Of Boyfriends and Girlfriends a.k.a. Dating

“All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.”

You see dating in those days was very different to what it is now. There were no cinemas to go to, no social media to connect on, so everything was literally ‘hands on’. It was quite simple actually and much more personal I think. A man who wanted a girl had to be quite the hunter. It could involve lots of travelling, not by car or taxi no. On foot or if he is quite sophisticated he would ride on his bicycle or his father’s or uncle’s, what does it matter, as long as it got the job done. But most girls would probably stay away from the latter, he was obviously a hit and who wanted a man who was the envy of the whole village? And that notion was not that far-fetched, these ones usually turned out to be quite the players. Because they had means to travel they could have a girl in every village within their reach. I knew a special group of ‘preachers’, they traveled from village to village, setting up camp as they went. Possibly because of the fascination by their preaching or dancing skills, they were a hit with the girls. Having most of their meetings in the evening when everyone was back from the fields certainly didn’t help matters. Whenever the ‘preacher’wanted someone to read scripture, he would pick on a girl – she would be the one. Nothing serious there, just a by-the-way.

On a serious note, even just the process of getting a girl to agree to be your girlfriend was quite a mission. It usually happened somewhere in the bush under a tree, you could just tell from the aftermath that this was no laughing matter. Because of the intensity of the conversation going on between boy and girl, the poor tree suffered. All the lower branches would be left without a leaf left on and even the ground where the girl is standing the grass would be gone! Reason being, there would be nowhere to look, so the girl needs to find something to do, she would draw on the ground with her big toe (obviously she wouldn’t be wearing shoes, what for? Its not like its Christmas!) and at the same time playing with the leaves. If the boy is shy too, he could also join in plucking the leaves.

You see this would go on for days and even months before the girl said yes. But a good hunter(boy) would be able to tell if its ever going to happen or not. If she told him when next she would be coming around that same area, its promising. If she doesn’t, the braver one will keep coming for days on end hoping to meet her the less brave one would cut his losses and move on. Or he could now make a habit of passing by her homestead, whistling away without a care in the world (hahaha of course with all the care in the world). She could respond to the whistling by coming out on the pretext of going to fetch water or firewood, and she would probably take the opposite direction to where is’going’. This obviously is to throw anyone watching off the scent, she is also pretending she didn’t notice him. That would be a good sign for him.

If he has really made an impression she would tell him when she would be coming around the same area to fetch firewood again. He would go home humming happy song. Like a true gentleman he would get to that spot before her, and gather the firewood for her. By the time she arrives, the work has been done, so there is plenty of time to talk or rather to attack another tree or the same if there is anything left of it. Usually they go to the same tree, its like unconsciously creating memories. That tree would forever become a source of joy should things work out for the pair. If they don’t that tree maybe short-lived, it could just become someone’s firewood soon. In those days the girl would insist on collecting firewood alone even when they always go in teams. To avoid being questioned she may start pulling a little disappearing act and coming back with firewood. Unbeknown to her, the elders would see right through her, there are a few give aways.

They would notice how suddenly the quality of the firewood she brings is very high. There are different kinds, women, especially young girls can really only bring ‘sticks’ but when its a man, its heavy logs cut up neatly, which is almost impossible for her to collect by herself. Otherwise they might notice a change of character when she goes to particular place, like wearing shoes for example or wearing the dress she would normally only wear to church or to a wedding. That would be total give away.

If she has come of age the elders would be happy about this development, if she is still too young, such firewood could invite a good hiding and a complete ban to ever going anywhere alone. Even if its not collect firewood. But that’s fine, where there is a will there is a way ‘right? She may rope in a partner in her crime, she can now explain the situation to a trusted family member, maybe an aunt or a sibling (not the young ones who can easily blab away) who would now pretend to always accompany her wherever she goes. Except the aunt would probably go visit a friend while she goes gallivanting. She would do this in return for small favours.  Even if he hasn’t got the girl yet, he must still pay, its only good manners and it shows what kind of man he would be for his ‘girl’. If he is a man of means a 300ml Coke would be fine, if he isn’t a man of means, then he could just add another pile of firewood for the aunt. Depending on what he had, that he will bring to the table, if he is a fisherman, some people would be eating fish looong after everyone has gone to bed. If he is a butcher, there’ll be lots of meat to go around all in the dead of night.

So this is what he would look out for to see if there is any hope for him.

  • She said she would come and she came.
  • She made an effort on her appearance second time around.
  • When he was ‘whistling by’, she heard it and she came out pretending not to see you.
  • subsequently she came to meet with you in the company of a family member, it means she is willing to take the risks.

But hey. it may still be a few months before the answer becomes an absolute yes. Its fine, it means she is a good girl, she has been raised well……….

We’ll see what happened when she finally agreed…………………

 

 

 

 

 

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Thinking Back……

This one is from one of our friends – thanks for sharing. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Thinking back, to what would have been a perfect throw back Thursday for us – dinner was prepared way earlier on Thursday nights, cattle and goats were in kraals way before time. We needed no reminder about the local drama on Radio 2 at 19h30, we all gathered around the family stereo which was proudly backed by a single solar panel which had a cracked screen but still did the job. I can almost feel the excitement as the drama musical went on….’Sadalala mama, Sadalala mama awe – those people were so talented. Gave us the entertainment and carved such memories! They had an exciting story each Thursday night and gave us something to talk about in school the next couple of days, and I believe our parents something to talk about wherever they had their gatherings. Times were good then, the worries were for the other generation, and not for us.

Its only now, reflecting, that I understand how difficult it was for our parents to put food on the table for us all, with the fields not doing well because of the shortage of rains. There was just that one Friday morning right after the Sadalala Thursday that we had to miss school and get up really early going to the ORAP meeting miles and miles away. The school head knew there was going to be a handful of students on those Fridays and so he would cancel classes for everybody.

We were better because we had a scotch cart of our own, and we just had to find a family with donkeys but no scotch cart. That was easy – we were at a massive advantage. We would spend the whole day in the heat listening on the ground for what would sound like the ORAP trucks bringing the food, which in some days never came. That was a moment of relief that came with fights for getting back into the front of the line! It was always a relief to know that after that struggle we were going to be able to eat our sadza and beans without panicking about tomorrow. Well that would come and go and end somewhere – here is my favourite part of it all. We got to meet a whole lot of people and yes a lot of the traditional romantic friendships were born right here.

I remember how on that hot day I met my first love. Vusa was super dark skinned but somehow he lit my world. He was the most amazing person, made me look forward to this crazy Orap day. I remember very well how he would walk around with pride, in army green shirt with a tattered collar and under arms, and his blue jean shorts that exposed a decent part of his behind. He was always barefooted, had the longest feet ever and that made him the man, well at that time for that age. He knew what I loved the most, so each time he came over, he was sure to ring the Lobels vanilla biscuits and some Fanta orange………..

Its been long…….

Hi there! its been super looooong I know but thanks still for sticking around. A lot has happened during this long break, babies have been born, jobs have been changed, people have relocated blah blah…. but after all has been said and done, things have settled and we can continue now with the business of this blog. Doing what we do best, telling our stories or other people’s stories or just sharing a fragment of our over-active imagination, what does it matter? As long as the story is good and takes us a good few years back, we are happy. Please if feel free to share with us your stories we will be happy to publish them…..

Thanks

Thembi

They made their way to the shops, chatting away as usual stopping occasionally to pick some wild berries which were in season. The sun was already scotching hot, as early as it was. This promised to be once more one o those dry years Thembi dreaded; it meant the harvest won’t be that good and surviving each day would be a struggle. Things would just get worse with Mother not able to work anymore, Thembi worried a lot about this. Mavis always chided her for her worrying, she would say ‘Leave that for your mother like me, she will find a solution.’

In no time at all, they had arrived at the shops, not much activity there. One would even wonder how the shop owners made their money, because all their customers were just a lot of broke villagers who only bought salt once they had asked from all their neighbors. Maybe the rumors that some of them resorted to using some juju (black magic) was true after all. There were may accounts of how the business people made their money but the most common theory was the tikoloshe (goblin), which some said is a magical stick that could turn into all sorts of things and had the ability to find money for it owners. Although there was no evidence of their existence, the villagers were convinced it was there. Thembi recalled a man who once when he was visiting her family, told of how he had seen it, he said it was only as tall as four year old boy, but had all the features of a very old man. He said he only lived to tell the story because he himself also had more a powerful form of juju, so it couldn’t stand him. But one day when Thembi went to Mavis’s house, she found the same man telling the same story but this time, he said the tikoloshe was so tall it seemed to go right into the clouds. When Thembi told Mother, she asked if the man was having tea at the time, because that’s what he did once you make him some tea, he would not stop talking.

You see, tea was the in-thing those days, probably because it was such a new thing in the village. Before then, it was considered to be a city treat, mainly for the whites and the few black elite.  And so it became a treat for visitors therefore people like this man became regulars where they were likely to get a cup. But everyone knew never to let him make the tea for himself, one would give him ready made tea already in the cup. This was so because he was known to continue making one cup after the other until all the sugar is gone.

‘Thembi snap out of it, what’s the point of having me around if you can have conversations with yourself’. Mavis always complained about Thembi’s day dreaming ways. They were about to go into the shops when a car pulled up in front of them, the driver was a burly man in a red t-shirt and a cap. He had such a big belly, he seemed to be sqaushed in the little car. It was a pick up truck most common at the time, but one could see it had seen better days. It made a startling noise like it was about to burst before it finally stopped. When he stepped out, the car seemed to breathe in a sigh of relief ‘Hello girls’, He said in what he imagined to be a friendly tone but he could barked it would have sounded the same.

He pulled out a cigarette and lit and started smoking, while looking them from head to toe. Thembi was uncomfortable, Mavis starred right back at him and responded, ‘Hello to you too sir’. Turning to the shopkeeper Mavis took out some coins and handed them to him, ‘May I have some Cooking Oil please’. The money was only enough for the small bottle and as Mavis leaned forward to take it the big man suddenly spoke up. He said, ‘Give her some bread and milk too. I will pay’, turning over to Thembi he asked, ‘And you my dear, what will it be?’. Thembi didn’t respond, she didn’t know what to say, Mavis nudged her to say something but still she couldn’t. ‘She will have the same as mine and some biscuits please, lemon creams’, Mavis said quickly. Thembi started to protest but decided otherwise. Their little parcel was packed nicely and given to them and the man stood by the door still puffing at his cigarette. ‘Where do you stay I can give you a lift?’, He asked not even looking at them. Mavis started to say something but Thembi interrupted saying, ‘It’s fine sir, we will walk. Thanks for these’. She hurriedly pulled Mavis by the arm to go but the man blocked their way.

‘I am the new owner of the shop, anything you want in this shop you can have’, he said winking a little. ‘Thank you, we are fine sir’, Thembi said pulling a reluctant Mavis while beckoning to the man to make way. He did and shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘See you around then’. ‘Thembi, what was that all about? The man practically offered us everything and even a lift, A LIFT my friend. And what do you do? “thank you sir we are fine sir”. I will go back and accept it’, Mavis was livid. ‘And don’t give me that story about strangers cars, you are not 5 for anymore’. ‘Mavis we don’t know the man, we could get into trouble. Even these things that he bought for us, what will I ever tell Mother? She will want to know where it came from’, Thembi lamented. Mavis was having none of it, she shoved the parcel into Thembi’s hand and said quietly, ‘You can have these. I am going back to that many to get more. He said we can have what we want didn’t he? You my friend, be a good girl and go home and have yourself a nice cup of tea seeing you have some supplies. I will go back to that man, maybe he can take me to the city, like I always dreamed of’. ‘Mavis please don’t do this we don’t know this man. Maybe we can come back tomorrow and see if he’ll still be there……’. Mavis wasn’t listening, she had already stared going back and Thembi took two steps to follow her but decided otherwise. She couldn’t do it, but she was worried about her friend. She decided she’ll go home and tell Mother everything. She’ll know what to, yes that was the right thing to do.

Thembi

Thembi and her siblings set about on their way to school, she would have loved to wait for her friend but Mavis was notorious for being late, so she wasn’t going to get caught up in that.  There were many other kids on the way, chatting away as usual. Going to school was nothing more than routine for most of these children, there was no real excitement about it. So as far as they were concerned, they went to school to become students. This kind of mentality could really be blamed on the home environment for many of them. The parents themselves could hardly write their own names later on have an understanding of what school was about.

There was this one man in particular who would be a classical example of how society regarded school. He had a lot of cattle and he was very much involved in maize farming, he was probably the best in the whole village. This man didn’t want his children to go to school, in his view it was a complete waste of valuable time that could be spent in the fields or herding cattle. He boasted so much on how he was doing just fine without any formal education, so his children must follow his example, as far as he was concerned, the schools were making the kids lazy. So all of his children only went to school to learn to write a letter, which was the most common means of communication by then. The inspiration was simply not there for the children to become anything.

But Thembi was hopeful, that one day she will make it, at least to get her family out of the miserable life they were currently living. She looked up to her teachers, they seemed to be having a good life. She constantly worried though about how she was going to make it through school, its not like finances were abundantly available especially now that Mother couldn’t continue going to the market. They had a lot of relatives but most of them were struggling with their own families as well.

Her uncles from her father’s side were mean old bags in her eyes, she never saw them being helpful at all, they seemed to disappear on end only to show up when they needed her and he siblings to do some chores for them. This uncle in particular, the oldest in Father’s family had a brood of children all over the place, so much so that he even forgot their names. He would just call any name and the one closest to him would respond. Almost every second month another long lost child appeared and Thembi seriously thought this was beginning to interfere with his mind. He was now known for having a full blown conversation with himself. There were rumors that he had started sleep walking so much that he would milk a cow without even knowing it in the middle of the night……

So there wasn’t much hope for help from that side, her uncles were popular for all the wrong reasons, drinking, fighting amongst themselves and there were also stories going around about women. Mother’s side of the family was a little bit more sober but they truly weren’t in a position to offer any financial support. Thembi was fairly good at all her subjects, one of her teachers always said if she could more effort she’ll make it through her O Levels. Although it seemed so far fetched Thembi promised herself she would try.

This particular day was one of those that Thembi dreaded, the school fees was due and she and her siblings had fallen quite a few months behind. There was no way to pay, Mother had used up all their remaining assets trying to find a cure for Father and now she was sick herself. The Headmaster was doing his rounds, calling out the culprits to go and gather at the assembly point so they can go back home. Thembi just waited for her turn wondering how she was going to get around this one. Her teacher, Mr Dhliwayo had always negotiated on her behalf saying she has a lot of potential she shouldn’t be missing class. But today was different, the Head was having none of it, more than half of the school was in arrears.

Exactly an hour after getting to school, Thembi and her siblings were on their way back home, along with Mavis who was livid. ‘You see, I told you this is useless. I will just go off and get myself a job and start earning some money rather than going to school everyday only to come back an hour later!’, she fumed. Thembi was silent for a moment wondering if what her friend was saying was maybe a good idea after all. But she was scared, she couldn’t just go off to the city by herself, all the terrible stories she had heard of the city. ‘No my friend, I don’t think that is a good idea at all. The city is too big and we don’t know anyone there. What if we disappear like Lorraine, remember? Up to this day no one knows what happened to her!’, Thembi said to her friend stopping briefly to look her in the eye.

Mavis roared with laughter. ‘You know Thembi, I don’t even know what I am still doing here with you. You are so naive sometimes its beyond me!’, she said throwing up her hands as if in surrender. ‘Are you seriously telling me you believe that nonsense. I promise you that Lorraine is living it up in the city, you’ll see her one day she’ll show up here in a big car. And you’ll still be playing the ‘school game’, well my friend, not me’.

Thembi kept quiet, she knew better than to get into an argument with her friend, she decided they will talk it over another day when the mood was better.

‘Thembi let the kids go home while you accompany me to the shops. I have to get something’, that was Mavis already slowing down so they can take the way to the shop.

‘Oh, what do you want get? So if you have money why didn’t you put it towards your fees?’, asked Thembi surprised.

‘And sleep on an empty stomach?’, Mavis raised her eyebrows. Thembi shrugged and told the kids to go she will be with them soon. She knew she would probably get into trouble with Mother who didn’t like it when she wandered around the shops, so much so that she didn’t even send her there. She would much rather go herself. Thembi decided that just this once was not so bad. And so they took off……

Meet Thembi

Thembi

Thembi is a typical rural girl and she wakes up at her usual time, at 3:30am – she has a lot to do before she can be off to school. She fumbles in the dark to try to find the matchbox so she can light the paraffin lamp to be able to see. There she found it, gosh!, there is only one matchstick left. She can’t use the last one, she must use it light the fire, and she systematically finds her way around the little hut and gets dressed and goes out. The moon is bright today so she can make out a shadow of her friend approaching; they are going to go to the well to fetch water together.

 

She takes all the empty buckets and gallons, taking care not to make any noise lest she wakes up the whole village. This she can’t afford, because there isn’t much water at the well during summer, so you have to get there first before it’s finished. If she got there too late, the alternative well was some kilometres away and she couldn’t possibly make in time for school.

 

After she has put all her things in a wheelbarrow, they take off. They don’t even so much as talk on the way, they are very quiet. They get to the well in time, it was still as quiet as night, so no one has been there. They quickly fill up and head back home, this time they are talking loudly; they have the water so it doesn’t really matter if they wake even the people in the next village. They meet some women who are only going to the well now and even in the dark they can feel their piercing glares, they know they won’t find much water. Thembi doesn’t care, they should stop being lazy and wake up earlier they will get the water, it’s a survival of the fittest situation. They continue pushing their wheelbarrows still chatting, only keeping quite long enough for the women to pass.

 

Thembi’s friend, Mavis is not very popular with the women, she is a very pretty girl and they usually complained that she was attracting the attention of their husbands. Mavis didn’t care; it’s just the way she was. Although she vehemently denied it, Thembi’s feeling was that she appreciated the attention. She said there was nothing she could do, it’s not like she invited the men therefore she couldn’t stop them. She and Thembi became friends quite by default, because it was just the two of them left in the village. All the girls their age had left, dropping out of school to look for jobs because they didn’t see the point of going to school anyway.

 

Thembi secretly hoped that her friend would not join the bandwagon; she didn’t think much of school either. They had never seen anyone who finished school and made something of their lives, everyone was suffering, and at least the girls who went to town to do some domestic work seemed to be making it. Just a few weeks ago, Lindiwe had come from the city, even though she now had an illegitimate child, she seemed to be doing fine. Rumour was that the father of the child was a married man, way older than her but he made sure she was comfortable. When she came to the village, he had organised a driver to bring her and she had a lot of groceries with her and she was talk of the village. But she had since gone back to the city, leaving the one-year-old child with her mother who was obviously excited about the idea because it meant now the man would be sending her money to take care of the child.

 

Those were the role models of society, get a man who had enough money to take care of you, he didn’t have to marry you as long as the money kept rolling in. This was what even the parents of these girls had been reduced to; all because they were too poor to take care of their own children. Thembi decided she wasn’t going to have too many kids, if she had any at all. It was disheartening to watch the cycle go on from generation to generation, now these girls were having babies in the hope of getting an income from the men who were poor themselves and probably married with a lot of kids all over the place.

 

It’s almost sunrise, Thembi and her siblings should be already on their way to school. School starts at 7:30am but they need about two hours to make it on time. All four of them are ready; they have bathed and had their porridge so it’s time to go. She is the oldest of the lot; her brother Ndumiso who will be 18 this year, had dropped out of school and went in search of gold in the mines. They tried to stop him but he was having none of it, he was too old to be wearing this tattered uniform. And him being taller than his peers made him an object of ridicule to the other students. He just didn’t fit in and to make matters worse Mother was sick, she couldn’t continue with her business selling tomatoes anymore. That is how she had kept the family going since the passing of their father five years ago, he had been sick for a long time and they had sold everything trying to find a cure for him.

 

They had gone to a lot of places in a bid to cure him of his ailment; they started at the local clinic, which referred him to the hospital in the city. They couldn’t afford it so his brothers, Thembi’s uncles, looked for alternatives, this ranged from prophets to traditional healers (sangomas). Each of them had a lot to say, some said he had been bewitched but they could help him in return for a small price, which was usually in the form of an animal, it was cattle at first as long as there was one left. Then they moved to the goats when the cattle were finished, then Mother started selling off the little furniture that she had to pay these people. Each one had a different ritual; Thembi remembered being really tired of the string of rituals meanwhile Father was wasting away anyway.

 

One day when the only thing left for Mother to sell was the bed and Father had practically become a skeleton, he couldn’t even move anymore. Mother called all the kids to the hut where he was lying, she had not allowed any of them in there before, probably so that they didn’t see just how bad Father was. But Thembi used to peep through the window when she wasn’t watching and each time she would see him lying there, he didn’t look like him at all. She would feel this pain inside her heart, sometimes it felt like she would suffocate from it, and then she would go off and cry somewhere. But Mother was strong, she didn’t cry but there was a change in her, she wasn’t herself anymore, she hardly laughed or smiled or even left that room where Father was. She would sometimes tell the kids to tell the neighbours visiting that she was not at home, probably because they had been saying some bad stuff about Father’s sickness like they always did – poking their nose into other people’s business.

 

This day she called them in, Thembi was scared, she didn’t know what to expect but she started to have that pain in her heart and she was having difficulty breathing, but she kept quiet and went in after everyone had gone in. Ndumiso being the first-born was about 13 years old at the time sat in the corner of the room. Father lay there on the bed, covered in a blanket up to his eyes. He was looking at them but there was no life in his eyes, it was almost like he wasn’t aware of anything going on, he was still.

 

Mother spoke in a low voice, she said ‘I called you so you can see your father, I don’t think he is pain anymore but you see his body is tired. I am not going to try to cure him anymore, we have tried it hasn’t worked. He is going to go to a place where he will rest and where he will never have to be in pain anymore. Although we won’t see him again, that place will be good for him, he has suffered enough he wanted to see you before he goes, that’s why I called you here’. Father made a noise, and then his hand moved, he pulled the blanket off his face, Thembi looked away. He had wasted away, when she looked back at him, he was looking at her and there was a hint of a smile in his eyes. He just said, ‘You’ll be fine, take care of each other and your mother. Ndumiso, you are a man now, take care of them’. He attempted to sit up but gave up trying and then Mother beckoned for them to leave but not before saying they can see him anytime now.

 

The following few days, there were some changes in Mother’s attitude, she was almost her old self again, she started coming out more to be with the kids and she was cooking well and she would even let them have supper together with Father. He was getting stronger, he could sit up now and Mother would help him with his food. He didn’t talk much but sometimes he would share a joke and even laugh. Things weren’t so bad anymore and they had started a new routine – they would pray everyday before bed. They never used to do that but Mother said it was a good thing to do, she said after a long time she was finally at peace with the situation. It appeared at that time she was done mourning for him, she was happier and Father was getting stronger and she always made sure he was bathed and smart early in the morning in case he got some visitors which was very rare now. The neighbours didn’t come so often, his sickness was probably old news by now, and there was nothing new to talk about.

 

Thembi was at ease now, she hadn’t felt the pain her heart for the past three weeks and Father was getting strong. The local Priest would come by from time to time and pray with them, he always made them all feel that everything was going to be fine. But this Wednesday morning, before dawn Mother came knocking at the kids’ door, she said they must go and call the Priest immediately. Thembi and Ndumiso got up and ran off in the darkness to the Priest’s home, he came with them without delay. All the time the pain in Thembi’s heart was creeping back, she didn’t know why but she was in a complete state of panic, she couldn’t breathe again. When they arrived home with the Priest, Mother was standing outside with the paraffin lamp in her hand; she rushed towards the Priest and told him Father had stopped breathing.

 

They went into the hut together for a few minutes and when they came out, Mother said they must go and call Mavis’s mother. In a matter of minutes, there were so many people that had come; Thembi figured maybe Father had gone to where he was supposed to go. The rest of the day was a daze, there was so much activity, they hardly saw Mother and there were a lot of tears. The siblings were taken to Mavis’s house and when they got there she told them that Father had died and they were burying him that’s why they told Thembi and her siblings to leave. Later on the day, Thembi ran off and hid behind some bushes where she was able to see the whole burial, it was awful. They put him in the hole they had dug and put sand on him until it became a mountain, how lonely he must have been. Thembi was still watching when someone found her and gently told her to go, she shouldn’t be there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of Christmas Time and Fashion….

Of Christmas Time and Fashion…….

Village life is very much different from city life, when you are a child all you want is to be in the city because it’s so exciting in your eyes but then you wonder why the elders don’t seem to like it. I had this question as well, because we had a house in the city but somehow no one wanted to stay there, I mean that was the ideal place to be. Then I wouldn’t have had to be bothered about such things as fetching water and gathering firewood – that was such a big bore.

But I guess, as you grow older, it’s not so bad. I have my child now in the city, I so wish she could have as much ground to play as I did. I usually wonder if I am creating the same beautiful and unique childhood memories for her as I have. Probably she is enjoying what she has but I just can’t help wondering. Things like Christmas, which was a big deal then, will tell you how so.

It was the day to eat well and to dress up. I remember how my granny would go to town to buy all the Christmas goodies and keep them secret until the very last day. She would just lock the stuff away and pretend like there is nothing but by then we knew there had to be something. The big question would be what it was, if its what you’ve been hoping for. We had our own social circle and we knew what was tops in the fashion world those days, so it had to be right.

I remember my friend bragging to us about what seemed to be a two piece fleece –like suit, it was a light blue t-shirt with pink and white embroidery and matching pants and she wore it to attend a Christmas party somewhere but not before passing by my place to show me. It was so nice at that moment I hated my Christmas dress, which suddenly looked so out of class. It was only later when she wore it to school and one teacher asked why she brought pyjamas to school. We all didn’t know they were pyjamas, even her parents didn’t know, but anyway, we didn’t laugh we were envious still that she even had pyjamas – which none of us had.

My mom told me also about their Christmas days when they were a bit older. It was a day big for everyone, all the young people could be seen making a beeline to the shopping centre. I remember the young men that had probably started working in the city would come home for Christmas, that was an opportunity to see all the girls in the area put together in one place. They would be well dressed, sporting a colourful shirt and really tight pants, and then there is something else they used to do which I now find very funny. They would hang a wet facecloth on their shoulder, probably to wipe off the sweat in the scorching sun because for many, it was a long way to the shopping centre. Everyone had it; it was a thing of the time, don’t ask me why.

And then those that had really made it in the city, the first thing they bought was a radio. But since no one could see it in their homes, they devised a plan. They would carry in on their shoulder, no matter how big or small, as far as everyone was concerned, if you weren’t carrying it you didn’t have it. So it would be playing on maximum volume while he walks somewhere in the bushes for everyone to see. So it was easy to tell who was approaching. So they had 2 things to carry around, the wet facecloth and the radio, that got the girls talking.

And as for the girls, Christmas was even more hectic because the resources simply weren’t there. There is an age that you reach and your parents don’t have to buy you new clothes anymore, you just had to understand that they couldn’t afford it. So new clothes really were for the young ones who would wail and complain if they didn’t get anything. So you would just have to compromise and be creative to look good. And so they did! I know that sometimes they would make use of used cooking oil as skin lotion because it was simply better than nothing. The problem with that was that then you would smell like the food that the oil had fried and as if that was not enough, you pick so much dust on you feet and legs along the way because you would be so sticky. And then it would be quite a mission to wash it off; you almost had to jump into boiling water to get rid of all the grease.

Some situations were more desperate than others but its all one big laugh now. Like my mother told me of this other girl when they were a school. They were going for a netball tournament and things were so bad for this girl she didn’t have anything to were. She got together with some friends and they made a plan. They took an old umbrella; I guess it was one of those big ones, not a handbag umbrella. They removed the wiring carefully and made a skirt out of it, by putting an elastic at the top and there it was, problem solved! But as you might know there weren’t many designs for umbrella so it really stuck out like a sore thumb. And to make matters worse, everytime she jumped for the ball, it just flew up the to her face……

Next we introduce our characters. We shall start with Thembi, the typical village girl.