It's been 27 years since my last conversation with my mother. Like many girls born in rural Uganda in the late 1950s, she did not finish school before she was married off. She often told me, "I never got my degree but one day, my little man, you will."
She instilled in me the value of the education she was not able to complete. Holding my small hand, she guided my right forefinger as she taught me how to scribble my ABCs in the dust. She taught me English by pointing to a tree, hut or cow and asking me to repeat their English names after her. She then translated the same words into our mother tongue of Runyankole. When I was frustrated, I'd ask, "Mama, why do I have to learn these foreign phrases?"
As if foretelling the future, she held her pen right before my eyes. "Here is your pen, hold it firmly, for it and this new foreign language will be your compass to navigate this world."
My mother died of breast cancer when I turned 6.