The marriage of Mom, Massa Samuka Sheriff, to Dad, Mohammed Vamunya Nyei, was, in many ways, complementary. It brought together two individuals from different family stature united in begetting and raising outstanding children, most of whom were not their own. Dad descended from a bookish and intellectual family. Mon, on the other hand, came from a middle-class family. Most of her siblings were at least comparatively wealthy. She was a businesswoman why Dad was a teacher, lecturer, farmer, and Imam. Dad was quiet and a bookworm, Mon was an outspoken critic against unethical behaviors. What both families acceded to on the onset of their marriage was the abiding faith in God, performing the daily prayers, and living an Islamic lifestyle. Both families were well respected and borne specific characteristics of note. Our neighbors and those who knew our Dad or the Nyei-Fofana families throughout Bomi County, Cape Mount County, Gbapolu County, Lofa County, and Sierra Leone, and Gallina’s territory areas, respectfully dubbed us Karmoh children, meaning the children of the Iman.
The communities also believed that the Sheriff and Fofana or Nyei families have lineage to Prophet Mohammed and Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, one of the earliest disciples of Prophet Mohammed, respectively. They hold the two families in high esteem and revered them both privately and publicly.
Every girl child born in the Nyei family, for instance, holds the given name, Bona, which means, in the Mandingo dialect, sequestered at home or in the house. In other words, any sign of indecorum or failure to conform to religious obligation or etiquette was never tolerated, including marriage before sex, and that kind of thing, disobeying parents, lying, fornicating, stealing, and using obscene language at home.
Mom and Dad lived an exemplary life. I met Dad and mom argue one time in my entire life. When I entered the house where they were arguing, both immediately stopped talking and asked me to leave. I didn’t know what they were talking about or whether they resumed what they were discussing or not.
It was easy for Mother to fit into the Nyei-Fofana household. She stood firmly by her man and quickly became a trusted partner and effective rule enforcer. She set high standards for her children and then demanded them total obedience to the rules. Sometimes Mon and Dad would punish me separately for the same infraction. She was tough and uncompromising. They spared no rod, least we became spoiled. What I hated the most then was not only the punishment but the way Mom talked about it over and over again. So, I quickly decided to comport myself. Common violations or infractions in our household consisted of not praying with the family, or leaving the compound without permission, or not doing your assignment thoroughly. The punishments included timeouts -confinement for hours, sometimes, reading the Quran, or working on your homework. A little corporal punishment like beating our but was allowed. What our parents forbade was excessive and cruel punishment or any torture.
Despite her stringent policing and a disciplinary regime that they imposed on us, Mom never let us go hungry, unkempt, or untidy. She hated seeing another person feed us. Mom was always there to support me achieve my educational goals. Since she traded in cooking oil and managed a restaurant business, Dad, too, still had something on the table to eat.
When Dad died, Mother’s siblings wanted her to return and retire to her hometown, Samuka Town. After all, we, the children, were all grown up. Mon bigger sister, Ma Fatu, and her sister next to her were already living there. But Mon refused to budge. She was royal and faithful not just to her husband but the legacy she helped to build, along with the rest of the family, with their sweat and tears.
She also loved Samuka Town, and she wanted us to do that as well. I remember her telling me that our real Mon was Ma Fatu Sheriff, her bigger sister and that we should always visit with her. And during the sunset of her life, she made sure we saw Ma Fatu and knew our maternal uncles and aunts. Whenever I was on vacation, she will order me to visit her sister first. I did that over and over again until I understood some of the stories unique to the Sheriff Family.