Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Surrogate Mothers

While I am in still in that nostalgic craze about my time spent in Africa in the 1960’s; I thought that I should write this story.

There was an older lady (in her early 50’s – we were all in our early 20’s) that many of us GI’s from Kagnew Station knew intimately. We called her Mama Kathy or Mama K. I am not too sure if that was her real name. But we all called her Mama out of deference.

Mama K had a cheese and wine shop bordering on the street in the front yard of her house; it was more like a kiosk. She sold Italian cheeses, sausages, fruit and wine. For about $2 you could get a plate of food for lunch with a glass of wine.

As a youth I ate a lot of different types of cheese, primarily Wisconsin cheese. But none of those compared to the Italian cheeses that Mama would serve. Hard cheese, soft cheese, goat and sheep milk cheeses that were served with spicy sausage, fruit and a glass of cheap red wine (Barbera). It was an epicurean’s delight. I became a regular patron.

Mama K and I had many conversations over lunch and coffee.

When Mama K was much younger, she was a Padrona (the word she used) to an Officer in the Italian Army that was stationed in Asmara. In 1941 he was sent back to Italy and she accompanied him as his mistress (I’m not sure if he was married or ever had a wife).

The Italian Officer was killed in battle and in the early 1940’s Mama returned to Asmara. She was pregnant and wanted her child to be born in her native country. She had a son. Several years later, through an affair with a local Asmara businessman (also Italian), she had a daughter.

Her son managed a local Italian owned Night Club, famous for its European performing acts; including dancers, singers and acrobats. He didn’t like us Americans being in the club nor did he like us visiting with his mother. He was well known for shooting at cars driven by US Servicemen near his mother’s house and the kiosk. Therefore this place of business was Off Limits to military personnel. I visited regardless.

The daughter was a couple years younger than me. She was sent off to college, by Mama, to Pennsylvania in 1967. I often wonder if she returned to Eritrea or stayed here in the States. I had met her one time when she was working in the cheese and wine shop; she was cute.

I have always wanted to get more details about Mama’s life. A few people that were stationed at Kagnew Station in the mid 1950’s have written (to me) about her, but they called her “Miss K”. She was a legend and a wonderful person to know and to be acquainted with.

The Beach Bum

A post script note: (Mr. Richard Feder – Please note that I have intentionally ended another sentence with the preposition with).

Bad habits last forever – good habits die too soon.

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Blogger Loopy said...

During one of my many "conversations" with Mama K,
she told that her given name was Katrina. This was how I always addressed her on subsequent and frequent "meetings".

Tue May 12, 07:19:00 PM  
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