When times are good and there is plenty we are less inclined to appreciate the kindness and sacrifices of others so my strongest memories of my mother's love are from the times of scarcity because I was keenly aware of what was lacking and what my mother had to do to try and meet her children's needs.
The Idi Amin years stand out because the change in the quality of life for many middle class families was dramatic. Salaried workers who had lived comfortably from one month to the next and even managed to save for their future found themselves unable to meet their family needs. My father who worked for government departments and had risen through the ranks to become a Chief Accountant turned his Peugeot Salon vehicle into a taxi after hours to make extra money. Housewives who had never had to work because their husband's income covered all their needs had to find work to keep food on the family table.
My mother became a tailor. In the past she sewed clothes for us because she could but now she went to a tailoring school to learn how to design and sew the latest fashions so she could make garments for sale to make the extra cash needed to raise six children in hard times. She had a pedal powered Singer sewing machine and after she measured and cut the cloth that her client had chosen for a dress; she spent many hours bent over that sewing machine pedaling away well into the night so that she could complete it in time and get paid. She taught me how to sew in simple stitches so I could help with the delicate hems on chiffon dresses or add buttons and hooks to nylon blouses. So after school, I joined a couple of assistants who doubled as the house help to sew clothes with my mother. I especially liked helping with cute little girls dresses with matching pants that had to be fitted with elastic to hold the diapers in place.
When she had enough money, mother bought a new electric powered Bernina sewing machine so her tired legs took a break from pedaling and a younger seamstress took over the pedaling. With two sewing machines she could make more garments faster and soon there was a second Bernina. From this little tailoring team working in a bedroom at home, grew the store which was known as Mugisha Cottage Industry. That store, which would later find a home on Luwum Street paid for our college fees and while many families scrambled for scholarships for their kids to go abroad, my parents paid for us to study at the best colleges in London out of pocket.
At 50 I know that if my mother had not been successful at tailoring she would have taken up baking, cleaning or any other work to ensure that her children were provided for.
- Happy Mother's Day!