I came home a few weekends ago to the uneven battering of drums as 15-20 of the neighbourhood kids occupied the street dancing and playing music. The streets were a buzz and I couldn’t figure out why. The excitement had been building over the last few days and I really thought it was just kids being kids. As I came out of my house on Sunday though, the kids were dancing and parading around, and Mariam my neighbour was flitting around doing “preparations.” It turns out that her youngest daughter Deeja had organized a marriage – complete with dancing, a beautiful little dress she borrowed from her friend, and high heels she stole off her older sister Adja. The kids were all wearing their best Malian outfits and her younger brother Kalifa was sporting his best little suit coat.
Deeja was so excited about her neighbourhood marriage that she woke up at 6:00 am on Sunday and snuck out of the house to her friend’s house to begin getting ready – she came back to the house an hour or so later fully ready to get married. But there was one problem – her future husband had gotten in trouble with his mom and was banned from leaving the house. That didn’t phase Deeja she was going to be the bell of the ball with or without her new man. Little did we know that her “husband” waited until his mom left for the market and they got married “illegally” – a true forbidden romance.
Sometimes the context that my little Malian friends are growing up in is hard to relate to. Their limit on access to toys, and much more independent growing up experience, and the language barriers means that while I love watching them play but I often don’t get what is going on. Watching Deeja organize her little marriage made me think of the neighbourhood or playground weddings I attended as a kid, and my best friend’s story of getting married to a boy in her school where her marriage was complete with a parade float.
Kids are kids are kids the world over – and for yet another moment in time I was reminded how truly similar humans really are.