“Liyintoni ikhaya elingena, Mama,” her favourite portrait read. It hung right on top on the wall where her favourite chair in the whole house stood. “What is a home without a mother” would be a simple translation. For me and my brother it was always a reminder that the house we had all our lives called home would be empty walls if one day our mom passed.

Funny how there was an exact portrait but with ‘tata’. But, for some reason, it was always stashed somewhere in storage. Now I realise it had no value like the one of the mother. The day our mom was no more came sooner than anticipated. My body felt numb from the day she passed to when the coffin lowered. It just didn’t make sense how we were supposed to go back to normal. Being in the Eastern Cape for that period sort of blocked the whole realisation of getting back to the place we called home.

The first thing I saw there was the writing, “Liyintoni ikhaya elingena Mama”. I read it out loud as I looked into my aunt’s eyes. I stepped back and I felt a panic attack approaching. It felt like I was dying. It all came back. The walls of the house felt so cold. The welcoming warmth was no longer there. I couldn’t step in. This wasn’t the place I called home.

I tried for months to make it what it was. For a very long time, I ignored and pretended like I never heard the neighbour and ‘family’ gossiping about how I was ‘losing it’ and how the house had changed. They had forgotten that my brother had lost his mother, my step father lost his wife but I had lost the only person who’d been there all my life. The only person whom I trusted with my whole life and the one who would go to the ends of earth for me. Yet they stood there judging how I did things wrong, and the embarrassment I was to my mother’s hard work.

I thought I could fill her shoes but they watched me drown. No one cared to help. She taught me everything except how to live without her. I left the empty walls of a house I used to call home.

Years later I moved from one place to another trying to find what was missing. It was probably still right there where it had been before but I couldn’t go home. Something inside me hadn’t forgiven what I had lost there. Maybe like my mother, the house had served its purpose. It raised and taught me everything I knew but it wasn’t meant to be in my life forever. Everything has to come to an end sometime.

I hope the house fills its purpose for somebody else like it did to me but right now, I can’t go home.


Tell us: What do you think about the writer’s sentiments about her home?