, I hope you have found joy in your family and are reaping the benefits of your toil. To us, you were not just a maid. You were a friend and a sister and we shall treasure your memories forever.