SHE-LOGY: Celebrating the strong women in our family circles.
Written by the blogger behind it’ssofa’i. I couldn’t express enough how much I love her heartfelt and personal post. Thank you, Mrs Lowe, for sharing the wonderful Polynesian women in your family. I’m truly honored to feature them here.
They are not athletes or famous women, but these are strong powerful Polynesian women who have influenced me.
Aunty Sou – She is the oldest of my dad’s siblings. This aunty was well known for her fofo (massage) with red tea leaves. Whenever someone got sick, Aunty Sou and her red tea leaves were summoned. No matter how tired she was, she quickly responded to the call by walking to where the sick was waiting. She never asked for money or any reward for it; her desire was to use her talent to relieve sufferings. And relief did come to those who were afflicted; smiles and health returned. Aunty Sou took me to Apia, the capital of Samoa located on another island. She took me there so I could sit a New Zealand school entrance exam. We got on the 6am ferry and rode for an hour, got off, and caught a bus to the city and then another bus to the testing center. She bought me pagikeke lapokopoko (small round pancake balls; look like Japanese andagi) and a big bottle of Mountain Dew for breakfast. I thought I was in heaven! Soda was a luxury because we couldn’t afford it, but Aunty Sou bought me one to drink all by myself. By the way, she didn’t have any. She said it was for me so I could fill my tummy before the test. I had no idea back then this drink was filled with caffeine. When I left to take the test, Aunty Sou said, “Ia alu lea laa kakalo ma kapua’i aku. Ia maguia ou faiva” (Go. I will wait and pray. May your test be successful.) In the absence of my mother and father, Aunty Sou’s words filled me with confidence and comfort. I felt I could conquer my fear of test taking. When I went in, she sat under a tree in the heat of the day waiting for my return for no one was allowed inside the building.
This big little contribution of Aunty Sou in my life is a reminder of the goodness of humanity inside family circles. Her service has taught me that love can make someone feels a million bucks. I did feel important and that taught me to DO small kinds acts of love to help others. I learned that it does take a village of selfless women to raise strong women.
Aunty Leaauta (Auta) – She is my favorite aunty and the second oldest of my dad’s siblings. For this, I gave my youngest daughter the name “Leaauta”. This aunty is well known for her faith in God and scripture study. She remembers where every scripture verse is located in the sacred books. She studies the scriptures every single day, all day. She lives her religion. She inspires me to live what I learn. Knowing without doing is vain.
As a teen, I visited my aunty a few times during my school vacations. My dad sent me there to do work for her in order to get money to pay for my tuition. My dad always felt relieved when his sister sent me back with my tuition. It was one less heavy burden taken off his shoulders and he grew a few feet happy. In Western Samoa, public education is not free; we pay tuition every quarter and if we don’t, we are kicked out until the fee is paid. We also wear uniform, which is another huge financial cost. I think it is a wonderful way to teach ownership of one’s education. Poor or rich, we pay tuition and these fees motivated me to do well knowing that this tuition was not without sacrifice.
Aunty Leaauta was an excellent example of being prepared. She had food storage; she still does today! Members of her family that came to see her for financial help not only left with what they came for, but always with a sack of items such as cans of mackerel, corned beef, rice, sugar, and flour from her reserve. She didn’t have to do any of that, but she understood the scriptures she studied and therefore lived it. She knew no beggar should leave empty handed. She lived by the scriptures to take care of the poor and the needy. She truly became the “Joseph” to her siblings.
She understands love! She knows how to succor the poor and needy. She lives by the scriptures. Her help had allowed me to move on in my education so I may help my siblings and others. It’s called paying it forward! Oh the grace of the Lord through family members to lift each other and relieve heavy burdens. This is love – love that is kind, love that is patient, love that does not seek her own, and love that is long-suffering. This love inspires, encourages, motivates, heals, and continues to give. This love moves me to give to others just as my Aunty Leaauta showed love to me.
Like my father, mama too had to live poor. The lack of education did not make her a candidate for jobs. She worked along side my dad and all of us working the land, planting and harvesting crops. She raised pigs, chickens, and cows and still does today. My mama was mostly a silent partner. I never once heard her give advice/counsel during my father’s reign as our family leader. She would roll her eyes when the lectures went too long, but dad never changed a thing. But mama was strong – feminine strong!! She bore 10 children and adopted two more! She stayed home to weave ietoga, tasi ae afe (fine mats) to contribute to funerals and weddings in the family and village, a cultural practice that continues today.
Mama was my first poetry teacher. One day I came home with an assignment to write a rhyming poem, and I struggled with it. Mama stayed up with me long into the night so I could figure this thing out. I think I made many drafts, erased, and did it again falling asleep along the way with mama telling to stay up and finish it. In our little hut around our molifagu (bottle lamp – kerosene in a glass beer bottle with a strip of towel inserted as a wick), we were on our bellies writing this poem. I turned it in with pride the next day. A couple of days later, my teacher, Ms. Pua called me to her desk. She handed me a rolled up white chart paper, told me to hang it on the wall, and teach it to the class. I opened it up, hung it on the wall, and was so surprised. MY POEM! The teacher liked it so much that she copied it on the chart paper and the class had to memorize it! I went home and shared the surprise with my mom. She grinned and said, Ua la (see, good for you).
Mama made sure she was home when we returned from school. No matter where she was during the day, she was home before school was out. I can’t tell you how happy and awesome it was to come home to see the face of my mother. I don’t know why that was, but it was such a comfort and confident feeling to come home to my mother at the end of the school day.
Mama, academically uneducated has schooled me much more. Her enduring nature tells me to stay with difficulties doing the right things even when it is hard to do. Her simple and small ways have taught me that everyone has goodness and can influence so many for good. That no matter how little we know, we can still make a huge difference. I am here as a result of those small ways and tender mercies of my mother, which will affect so many generations to come.
SHE-LOGY is a blog project open to everyone who is interested to celebrate women this whole month of March. If you’re reading this, I extend that invitation to you to contribute post/s about the women you’d like to honor. You can email me firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for reading this.