Where do I start…? I wonder if I’ve chosen the right heading . We all start being a follower to someone you believe is a role model, be it a teacher, your best friend or gangster in the neighborhood. I was once a follower who idolized people that has very little or no common sense. I cringe when I think of it. .I have learned however that is what it is
I come from poverty and hunger and begging. I should maybe have said I come from ” difficulty”..hmm that would be”mincing” words and I don’t want to do that here..This is where I’m baring my soul and say it like it is.
I remember having plants on our stoep, stuffed in coffee tins with soiled sand on the second floor,2 bedroom flat, somewhere in the ghettos. Always a hustle and bustle..my son now refers to it as ” always alive with possibilities”. How ironic that at the time there was hardly a possibility..It always seemed so hard, so out of reach…
When watering the plants in the morning, I could easily transport myself to a greater world, a world where I was walking through a magnificent garden filled with every possible flower. Seeing how flower buds push their way to full bloom and how everything looks bright and beautiful. But hearing a siren in the background, that fantasy is crushed as quickly and believable as much as how unbelievable it was. Quickly shooing the little girl inside who was enjoying the few minutes of adventure, even though it was only sitting on the stoep, playing with her meagre toys…ended that fantasy. Once you inside the cozy, sparse furniture flat, the lost opportunity is forgotten..You learn to accept, to adapt and know that that will soon passes and not long, rumors will circulate as who the unlucky person was who got locked up in jail,or who’s demise was long time coming.
This is all done in the midst of soaked washing flapping in the centre, desperately trying to dry. Whilst listening to that mindless chatter, of how bad or good the person was, how long jail time is forecasted, how many lives he has taken, and how he has put food on people’s table and yes he was good…. I came to realize that ambition is no where to be found in the ghettos unless you go seek it.
This inspiration I found in books, endless and endless reading I am going to carve it, I’m going to grasp it, I’m going to make it mine.
Having to put food on the table was one of my biggest daily challenges. I have 5 mouths to feed and have no idea how this was going to happen, but my granny always said God helps those who helps themselves. Still what to do? I have two sets of baby eyes looking at me, begging me to feed them. Do I share the last two slices of bread between them now or shall I get dinner sorted, feed them and then at least there will be two slices of bread for breakfast the following morning. Healthy porridge was for the rich and was only one of many dreams.
Dinner can only be organised with the four rand I have or do I go borrow another two rand from the neighbor which means I would be able to buy a half a loaf of bread as well…
Seeing everybody sated makes the humiliation I had to endure all worth it. Silent promises were made, ambition always there…this is all going to change, please God!
I now know why I don’t appreciate crowds in a small space as we never lacked hordes of people in our house. I witnessed many things that a child my age shouldn’t had to. I can’t imagine having my sweet twelve year old daughter exposed to that maze of confusion, the groping, the foul mouths, the smell of alcohol, the music constantly blaring away until the early hours of the morning and picking up the pieces after the last two bodies stumble out the door.
The dawn of a new week is here, all of last week to be repeated, keeping granny comfortable not forgetting her insulin injection, wiping of a continuous running nose, airing out a wet mattress, airing out the chaos, letting in my dreams of making my life a complete opposite of the only life I know…the little girl with the two ponytails and chubby cheeks long forgotten. Rushing through my chores to find the solace I crave, that I need, to keep sane, barely hanging on for dear life, running but not moving to devour the next book, where I will find all of this and where no one else can find me…