“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”– Thomas A. Edison
Church gave me serious goosebumps. I was not really in the mood for it really but it brought a lot of calmness to my soul. Pastor really spoke to me. Church was over and everyone was hungry but we just had to do the usual nonsense of making small talk with neighbours. Portia was so nice she held Masalesa the entire sermon and ensured that he was covered. He didn't become restless once nor did he even cry. She really had a natural hack for children so she walked out carrying Masalesa with along with Hunadi by her side. It was most probably hard for them to conceive but God always listens. His timing is not ours. We walked out and I chose to wait in the car along with Portia and the children while Malome Joel chose to take a smoke right outside the taxi while Mama and Koko were catching up with some of our neighbours. Portia was so nice she even bought some snacks for us while we were waiting. After yet another thirty minutes they came to the taxi and Malome Joel started the car and drove off. Just before he stopped at the gate Koko invited them over for Sunday lunch. I had no idea where she even thought we got the money to host so many people I mean the grant money that Mama got for us plus Koko's pension money was sustaining us all. My grandmother didn't work; I mean her other children sent her money but she never bothered giving us a dime. I could have been far in life by then and actually gone back to school but instead I had to suffer for my mother's choices – according to her.
Koko: “Joel why don't you and Portia stay over for Sunday Lunch?”
Portia: “Aowa (No) Koko (granny) we don't want to impose.”
Koko: “Nonsense impose ya somang (for what)? You guys are always welcome. E tlang (come in).”
Well they couldn't say no even if they wanted to. She would have probably told them that it would be wasteful to make Sunday Lunch for just the two of them since they had no children. They went in and I was about to start cooking as always when Koko started again.
Koko: “Bina take this and go buy us some drinks.”
She took out a heap of money from her breasts leaving me stunned. She always said she never had money – yet she had a number of notes stacked up for alcohol?! And as for us she had included Joel and Portia in it as well.
Malome Joel: “Koko that is perfectly fine we can buy our own.”
Koko: “Nonsense you are my guests. Portia o nwa eng (what do you drink)?”
Poor Portia she couldn't even refuse free alcohol practically being shuffed down her throat.
Portia: (shyly) “Wine e tla ba shap Mma (Wine should do Ma).”
Koko: “E tla wena o senya nako (Come you're wasting time).”
She handed me the money and I counted it with a knot in my stomach. I could even get a glimpse of my mother and she was less than impressed.
Bina: “Ke reke eng ka tshalete e kana Koko (What must I buy with so much money granny)?”
Koko: “Nna wa tseba ke nwa eng (you know what I drink) Joel o nwa eng (what are you going to drink)?”
Malome Joel: “Aowa nna Heineken e tla ntokela (No Heineken should suffice for me).”
Koko: “Reka wine (buy wine) with the rest of the change buy an equal amount of Heineken and Castle Lite Quartz.”
I felt so much anger creep up within me. I mean just a few hours ago she was chanting in church as if the pastor was speaking to her and yet there she was giving me money to buy alcohol with. I just kept quiet because should I have started complaining I was going to be reminded that we were living in her house and that my father should have built us an appropriate house just before he died when she knew very well that his family chased Mama out of the house soon after his burial. I went to the back and took the bottles I needed. They were about twenty I mean that meant she and Joel were going to drink ten bottles each. So much greed – it was insane. She didn't even offer to buy the rest of us juice or cold drink at least. That was just how evil she could be. I took the paper bags filled with all the empties when Malome Joel offered to go with me.
Malome Joel: “Let me go with you.”
Koko: “O tla ba shap oo (That one will be fine). I always send her there.”
Mama Joel: “Yes but the car is here Mma. Let me rather help her carry.”
He smiled as he took one of the bags from me without even needing to ask. I just walked alongside him in silence.
Malome Joel: “Is your grandmother always like this?”
Bina: “I don't know what you mean.”
Malome Joel: “Does she always offer to buy visitors drinks?”
Bina: (chuckling) “No it is just you.”
Malome Joel: “Okay.”
We made it and bought what she had sent me to buy and Malome Joel bought four bottles of Cold drink.
Bina: (frowning) “Who are you buying those for?”
Malome Joel: “Did you honestly think we could drink while the rest of you don't?”
Bina: “No Koko will think I used her money to buy them.”
Malome Joel: “Don't worry I'll sort it out.”
I just let him be. We walked back to the house and Mama was halfway with the cooking. I had to to help her; Sunday cooking was always a feast. I saw the pain in her eyes but she was so good at masking it – most probably for the sake of her children. I helped her chop the remainder of the vegetables set for Sunday Lunch as she was fighting the tears back. She wasn't really a communicator so I never bothered to ask her things. We cooked and once we were done we dished out for everyone. Only then I actually realized that my mother also never really had time to rest. She was always tired and overworked yet she just kept going. She never said anything to her siblings whenever they disrespected her or looked down on her. She just kept going; I didn't understand what her narrative was or if she was just going with the flow of being a “strong black woman”. By the time food was being served Koko's voice had reached new heights; she was getting even more tipsy while Joel was also rather all right. Portia on the other hand looked as if she was just taking small sips of that wine. We were all forced to eat outside like a family – which was something we never really did. My mother was quiet the entire time while we ate. I was pondering my mind the entire time trying to figure out what was going on in hers. After the lunch it was time to do the dishes. I usually did them just to let my mother rest but she decided to help me. I figured I'd get her to start talking to me some how and that perhaps that Sunday's sermon got through to her.
Bina: (anxiously) “Mama can I ask you something?”
Mama: “Of course my child. What is it?”
Mama: “What happened to you? I mean you used to be such a big dreamer and you wanted to be a Nurse one day. Then what happened?”
I was a bit worried because we never really had deep conversations. I didn't want to upset her or cross the line.
Mama: “Okay let's finish washing the dishes and I'll tell you all about it afterwards. Is that fine?”
For the first time in years my mother actually had a conversation with me. She was talking to me and she had given me hope about actually trying to be open with me. I was too excited. It was a huge milestone for me.
Bina: “That's fine.”
We finished washing the dishes and I was so afraid of pushing her but she was the one leading me.
Mama: “Ga re bethe stroll (Let's take a stroll).”
We left Mama Joel and Portia outside while they were still drinking while Portia was so in love with Malesela. Hunadi could also not stay away from her. Mama told Koko that she was coming back
Mama: “I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that I am such a useless failure who had no ambition who decided to have all these children and to make matters worse I added you to my misery. I made you work for us instead of going to school and getting an education.”
That was quite a powerful mouthful from my mother. We hardly even spoke at all – ever. I was happy.
Mama: “Do you know why your father and I named you Bina? It is because we just wanted you to continue making us happy. Bina means to dance you made us dance ever since we found out that I was pregnant ka wena (with you). Your father loved music so much if you can remember. Every Sunday we used to dance to his favourite music as a couple and as a family. His children – you; meant everything to him. You see I grew up similarly to the way you're grown up right now. I tried by all means to ensure that you never fall into the same trap I fell in but life just had other plans. When I found my husband I ensured that I'd never come back here but he died. There is a lot you don't know Bina and some I just can't tell you right now. I might tell you some day if I ever get the chance to.”
I had no idea what she meant by that because she had many years to live. She was only 40.
Mama: “I was young and ambitious like you; I too was very good at Mathematics. My dream was to be a Nurse yes but well my father also died unexpectedly like yours and I was heartbroken. My mother didn't have a job – no income and my siblings were also still very young. So I had to go work; just like you are doing. I made a promise to myself that I'd never let you fall into that trap ever. Well I met your father and he took really good care of us. He built that house for us we spoke about it and we had a big family out of choice. Everything was in place; he had a really good job and I didn't have to work at all. He even left me a life cover and his pension fund for all of you. We were sorted in case anything happened to him. We came home for Salome's birthday lunch and it was okay. Once we got home your father started falling ill.”
Salome was my mother's younger sister.
Mama: “He started having a fever and vomiting. I wanted to take him to the hospital but he refused. He promised me he would go to the doctor the following day if he wasn't getting any better. Well that was when he didn't make it. Instead of getting better he got worse and passed on.”
The tears were slowly falling down her face; I could tell it had been years of agony she had buried deep beneath her soul. She continued while I listened attentively.
Mama: “A few days before the funeral I had a dream about him. He told me what had happened and he revealed the responsible culprit to me. I vowed to protect you along with your siblings but his family threatened to burn me down along with the house he had built for us if I didn't leave. You know just how cruel people can be. I went to his workplace to claim for his pension but for some reason they told me he changed his beneficiaries to his sisters just before he died. I didn't understand it at all but I had to just pack my bags and leave with just the few clothes I had of you. Once I returned home it was never the same. My own mother treated me like I was an animal. I had to surrender all of your grant money to her and she forced me to get a job. Do you want to know what she said the night I appeared on her doorstep?”
I swallowed hard.
Mama: “She said “O nagana gore wena le di rathane tsa gago le tlo ja eng (What do you think you and your brats are going to eat)? Ke ge o ka ema ema ka maoto jwale ka mosadi o nyaka moshomo (It is time for you to get up on your own two feet and look for a job).I cried the entire night that night and I vowed to never cry ever again. My siblings treated me like a worthless piece of shit. None of them offered to help me out until I managed to get on my own two feet. Salome managed to go to College and become a Nurse just like Celia while your Uncle Frans tried his best to help me whenever he could. He got lucky and became a business man so he is into tenders. They all became successful; I don't want to take the credit for it all but I feel that I don't deserve to be treated like this for someone who ensured that they could go to school. You know I remember I had no money to buy you all Christmas clothes and I asked Celia for some money just so that le kgone go swana le bana ba bangwe (you could be like other children). Hehe she just told me that she was not the one who told me to go and have all those children and hung up the phone. I have been praying to God for a breakthrough but I am just tired my child. If only you knew what I am going through you would just break down. Each day is just a struggle I can deal with all the stares whispers and insults but leaving you and your siblings behind all alone in this cruel world just worries me. It will break me.”
Mama was speaking to me as if she was saying goodbye. I didn't understand. That actually made me even more worried so much that I was also in tears.
Bina: “Mama you are not going to leave us. Lesiba and Matome will go to University and help us out. I will then be able to get my life back on track. They will help us out; I am sure of it.”
Mama: “Bina ngwana wa ka (my child) don't ever think you know someone. Don't ever put all your hope on people. People will show you flames; they will turn on you like you are some kind of villain and you never even did anything for them. I have tried to do my best for you but I have failed you ngwanaka (my child). Just promise me one thing.”
Mama: “Promise me that should you get the opportunity to improve your life at all costs you will take it. You will learn to choose you for the sake of your brothers and sister and that you will grab it with both hands.”
Bina: (crying) “Okay I promise. But Mama you will still be here to see me succeed one day won't you?”
Mama: (crying) “Only God knows my baby. Only God knows. I am so proud of the person you become. I act like I don't notice whenever you are reading your books but I do. I just feel a pang of guilt whenever I see you do that because I know you can do much better at school. You are smart and God has your back. Don't make the same mistakes I made. Try to be there for your siblings but you are not solely responsible for them. They too need to find their own selves. Don't ever sacrifice your own life for them – ever. God will see them through. Le wena o motho (you are also human). I have already forced you to take away so much of your own life; your own future. I can't let you sacrifice even more.”
Bina: “Okay Mama but promise me that you'll be there. Promise me.”
She hesitated for a moment.
Mama: (crying) “I promise.”
God never promised an easy life but he promised us a fulfilling life. For Jeremiah 29:11 says; “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord plans for welfare and not for evil to give you a future and a hope.”
I hope Bina's mom isn't planning suicide, this is heartbreaking