Saturday, May 24, 2014

Embrace Your Inner Duck

Zimbabweans gave my grandfather a name when he lived in Zimbabwe—“Iskwabayile”. Assuming I have gotten anywhere near the actual spelling, it means (I think) “He walks like a duck.”

That was way back in the 1920s. When I went to Zimbabwe some 50 years later as a teacher at Matopo Secondary School (the same place my grandparents lived), I met an old woman who had lived there for a long time. She asked me, “What’s your name?” “Daryl Climenhaga.” “Who was your father?” “David Climenhaga.” “Who was your grandfather?” “John Climenhaga.” Then she delivered the coup de grace: “You walk like your grandfather.”

Great! I walk like a duck! Since then I have had various opportunities to embrace my inner duck.
Class Reunion at Messiah College, about 20 years after seeing my classmates. I saw an old friend across the grass as I walked towards the Eisenhower Center. “Daryl!” (Always nice to be remembered.) “I recognized you by the way you walk.” (Great. Embrace your inner duck.)

I have the comfort of knowing that my father bears the same burden. My grandparents had three sons: Arthur, David, and Joel. One day their wives (Grandma Emma, Arlene, Dorcas, and Zoe were standing in front of their house watching their husbands walk down the driveway. They burst out laughing, causing the men to turn around in surprise. “We were just watching four bumps on a log.” So all four of them walked like ducks.

One of our sons recently said that he is trying not to walk like a duck. Good luck! These things are too deeply ingrained from watching our father walk as we learn to walk for us to simply set them aside. Embrace your inner duck!Besides, ducks can be aggressive creatures when they defend their families and take care of each other. Maybe waddling and dancing don’t seem to go together, but then again even ducks can learn to dance!

There’s lots of other attributes from my father and grandfather that I also want to embrace: their commitment to God; their commitment to their spouse; their care for their family (in spite of the problems that our family has known); their love of truth; their love of music and learning; their desire to help make the world around them better. There are the usual culprits of qualities I would like to leave behind, but for the most part I want to embrace my inner duck.


KGMom said...

Here's another take on the name given our grandfather.

After Alvin & Thata Book were killed, Priscilla wrote a long letter to family and friends.
In it she included a part of an email she had received from Edgar Moyo.

Here's what he wrote: that "dear Rev Alvin Book's nickname was 'Ngwalo' - none other. It is a si Ndebele translation for the Book as in the Good Book (Bible) - 'U Mfundis u Ngwalo.'" He continued, "When next you are in Bulawayo you tell them you are of the 'Mfundisi and Nkosikazi Ngwalo.' If they are BIC they will know instantly -- just as the Climenhaga brothers were always telling the story about someone saying these boys are John Climenhaga's sons. Everyone looked confused until Arthur and David would say 'of S'Kwabayile' (he who struts along with extreme confidence) and enlightenment would prevail."

So maybe, rather than the duck connection, it could also mean "he who struts along with extreme confidence."

Then again, maybe Edgar was being kind.

Climenheise said...

I like that interpretation, which I have also heard before. I have also heard it described as the strut of someone who returns to the village after making their fortune in the city.

laurenrebecca said...

Turns out I'm fond of ducks. Actually, my toes are a little webbed so I suppose I fit right in! :)

David Climenhaga said...

From your Father,
My Tonga name was Siampolombo, or Shampolombo or Hampolombo (depending on which part of BuTonga one was from. My Ndebele name was Ngamula. Both I think had a similar meaning. While I'm not exactly sure of the meaning, Daniel Ndlela in Harare in an email a number of years ago very kindly said it had to do with ones bearing with authority. Another name for your Uncle Arthur was Ndlondlo. I think, though I'm not sure, it is the word for a Boemslang, a very poisonous snake.

Climenheise said...

I'm glad you like ducks, Lauren, since it seems you married someone with his own inner duck!