There was a man called Paul


I started crying as we drove out of Polokwane, just as we turned into the N1 Highway heading to Johannesburg. My tears stung my eyelids and rather than easing, the pain I felt only intensified. The heater was on full blast to ward off the morning chill, as we cautiously drove into the 4am mist.

I hadn’t meant to cry. But once I started, I couldn’t stop. I tried to swallow the sobs, imperceptibly increasing the volume on the car radio and stiffly stared outside my window to conceal my weeping. Then it came. Waves of grief crashing down, an avalanche of memories, a collusion of regrets and a total collapse of composure. I cried so hard, thinking that perhaps crying as hard as I could might, perhaps, bring me relief.

I was heaving, gasping and choking with pain as my alarmed boyfriend turned to ask what was wrong. And his asking made it worse. His asking made the hurt seep deeper because to answer him – I needed to find words and there were no words to share my anguish. So I shook my head. He didn’t ask again until he had slowed down, gotten out of the lane and parked on the side of the road. We were not going anywhere until he got some answers.

I was crying because my uncle was dead. He was dead and he was never coming back and he was never going to know that I was finally going to do that PhD that I told him of all those years ago. I felt stupid to be crying over this. To say to my boyfriend I was crying over an uncle who had died over a year ago. It was so random. I had been ambushed by reminiscence.

*******

I don’t really remember what day it was but I was 14 and watching one of my favorite TV shows when my uncle Graham (now late) came home with a stranger. I remember feeling annoyed because the standard operating procedure when visitors showed up was to excuse the elders by vacating the living room – which meant abandoning the TV as well. I remember greeting the stranger with an ill-concealed sulk on my face and walking off in a huff. Uncle Graham sternly called me back.

“Don’t you know who this is?” he asked. A question I greatly detested whenever presented with a total stranger whom I was expected to know. I said I didn’t know who the stranger was and tried to look ashamed of being ignorant because it occurred to me the stranger was likely a relative. Relatives generally did not like to not be known….

Uncle Graham scolded me (as was the appropriate response in such situations) for professing ignorance of a relative. “But a big girl you, how can you not know our relatives? You must know relatives,” he said before explaining the intricacies of the kinship we shared with this stranger. I couldn’t follow it because it took on the usual confusing litany that most convoluted family trees become when introductions have to be made – he is the what-what of so-and-so’s cousin’s uncle’s granny’s wife’s brother’s niece who is the sister to the wife of the nephew of the great-grandmother from our father’s side…..

That was the first day I met Paul Mambo, the first time I laid eyes on him. Until five years later, when I accompanied a friend to the Chronicle to place an advert. Whilst we waited in that long queue, I remembered that the man my uncle Graham once came home with worked in this building. And I don’t even know how I remembered. But I did.

Bored with standing in the queue, I walked towards the guards who manned the stairs to the newsrooms. “I would like to see Paul Mambo please,” I said, fervently hoping I had got the last name right.

“Do you have an appointment?” asked the guard. I admitted that I didn’t have an appointment and was about to walk off then turned back to say hesitantly “But if you tell him that the daughter of Dazzman Ndou is here, he will want to see me”. I was lying, of course. Because I really had no way of knowing whether or not he would want to see me on account of whose daughter I was – especially since my father was long dead. For all I knew, he wouldn’t even remember who Dazzman was.

I don’t even know why I persisted, even to the point of lying. But I did.

******

‘Khali ihahara nga u khutedzeliwa’ – a pot simmers only when you keep the fire going.

These are the words that got me to the University of Zimbabwe and spurred me on an academic path that has brought me to where I am – here and now. The words of Paul Mambo who made time in his busy schedule to see the daughter of a long-dead and distant relative on some random day in August of 2003.

I had not known then that Paul Mambo was a man of many words – who when given the opportunity to talk – grasped the opportunity with much gusto and exploited it to the fullest. So that day, what should have been an awkward, random and very brief meet-and-greet turned into a life-changing encounter. I had completed my A’Levels and had passed. I had applied to the University of Zimbabwe but had not gotten any response and my friend who had applied at the same time as me had gotten her acceptance letter the week before and left for college.

I assumed that I had not been accepted and was now racking my brain trying to figure out my next move. I had settled for temporary teaching and the plan was to secure a post in a rural school (where living costs would be minimal so I could save up and become self-sufficient). That was the extent of my vision at that point. Get into temporary teaching, earn some money and take care of myself.

It was Paul Mambo who totally dismissed this plan, insisted that I go to the University and make a follow-up on my application in person because ‘khali ihahara nga u khutedzeliwa’ by which he meant, one cannot simply quit but one must show persistence.

More importantly, he evoked the memory of my late father to drive his point home “Your father would have wanted you to go to school, so you must go to school and learn,” he said. I left that building with a changed mindset, fired up and determined where before I had resigned myself to the fate of temporary teaching and drifting with the currents of life.

There was a discussion on my Twitter TL this evening about how there is no career guidance in Zimbabwe and I was reminded of this man whose intervention changed the trajectory of my life. He is gone now and I miss him. I have many stories written about him that I have been meaning to post on my blog. But they are all incomplete. Because I always collapse into tears, the pain and the loss feels so raw.

But I cried my way through this one. Because his story deserves to be told, even if it is only through the telling of my own.

I miss him almost daily. Headlines usually are a trigger – the absurd, the outrageous, the downright insulting – whatever the content, I think of him and of how if he were still alive; I would call him and ask him what he thinks of the events unfolding in our country and the world at large.

Grief is such a weird thing. It hibernates then resurfaces to fell you with such potency and immobilize you with renewed pain.

Whenever I trace how I got here….I start by remembering that there was a man called Paul. He saved me.

May he rest in peace.

Ni awele ngamulalo editor vhanga vha usuvhelela. Mbilu yanga ingasifholi, ndidodzula nditshi nituvhela.

#BeitbridgeMemoirs: Of memories, tears and healing


Last December I went home. Home is Beitbridge. I was received with tears and admonishes for having been gone too long.

I was surprised by the outpouring of emotion, the overwhelming love and mostly, I was surprised that my absence had been so keenly felt.

I will explain the source of my surprise.

familia

I was surprised because I had never quite considered just how much I mattered to my father and my mother’s relatives.

When my parents died, I felt like my value and worth in the family structure had severely diminished. I grieved for my parents as if I were the only one who felt the blow of their passing on.

In fact, I somehow convinced myself that no one else could have been as shattered as I was and I reckoned that if no one else was as shattered as me – it meant their pain was not worth noting.

This was 15 years ago and it has taken me a long time to realize how wrong I was. Grief is a strange thing.

Sometimes it makes us so self-absorbed that we cannot see beyond our agony to acknowledge the pain of others.
I have an inclination towards asserting my individuality such that even in grieving; I sought to individualize the loss and refused to let it be a collective and shared grief.

This past Christmas I took the opportunity to visit my maternal and paternal relatives, some of them had last seen me at my parents’ funerals 15 years ago.

They were very emotional. And they kept talking about my parents. This outpouring of emotion made me aware for the first time of just how much my parents had been loved and cherished by others.

I felt ashamed that I had so disregarded their pain, discounted the depth of their own loss and failed to be a comfort to them even as I’d refused to draw comfort from them.

My maternal uncle’s eyes welled with tears and his voice choked with emotion when he saw me after so many years.

Virginia’s child,” he said, “Is this you? You, who have been gone this long? Without a call or even a random letter to let us know that you are well. I have missed you and not a day goes by that I don’t mention your name, to ask where you are and if you are okay. How could you go and not return, just go and not remember us. Don’t forget us who love you even if we may have no material things to offer you. I am your mother too, even if I am a man – I am your mother too.

I was moved and I was shamed. I had forgotten what it means to be ‘important’ to other people. When my parents died, I stopped expecting people to see me as important so that it wouldn’t hurt me if they neglected or forgot about me.

My maternal uncle was happy and upset at the same time. He adored my mother (his baby sister) and when he acquired a house, the largest and most prominently placed portrait in his living room was one of his late baby sister.

I have many siblings that I love dearly and I cannot begin to imagine how I would cope with losing a single one of them. I only realized now how much comfort and joy my maternal uncle derives from seeing me and from having some ‘tangible, living, breathing, walking and talking’ reminder of his late baby sister.

Yet I had discounted all this in my self-obsessed immersion in grief.

I remember how my maternal grandfather died three months after he buried my mother (his last born child and his favorite too).

My maternal grandmother insisted that he had died of a broken heart. I had been skeptical at the time. For my maternal grandfather had one leg, the other had been amputated below the knee and for many years he limped on an iron stump that was very heavy. My father later bought him an artificial leg and he was able to wear both shoes which he enjoyed immensely.

I recall thinking that a man who had lost a leg was very strong, so strong that surely he could not die from sadness. But over the years, I grew to learn that my grandfather had suffered many things but never had he buried his own child until my mother’s death.

Now that I am a parent, I can begin to fully appreciate the impact of my mother’s death and the lives that were irrevocably changed the day she died.

My maternal grandmother spoke of how my grandfather simply lost the will to live, withdrawing from everyone and often preferring to not converse with anyone. Before he died they took him to the hospital where a nurse scolded them for troubling an old man because she said his blood pressure was so high it probably meant the family was stressing him.

It was not stress, it was soul-destroying grief… the kind of grief known to a parent who has to bury their child.

How I could have possibly imagined that my pain was unique, so extraordinary and so much more important than the pain of my grandfather and other family members is beyond me. In retrospect, I was too immature to have known better.

While they grieved with me and for themselves… my family had to make time to grieve specially for me – for the daughter who had lost a mother. And yet I could not step outside of my own anguish long enough to grieve for them and to acknowledge their loss – the brother who lost a baby sister, the father who lost a daughter, the husband who lost his wife and so on.

For a long time I viewed the death of my parents as something that happened exclusively to me. I bore the grief of losing them as an individual and solitary process, a pain that I felt and suffered alone. I was wrong in imagining that mine was the only pain that mattered because they had been MY parents.

It seemed to me back then that no one else was as hurt as I was…like no one else ‘could be’ or even ‘should be’ as hurt as me. Over the years I have come to appreciate and understand that my relatives lost two people they loved and cherished the day my parents each died. It is such an obvious thing to me now.

But I was so blind to it back then. Trying to elevate my pain and suffering and loss and grief above that of others. Trying to assert a more exclusive claim to the burden of grief as if others did not feel it as keenly. It shames me now to recall how self-centered I was.

This past holiday I realized what a comfort I am to my relatives…seeing me and talking to me gave them so much comfort and eased their pain. And I had withheld such comfort by being so distant and straying so far from them. I was chastised.

I am not the only one who lost someone the day my parents died. My paternal uncles lost a big brother who’d vigilantly watched over them all their lives. The youngest of my uncles was expecting his first child who was born less than a month later. It must have been such a bittersweet year for him.

I reckon it must still hurt to know that his big brother did not live to see his first child. In any event, my paternal uncle went on to name his first child after my dad. Now when I visit him, every day the name of my father is mentioned when we call his namesake. My uncle also gave his son a Venda name – Aifheli – which means something doesn’t end.

I asked him about it once and he said, he meant that memories do not end. The memories we have and carry of people we’ve loved and lost, they do not fade or end – we do not forget them. I have no doubt he was thinking of my father mostly when he named his first child.

Looking back now, it feels like I never fully appreciated the depth and texture of my paternal uncle’s grief.

How could I when I had been so busy elevating my pain above that of everyone else. So selfish of me.

It didn’t occur to me that other people were as hurt as I was by the death of my parents. I failed to consider that my parents were deeply loved by others and that their death changed other people’s lives forever.

I was not the only one who loved my parents and who mourned their passing on. Even though it seemed like everyone just carried on with their lives despite my parents’ death.

The fact that they could carry on with their lives after such a terrible blow had been dealt seemed to suggest that perhaps they had forgotten because perhaps they had not been as deeply wounded or affected as I was.

But now I know we can move on without forgetting, we can move on in many aspects of our lives but in other aspects we can stay stuck, stay grieving, stay hurting and stay remembering.

I learnt a lot over the holidays spending time with my relatives from both sides. Maybe because I was emotionally ready to learn and maybe because I was met with such breathtakingly fierce love that I found myself wondering why I never noticed.

I think it is because I felt lost without my parents and didn’t know how to claim or locate a place for myself within the family without them.

But going home was a therapeutic thing. Lots of painful memories relived and lots of tears and healing was gained.

Every now and then I think it is important to just go home.

Home where people know you as the child of so and so…. where your status and position and education and accomplishments don’t change who you are in the eyes of those who watched you as you grew up.

And when we lose the ones we love, we must never hesitate to draw comfort and strength from the pool of people who share in that loss.

Some glimpse into my parents can be found here —>

 Remember me…or maybe not (written when I forgot the anniversary of my mother’s death in 2010)

My father – A man of emotions (written in fond and bemused memory of my dad)

The day Mmawe followed me (written as a nostalgic recollection of my mother’s protectiveness)

At my strongest – I am the mother of Simphiwe


There are many things I am uncertain of, even fearful about but the greatest of them is my fear of failing you, my child.

Simphiwe - your name means 'we have been given' - and boy, am I glad  I got blessed with you!

Simphiwe – your name means ‘we have been given’ – and boy, am I glad I got blessed with you!


It is inconceivable to me to ever give up, ever give in or ever lose hope regardless of life’s endless obstacles because I know whatever becomes of me, will have a huge impact in what will become of you.

I refuse to be the one that lets you down. Ever.

You are the balm that heals me, much faster and more effective than waiting for the ministration of time.

Ever since you were a baby, nothing soothed my spirit like holding you close, breathing in the sweet scent of you and feeling the familiar flood of emotion that swept away any other feeling save for my all-consuming love for you and with it, my determination to always be strong for you.

At my strongest, I am your mother.

This is the identity in which I am all but invincible for I would kill before I let myself fail you and I will always push myself to the limits and beyond in protecting your interests.

For you, I would brave anything, endure everything, sacrifice all things and soldier on whatever comes my way.

At my strongest, I am the mother of Simphiwe… and the converse is true because at my weakest, I am the mother of Simphiwe.

You are my weakness, my vulnerability, the chink in my armor and the reason I will always be prepared, willing and able to place myself between you and harm.

I thank God for you.

May your courage not fail you (for Collin’s daughter)


It’s been going on for months.

The torment of your fear-filled heart. And we’ve talked about it via Whatsapp chats but I haven’t really been paying attention. For this I am sorry.

I stayed up tonight to pay attention to your pain and to tell you that I understand. It is a frightening path upon which you tread – tread lightly dear friend.

Standing at the forked road between going forward with this man you pledged to spend your life with or moving on without him towards a destination where uncertainty is the only thing certain.

I am sorry I have not been paying attention.

Sometimes when you know that the heart heals, you are quick to dismiss the process of pain that comes with the healing. That’s what I have been doing.

Listening to you and knowing your heart will heal and not paying attention to the pain you feel in the here and now.

I want to give you answers. To assure you and give you guarantees but there are none.

There are no guarantees, nothing to hold us up when we venture into the unknown except our own courage and grit and will to live.

May your courage not fail you my friend. May your will to live not waver. It hurts I know and some days will be worse than others.

Osho - Courage Love Affair

And you will look in the mirror sometimes and wonder who that stranger is that’s staring back at you.

Life doesn’t always pan out the way we hope it will. Certainly not with intimate relationships.

I long to see you laugh again, to watch you throw your head back in mirth. I want you to find joy again.

You are so battered and so bruised and the laughter in you has since died away. It is frightening to see the hollowness in you and the shell you have become.

Sometimes when love goes wrong it takes so much out of us. It scoops out all the hope we hold and leaves us empty.

Come back to me. To us. To who you were before this love made you give until you believed you had nothing and were nothing without him.

You want to hold on because it is so much safer to keep holding on than to let go when you don’t know where you’ll land. But may your courage not fail you dear friend.

Because all we are is the sum total of all we have had the courage to become.

I have learned that there is no reward for breaking my own heart to spare the hearts of others.

There shall be casualties, make no mistake about this.

There shall be a price to be paid. Be willing to foot the bill because losing a lover always leaves a scar long after they cease to matter.

You will miss him on some nights and thoughts of him will pop up at random in the middle of the day and a pang of ‘something’ will hit your heart. A pang of regret, of sadness, of nostalgia and even residual heartache.

Be willing to have it so. Accept it and let your heart heal as it sees fit.

You will learn to live without him.

Because our very existence consists of things we have learned, things we have unlearned and things we have had to re-learn.

You will learn to ignore the urge to call him with good news and suppress the need to share your joys with him.

You will learn to resist the desire to reach out to him for comfort when you have bad news and want his strength to hold you up. You will learn to not need him.

And in time you will forget him for hours and eventually you will forget him for days upon end.

And it will surprise you, even sadden you… that someone who was once the center of your universe can eventually cease to matter.

In time you will be free of him. Free of your heart’s longing for him and free of your soul’s grief over how things ended.

May your courage not fail you my friend.

We cannot make people love us and indeed, they too, do not have the power to command their hearts to love us.

And similarly, we cannot force ourselves to love or compel our hearts to open up when there’s no inclination to do so.

Make peace with it. Heal. Laugh. Have hope. Live as you believe. And have courage Collin’s daughter.

I love you always.

The frightening ‘normalcy’ of domestic violence


One of the funniest stories my mother ever shared with me was a story about violence.

Actually there were two – one is just less funny owing to the horror I still feel when I imagine how it could have all turned out.

My mother’s side of the family had some colorful characters, chiefly my maternal uncle papeNever (the father of Never) and my maternal aunt mmeDubekile (the mother of Dubekile) who were both ex-combatants and had a penchant for regarding physical violence as the best conflict resolution strategy.

The first story my mother told me was of an incident that occurred when I was three days old.

My mother said that when I was three days old I was nearly killed by my uncle papeNever (her big brother) who had drunkenly and wildly swung an axe on the bed I had been laid on.

My uncle papeNever had burst into the hut my mother was resting in wielding an axe in hot pursuit of his wife, my aunt mmeNever (the mother of Never) over an unspecified dispute.

But generally, papeNever didn’t let not having a good reason get in the way of giving his wife a good beating – especially when he had imbibed.
violence
On that day, my mother had arrived from Beitbridge hospital with three-day old me – her first and newborn baby – exhausted from the rigors of labor, fatigued from the journey by bus from Beitbridge town which was concluded by an arduous trip in a donkey-drawn scotch cart that had to negotiate its way over and around bumps, ravines and crevices to get to her parents’ homestead in the hinterlands of Tshapfutshe.

And on that same day, my aunt mmeNever had been tasked with preparing a hut for my mum and she had taken to the task with much gusto seeing as she and my mum were very close – sweeping away the cobwebs on the thatched roof, applying a new layer of cow dung to polish the mud floor and making herringbone, chevron and checkered patterns as decoration.

She had attacked the mud walls with a stone to smoothen the inner wall surface and also used rich red, grey and white soils to paint the outer walls of the mud hut which she decorated with precise drawings of flowers on one side and shapes inspired from a deck of cards like the diamond, the heart and the ace of spades on the other.

I know all this because my mother had described it – she approved very much of cleanliness and was highly particular about the details of maintaining a presentable hut.

My aunt mmeNever had apparently done a sterling job on that day.

Everyone was excited about me, perhaps they were more excited about Virginia (my mum) the spoilt last born in the family, becoming a mother.

My uncle papeNever had missed my mother’s arrival as he had gone drinking – presumably.

Which is why when he had chased after his wife, all the way from his own homestead, yelling while she screamed – both of them failing to enjoy the beautiful orange hues of a setting sun in the horizon – my uncle had not known that mmeNever’s intended destination was the hut at the far end of my grandparent’s compound where my mother was resting.

He had chased after her, following blindly with the singular intent of catching up with her and teaching her some manners.

My aunt mmeNever had rushed into the hut and immediately dived under the bed which rested on bricks to elevate it (it made sweeping much easier) without offering any explanation to my mother who had been sleeping and oblivious to all the commotion.

Before my mother could gather her wits, my uncle papeNever, who had been about to catch up with his wife had also burst into the hut seconds later swinging his axe wildly – more for show than with any intent to actually strike his wife.

He was like that my uncle papeNever – always seeking attention by abusing his wife whom he knew everyone adored then waiting to be restrained and pleaded with and begged to ‘please calm down and stop doing this’.

On that day however, my uncle papeNever had not known several things.

He had not known that my mother was back from the hospital, he had not known that I was on the bed and that the bed had been changed from its usual position during mmeNever’s frantic spring cleaning so when he swung wildly, he tripped over one of the suitcases on the floor and his axe arced and impaled a shawl I had been wrapped in on the side of the bed where I had been laid.

My mother had moved me earlier to breastfeed me and had fallen asleep and had not laid me back on that shawl.

My mother told me that she had screamed. Screamed at her big brother.

Screamed for my grandparents to come and see, see papeNever try and kill her baby.

And my mother’s screaming mingled with mmeNever’s own screams for help whilst I obligingly joined this chorus with my own cries.

My uncle papeNever had not seen me yet and upon realizing who was in the hut he had tried to reach out and hold me, to quiet me down and meet his new niece but my mother would have none of it, screaming that he must get out.

It was my aunt mmeDubekile, my mother’s big sister, who had dragged my uncle papeNever out of the hut and then proceeded to viciously pummel him with fists, kicks and all manner of ex-combatant fighting moves until my grandmother had cried out to say she would not have it… she would not have anyone try to kill her son before her very eyes.

I was a newborn when this happened but my mother told me of it with such vividness that sometimes it feels like I remember the violence through her narration and experience of it.

The other story my mother told me, I cannot get into it in this post. Maybe next time.

I was reminded of this story some days ago when I read of a man that killed his 10 day old baby whilst trying to assault his wife.

It frightens me that the more such stories appear in the media, the less outrage and action they provoke.

I think that no matter how much we witness these incidents or read about them – we must never regard them as normal or as an unchanging and unchangeable aspect of life as we know it.

Perhaps we tend to think of domestic violence in terms of what ‘other’ people are doing and never in terms of our own actions, attitudes and choices.

It frightens me that violence against women, against children, against men should become a normative way of life as reflected in our media.

And I am frightened by our collective nonchalance because in many ways, I think the biggest challenge in fighting gender based and domestic violence is the perception that violence is not only normal but inevitable in our nation’s homes.

p.s: apparently my father hadn’t even had a chance to see me when this incident occurred as he was away on business in Bulawayo… so you can imagine how much ‘drama’ (I am understating it) it would have caused if any harm had befallen me

Interesting Pistorius timeline as offered by donmack


itsdelta:

Interesting take….and well written…and I agree with his conclusion. Oscar Pistorius is guilty as sin!

Originally posted on Phils Musings:

This offering clearly emanates from someone who believes that Oscar Pistorius did mean to kill Reeva Steenkamp. He lays out the timeline as he sees it.

Thoughts?

Offered by donmack

Anyone who still believes OP is innocent has to believe that the following scenario is credible:

Reeva happily goes to bed having packed all her clothes neatly away in her bag, including her underwear and the top she was wearing, while leaving her jeans inside out at the bottom of the bed

OP wakes in the night and immediately puts his hands over his face. He takes them off long enough to glance over and notice Reeva’s legs under the duvet. He then puts his hands back over his face to get out of bed – pushing aside a duvet that is not actually on him

He walks around to Reeva’s side of the bed without either looking at her…

View original 1,428 more words

May I live as I believe


I woke up to a distant memory.

19 years ago an 11 year old staged a mutiny, rebelled against ritual and stood her ground against custom…. *sigh*

I’m making it sound more dramatic than it actually was.

Let me start again.

When I was young I went to boarding school for the better part of my Primary education and the family ritual was that we had to spend one holiday of each calendar year visiting my mother’s side of the family in Tshapfutshe and Tshaswingo, places that were remote and snuggled very close to South Africa.

Each year. Religiously. Without fail. Non-negotiably. We were packed into the car by my mother and transported to my maternal relatives.

I loved my mother’s side of the family but I did not like the discomfort of staying with them.

I adored my maternal grandparents but I couldn’t stand the fact that there was rarely a book to read and I would resort to picking up random scraps of paper in despair just to quench my thirst for the written word.

And my mother’s side of the family spoilt us rotten whenever they got the chance.

Goats slaughtered. Chickens and sheep too.

My maternal uncles would fall over each other parading their prized cattle before my grandmother insisting theirs was the fatter option to slaughter for the new arrivals who graced them one holiday per year.

My mother’s side of the family was full of fun, side-splitting family drama and one was guaranteed days of endless laughter, adventure and ‘royal treatment’.

But that holiday. When I was in Grade 6, I didn’t want to go.

I didn’t have a special reason for not wanting to go – I just didn’t want to go anywhere.

I wanted to stay at home in rural Siyoka, by the Makhado highway, close to the Jopembe hills and about 20 kilometres from Mazunga and approximately 80 kilometres before Beitbridge town.

This was home. It was where I wanted to be. I did not want to be anywhere else.

I was rather untactful in broaching the subject with my mother (something that the 30 year old me can now admit with the requisite winces and cringes).

I had interrupted my mother in the stream of her enthused speech about the pending holiday plans for Tshapfutshe… the clothes that needed to be packed, the date of departure and the estimated day of return as well as the things we could look forward to.

I had interrupted my mother midstream to mumble, “But I don’t want to go”.

Now I have to make something else clear.

These trips to my mother’s side of the family where ritualistic in more than one sense.

They were a ritual because we always went.

One holiday out of each calendar year we would be packed off.

But these trips also represented a more veiled struggle on the part of my mother who would begin negotiating with my father long before the holidays in order to get ‘clearance’ to ship us off.

And whenever we actually made the trips, it represented an immense triumph for my mother – she would have bargained her way into making the trips a reality and keep her family from complaining of how little they saw of us.

My father was stingy with us.

Not in a mean way. Just in a proprietorial ‘these-are-my-precious-kids-and-I-cant-really-trust-anyone-to-take-better-care-of-them sort of way.

It must have been annoying to all our relatives – both maternal and paternal – who wanted to have us over but had to contend with his ‘mother bear’ attitude.

Guarantees had to be made.

Guarantees that we would be safe while we were away. That someone would keep an eye on us at all times and that my father would be immediately informed if anything went wrong.

To understand this quirky behavior that my father exhibited you can read my blog on him titled “My Father – a man of emotions”.

Back to my mother.

So here I was. All 11 years of me. Interrupting my mother’s excited torrent of speech to say, “But I don’t want to go”.

She stopped and looked at me, “What did you say, Delta?”

And I looked at her and repeated a bit firmly, “I said I don’t want to go”.

I am not sure but I must have worn my expression.

My expression that said you can beat me up right now but I will keep saying exactly what I am saying and you can pack me up kicking and screaming to this holiday you’ve planned but I will keep reminding you that I said I don’t want to go.

The others were quiet. Looking at me like I was a troublemaker.

Looking at me like I would get all of them in trouble too.

My mother was Sotho, very light, with a light peppering of hair on a mole on her chin that was made more discernible by her light complexion and she had a fierce temper.

My mother’s anger was like spontaneous combustion when you tripped her up. Instantaneous. Lethal. And unbridled.

Her temper was made more fearsome by the fact that she was – on the surface of it – very accommodating, easy-going and warm until you got on her wrong side.

So here I was, 11 year old me saying I didn’t want to go and spend the holiday with her side of the family after all the trouble she had gone to with behind-the-scenes negotiations to make this trip happen.

I hadn’t meant to blurt it out.

But it slipped out. As a mumble. An ill-timed mumble that unfortunately coincided with her catching a breath in mid-speech.

I had said it and now I did not want to swallow it. Because I meant it.

And because the others were watching me.

And because I knew if she hit me I could take it.

And also because I had a niggling suspicion that if she hit me, my father would not be pleased that my mother was resorting to beatings just to get me to go on holiday.

My father would probably have said (rather gleefully and triumphantly I imagine) something like, “Leave her alone, if she doesn’t want to go let her stay”.

In any event that’s not how it went down.

Instead my mother gave me a penetrating stare as if to weigh the level of my determination by the look on my face.

Then she completely surprised me by saying, “Fine. If you don’t want to go, you are not going.”

Then she turned to face the others and kept talking, more enthusiastically now.

Painting vivid pictures of all the fun those who were going would have – placing emphasis on those who were going.

The conversation took a rather sour turn from there.

My mother spoke of how those who were going would naturally have to go into Beitbridge town and get new clothes.

Those who were going would naturally be gifted with chickens which they had permission to come back with and add to their existing flock.

Those who were going might even see my SA-based maternal uncles who would be coming down for Easter with lots of goodies just for them.

In fact, said my mother, those who were going should prepare a list of what goodies they wanted from South Africa so she would make sure that they were delivered.

And so it went. The subtle emotional blackmail. But I stood my ground.

Yes, it would have been nice to have all the benefits of going without actually having to go but I just wanted to stay home.

And so I stayed. And they left me. All of them. A whole holiday at the homestead by myself with no one except the help.

No one to play with. No one to talk to. Nothing.

That was when I wrote these lines of what was meant to be a poem;

We choose to stay when we can go
And sometimes we choose to go when we can stay
So I guess life is about choosing

I think I may have written a lot more than that but it escapes me now. Anyway.

That incident taught me something. The power of choosing.

If I could choose now, I would go.

I would go to make my mother happy had I known I would have her for such a short time in my life.

But what’s done is done.

I am very big on choices and on owning the consequences of those choices.

I have stayed in bad places because I did not have the courage to admit to myself that I had put myself in a bad situation.

And let me tell you something. Sometimes people are places.

They are places we create in our lives and stick to even when they’re so clearly wrong for us.

I have found that knowing I have the choice to go is what makes staying a delight.

There are places (read people) that I will never leave because they matter to me.

But then there are places (read people) I have come across and walked past.

Regardless of what others may have thought, regardless of what they will think and regardless of all the ‘fun’ they will have on their journey – I will always chart my own path.

I will go where I want to go.

I will love who I want to love.

I will leave whomever I want to leave (as others will choose to leave me too at one point or another).

I will be who I want to be.I will not apologize for this.

I will always be the girl who stays when others go or the one who goes when others stay for no other reason than that it is my choice.

As I turn 30, I remind myself to not inconvenience myself just to fall into the plans of others. I remind myself to live as I believe.

I am what I am.

Of all the things my mother got right (and there are many) - my brother Dalton is the best of them!

Of all the things my mother got right (and there are many) – my brother Dalton is the best of them!