“I’ll admit I have to rely on my elders for anything related to lingala. My memories are limited to what would have attracted a 2-3 yr old boy in Léo – Rick bringing a croc in the back of his pick-up, the toys I got for Saint Nicolas, etc.”
Maurice was working at the family run rock quarry, a setup similar to an open-pit iron ore mine here in Canada. The quarry was on Mimosa Island in Kinsuka and linked to the mainland by a bridge. Many of the 100 to 110 men working at the quarry would bathe in the mighty Congo river after work and many fishermen would throw their net there too. The safest place was upstream of the bridge between the island and the mainland where the water would come to their knees by the end of the dry season and very deep by the end of the rainy season. Spotting a crocodile in that area happened once in a while, hence the request to have them killed three to four times a year.
A crocodile was also referred to as croc or a croco. Rick was one of Maurice’s brothers who worked there too and was asked to kill a gandu (crocodile in Lingala) when Maurice was not around.
One Saturday afternoon, I arrived as fishermen were ready to take home a young crocodile that Monsieur Maurice had killed at their request… and Maurice decided to show the croco to my mother with the intent to soften her at the idea that he would marry me.
Take note that my mother, who hated her first name, had me at 19 and was very annoyed that a man 10 years younger than her would call her mother.
That is fine, maman, was my reply, he will call you Georgina. This did not go over very well….
That Saturday afternoon, no matter what I said, Maurice wanted to show off a crocodile to my mother. The fishermen loaded the crocodile in the trunk of my father’s car, a full size four-door Ford with the promise to return it to them. It was 1956. In those days, the car trunks were huge and the three meter plus young crocodile fitted perfectly in the trunk when curled up. I remember looking at the ugly head, with one tooth on each side of the mouth sticking out the upper lip through what looked like a perfect button hole.
When we arrived at my parent’s place, Maurice all excited ran into the house, calling my mother by her married name, explaining he had something special to show her. She came out and went to the open car trunk, wondering what was going on, and when she saw the crocodile, all hell broke loose.
A crocodile, in our car, how dare. What was Maurice thinking he had the right to do so, and on and on. Mother was so angry at Maurice that he could not get into her house for two weeks and after that, Mother always looked at him sideways, with great suspicions, wondering what he would to next.
I was so in love I did not realize a set pattern: When I said no, Maurice thought yes, and when I said yes, Maurice thought no. Lately, with winter upon us, it was time to start the living room humidifier and Maurice asked me if he should clean it. I said no since he cleaned it thoroughly last winter. Did you guess? Yes, he cleaned it.