BY BEATRICE ELLIS
As the writer on the radio was being interviewed, I heard her say, “Think of something that you missed out on in childhood…”. Instantly, thoughts of my dear mama came to my mind and my eyes misted. Mama lives with her husband and four children in another town a long way away. I have not seen her for many years and I miss her.
I used to live with them, but Mama’s husband was always getting cross with me. He constantly told me I was not his child and that I was eating food that was meant for his children. Once he pushed me down the stairs and I broke my leg. Another time he hit me with a stick and I had to stay in hospital for two weeks. Whenever Mama came to help me, he hit her too. That was the last time he hit me. When Mama’s brother, Uncle Trudo heard about what happened, he bought me a plane ticket.
At the airport Mama hugged me tightly and cried. I was sad to leave her and cried too. She straightened my old yellow dress again and told me through her tears to be strong. She would see me at Christmas time. She made me smile by saying I was a lucky girl. Not many children got to get on an aeroplane on their 7th birthday. Then with a sad smile, she whispered, ‘Love you’, gave one final hug and left me.
Back in my village I lived with my grandmother, Bubu Beaty. Bubu Beaty was tough but fair. She made us work hard, my four cousins and I. She taught us how to weave traditional baskets and at nights she would tell us stories or sing songs in her language.
I don’t know who my father is. Bubu Beaty said Mama had met him when she was at college. Mama did not complete her teacher training because she became pregnant with me. One day I will ask Mama about my father.
That was a long time ago. My name is Bonalia. I am 18 years old and have my own family now. I have a two-year-old son, Dulu and am about to give birth to my second child. I plan to name her Lebo after Mama if it’s a girl.
My husband Kelu is unemployed. Like me he dropped out of school because there was no money to pay school fees. He works hard in the garden and is a very good fisherman. We make money from the extra vegetables and fish. His job as a security guard only lasted three months after armed men shot and killed his colleague and good friend during a horrific robbery.
... and give it to yourself in a story.” The woman on the radio continued. She was talking about her new children’s book and was telling others how to write one.
Think of something you missed out on in childhood and give it to yourself in a story. I could do that.
So I thought hard and then began my story with, ‘On Saturday, Bubu Beaty baked a big cake for Bonalia’s birthday’. Yes I had a party for my 7th birthday. There were balloons and excited children everywhere. My dad and mum were happy and smiling at me. I looked very pretty in my new dress with my hair braided in two neat rows. There was a table filled with all my favourite foods, like fried chicken, sausages, cupcakes and donuts. I got lots of presents on that day – the happiest day of my life.