I remember clearly, standing by the fallen branch of the tamaligi, waiting my turn patiently, to hop on and join the fun. The morning was still new, hibiscus flowers were still half asleep, not yet ravaged by the tropical heat.
Makagaga was at the highest branch, swinging happily, singing even when Vasa, the rascal boy from Fusi ran towards us and shook it so hard that it threw the preschoolers onto the soft wet grass.
"Aikae!" and several other insults where cautiously thrown at Vasa, in slightly hushed tones away from the teacher's attentive ears.
Phew - thankfully, she was busy smoking and talking across the fence at Kilipa. Apparently, the bus driver on the Aiaiava got yet another Year 13 girl pregnant. Blasphemous! Whore! Daughter of a peacher whore, she puffed with disdain.
In the midst of the branch onslaught, a wee voice cried out. High pitched. Distressed.
Emergency! Makagaga is crying!
Fear spreads across the school yard.
We run as far away from Makagaga as we could, knowing full well the wrath of her mother.
Surely enough, at interval, all of her scary self came storming up the dirt path in her clothes that were still damp from digging pipis in the lagoon.
"Faakali mai oe e!"
She pulled Vasa by the ear and whacked him with her shoe. Hard. Bam!
Because Nobody, and I mean, nobody touches Makagaga.
The violator gets a hiding every time.
In front of the teachers.
Today, we are reminded this very loudly, "I will tear your mouth if you touch my daughter again, ua maua mai,? Sasae lou guku!"
Vasa cries, Makagaga cries and we cower towards the mat in the classroom, scared and trying hard not to be looked at.
Scared of this evil mother.
The teacher walked over to Makagaga's mother and told her loudly "Makuai leai a se faiai o kama ia, makuai sasa lava" (That kid (Vasa) has absolutely no brain, beat him hard).
After he is beaten, the angry mother cuddles her Makagaga to her heart and they walk down the dirt path, to their evil house by the breadfruit tree.
Evil breadfruit tree.
Vasa was angry the rest of the day, and he sulked. Sr Laso got angry then.
Vasa got angrier too and yelled out "Kefe!"
Sr Laso whacked him with her shoe, and despite her small frame, lifted Vasa by the arm and leg.
Like a pig about to be rubbed on umu rocks, and then, in almost slow motion, she tossed him outside.
Vasa's mother did not come to save her son. She does not live here. He lives with his step mother across the road, in her shiny house, where she applies her bright red lipstick daily and chews bubblegum all day.
Vasa is the least of her worries. When she found out he was beaten up again, she asked calmly
"Eh, A'o lea foi lau mea ga fai ua fasi ai oe?"
(Eh, But what did you do to deserve that beating?).
Then she proceeded to beat him too. Until her eye shadow ran and her lipstick faded.
Because that's what a loving mother does, beat her child until he behaves.
This little fagogo is not a fagogo at all. It is a true sad story. Something I plucked out of my memory from a morning long long ago. Of a child that was considered a bad child. Nothing he did was ever good enough. Even we, his classmates thought this, Vasa is a bad kid because he swore at the kaupousa (nun) and he is ulavale. That is what we were told to believe. How very very sad.
Now that I have children of my own, what I have learnt as a Samoan growing up, guides, moulds but also repels me. I do not want to be the angry violent mother than cottonwools her child when she falls off a branch. Nor do I was to be the nonchalant careless mother who believes others and punishes her son because someone said he did this and that.
I am trying to be the mother that communicates and cares for my offsprings, show them the way and talk to others if they are playing up.
Violence is not culture. Violence is not the answer. And it never will be.