Her red-dyed afro covered my view. Mouth opened, unleashing waves of power, passion, and harmony. She belts out note after note with her shoulders back and head held high. A sugary soprano who consumes me with pride. She knew who she was and so did everyone else.
All I knew was her hands. Hands with palm lines that would wrap around me like a ball of yarn. I traced them as they knitted themselves in a warm sweater. One I would pull over myself for comfort. Her fingers tightly pinched my cheeks until they ached. These fingers would prod me and pinch my cheeks. Soft palms that would end up massaging my aching muscles after a long school day. These were Bubu’s* hands.
Bubu was known for more than just her hands. She was known for her mind. A mind whose intelligence would not be held down by barriers to equality or the hardships in her life. Her mind helped her to survive being the second of five children without the presence of her parents. Her mind paved the way for other women to pursue their dreams.
When Bubu first discovered education. She treasured it. Bubu held tight to teaching like a priceless jewel. No matter how many times thieves would try to steal this jewel, she continued to protect it. This precious jewel is often polished day and night. With each school year this jewel would increase in worth. Cut more precisely than the last. Until one day it shone bright for the universe to marvel at. That day she became the first woman in Fiji to graduate with a bachelor's degree in science. Bubu was the nation's hero.
This was what everyone knew. Through stories and crisp newspaper clippings. Whispers as she enters a room. But all I knew were her hands. They guided the way for me and many other young girls. Tenderly added a band-aid to my scraped knees whenever I pushed myself too hard. It did not matter who Bubu was to the world, to me she was a pair of warm arms.
Bubu would never use her achievements to belittle others but only to inspire them. In a world filled with obstacles, she would thrive. Turning walls into ladders, restrictions into opportunities, and creating an environment for us all to thrive. From her crowning afro to her twinkling eyes and deep mind, as well as her strong unwavering arms, Bubu will always remain my hero.
Fijian for grandmother