What Makes Marriages & Families Endure?

Ten thousand miles away in a remote village in Lundazi rural district of Zambia in a grass-roofed house, the cell phone rang a couple of times. The distinct voice of my younger brother said: “Here is Adada.” I said hello in my mother Tumbuka  African tongue. When Dad responded, I needed not shout as his voice was as clear as though he was calling from my neighbor’s house. After exchanging a few words, I asked to talk to my mother. Dad said she was busy in the kitchen cooking one of her delicious meals for supper. I forgot it was noon Eastern American time but about 6:00pm in Zambia. I asked that she come to the  phone. Her unmistakable sweet voice said she was cooking my favorite traditional zumba or chekwechekwe delele vegetable cooked with fresh peanut powder. I asked if she could send me some. She paused and  laughed. It might get bad before it got there in America she said. We laughed.

The phone call was over and I was floating in the stratosphere feeling high on cloud nine with sheer joy all afternoon. Although hearing their voices lasted perhaps about 2 minutes, the new just installed cell phone tower 4 miles away from the village made it all so much easier. All afternoon I began to contemplate the sheer mystery of such wonderful lives of my dad who is 89 and my mother who is 85. I will marvel forever where they got the strength and endurance to be married for 67 years raising nine children and now in the twilight of their blessed lives glowing in the collective love of numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.

After the struggle of raising my own few children and the monumental problems that seem to explode into divorce today when couples may have at the most two children, what did it take in those past generations to raise nine children with grace, resilience and joy which is difficult to see anywhere to day?

I am certain my parents faced monumental challenges in their marriage; 2 siblings died, there were intractable difficulties in providing food and educating all the children. There were serious illnesses. My parents probably didn’t have that sparkling romantic love for each all the time. They were not rich. But they sure adored each other.  But what kept them together such that they could raise nine children and have their children be descent human beings?

The answers are not in our present women’s liberation Betty Friedan “Feminine Mystique” based  rational thought that says if you and your spouse love each other and each bring closely monitored  50% to the relationship, then you can be married and raise children until death do us part. These may not be enough as shown by high rates of divorce of 50% for first marriages, 67% for second and 74%  for third marriages in the “me” centered marriages  to day.

The best analogy I could find that may best help us understand how marriages and families may endure is to think of both of them sharing the same swimming pool. When the two say their vows they jump into the pool and begin the life long process of swimming continuously to stay afloat alive. Expressing love and sacrifice means, when one is in danger of drowning the other has to help. As the children are born and growing the parents together  have to help keep the children’s heads above water. Sometimes as the parents  go through the ups and downs of the ferocious waves of life, they may swim and drift apart but they are always in sight of each other ready to help or just make sure the other is alright. It is that crucial sense of deep love for each other and the unflinching parental collective sacrifice for everyone in the family that makes it possible for marriages to endure and for parents to raise children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. This brings unspeakable joy to all the people in the entire family. I felt that joy from talking to my parents who were ten thousand miles away.

This article was also published in the Forum of The Daily News-Record Newspaper on September 14, 2013

September 17, 2013 — by  Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D.

So Many Ways to Express Romantic Love

My Entrancing: So Many Ways to Express Romantic Love

My entrancing,

Your letter was truly splendid. Your phantasmagoric interpretation of our panomic culture was most enlightening.

Your symbology provoked me to regard your conceptual lucidity and articulation when concretizing the abstract as overwhelmingly erudite.

I stand in profound indebtedness for having been a participant in your incomparable evaluations of the philoprogenitive and autogenenitive appraisals of our civilization.

However, I did receive a passé and chauvinistic interpolation of the quixotic machination existent in the female species and would here to fore, suggest that when promulgating on esoteric cogitation, beware of platitudinous ponderosities. During a pending war, where silent armies intend to clash by night, a cacophonous and catastrophic clime predominates man’s inhumanity to man becomes appalling. When hordes of marauding barbarians threaten to spread their havoc and destruction there is a universal catharsis of misery. One must question the traditional mores ilubued in us at birth in such disastrous time. You know, all kidding aside, I love you.

I am sorry we have no memories to share then we would recall those memories and our letters would not remind us but bring us together.

To one of your inimitable perspicacity, the degradations, debasements and deprivations of war would be a horrendous imposition.

Your loving

Name (Anonymous)

Except from: Mwizenge Tembo, Titbits for the Curious, Lusaka: Multimedia Publications, 1989, p. 33-34

Memories of a Lover

Kamthibi and Trish were in Williamsburg that memorable weekend of the Fall in October. They parked their red convertible car on the lovely Winery Grounds surrounded by acres of grape plants.  Holding hands, they excitedly floated into the Italian festival grounds. There was plenty of wine, colorful art, crafts, drinks, bread, sausages, a thousand aromas from open Bar-B-Queue grills, loud voices, laughter, then the music under the huge tent.

The woman who had satiated Kamthibi’s life-long romantic dreams for the first time in fifty years was with him. It was a magical experience. When they finally sat under the huge tent to listen to the band, that’s when it happened.

The music, like an incendiary device, tagged at the chords of the romantic feelings that enveloped them. His soul yearned for the bygone mysterious distant past that is shrouded in a mist of desires and memories that make the heart ache with infinite sadness and joy. He  realized then why people sometimes fall to their knees and choose to die for romantic love. There was an instrument in the band that continuously slashed open his deep romantic feelings and desires that could only be consummated in the aura of his lover’s sacred presence, laughter, and teary smiles.  Trish  helplessly wiped her eyes as he squeezed her.

The area in the tent around them glowed, as it was pregnant with the electricity of deep emotion. Men and women were drawn to them.  The experience has been etched in the deep crevices of Kamthibi’s memory forever. Kamthibi wanted to see the Tarantella Band again. He couldn’t tell whether he would be disappointed when he saw them again. He was going to break a very important rule of life that he learnt many years ago: never try to recreate anything good that you experienced spontaneously once. The second time will never be the same.


The unpublished except from the manuscript of the Romance-Adventure novel: The Bridge by Mwizenge Tembo published in 2005.

Ways to Express Love in the Family

If you live in the Western world, you have seen many Hollywood romantic movies and read romantic novels, you probably believe one thing: the best way to express love and romantic feelings is through flowers, kisses, and especially a romantic dinner by candle light. You might also believe that love and romance may not exist in other non-Western cultures. After all, aren’t marriages in these non-Western cultures miserable and practically between strangers since they are arranged? Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only do single young men and women have choices, romantic love often blooms. The only exception might be that the romantic love starts and is expressed differently from the West.

In the Western society love in the context of the family is expressed in form of verbal gestures such as “I love you son,” or hugs, kisses and presents. Parental and family love are also expressed differently in many non-Western cultures. For example, among the Tumbuka people of Eastern Zambia in Southern Africa, parents and siblings rarely show affection by hugging, kissing, or loud statements of: “I love you”. But their love is often as deep as ever. Romantic love in the West is cherished and publicly celebrated.

The type of enduring love that the Tumbuka truly cherish though is the one between couples and their children within marriage and the family. Many years ago I was having a conversation with a woman acquintance and we were swapping stories about our childhood family experiences. Both of us were in our thirties at the time and she was just getting over a divorce. I told her how pleasant and warm my memories were of my family. But she said her memories were of sheer hell since all she recalled were the constant fights between her parents and threats by both that they would leave. They eventually divorced. She said she was insecure and has always had anxiety in her life. A bell rung in my head at the time. It occurred to me then that my parents created such a loving environment by example. Since I did not want to rub it in, I did not share with her what I am going to tell you.

My parents are peasants in a village in Zambia who raised nine kids with my father’s elementary teacher’s pittance of a pay and my mother working hard on the land to provide and supplement meals every day. Everyone chipped in the chores of the house. Some of the best times were during evening meals. Sometimes we would eat meals by a flickering yellow light of the hurricane kerosene lamp or in the summer by the bright moonlight outside. We would have sweet conversation and laughter after the meals before we went to bed.

When my mom and dad had their conversation, it was always in low gentle tones as they caught up on each other’s day. Sometimes they would tease each other and laugh and would feign asking each one of the kids to take their sides. My mother is the most humorous person I know. We kids were often amused and used to hearing loud laughter from our parents’ bedroom.

My parents had their fights and disagreements of course. But they were never the “mother” of all fights that degenerated into loud threats that either one was going to leave or those contemptuous remarks meant to hurt and demean the other especially in front of the children. They always respected each other. Over the years, three siblings died. My mother always said wistfully that we could have been twelve kids. Once in a long while, we will talk about the deceased siblings as if they were alive just yesterday. My parents provided the love, stability and warmth that every child should have and take for granted; that is to know that just as the sun surely rises and sets every day, your parents are going to be always there every day and forever to protect, nurture, and feed you. What my parents gave us nine kids is not just the biological gift of  life but the icing on the cake is the ability to truly enjoy life and experience joy in the truest sense of the word.