“Your father is coming home tomorrow,” Mama would say, a statement that grabbed my siblings and my attention whilst I was ironing shirts to be worn at school the next day and my sister cluttered and clanged the dishes in the big bowl, washing them after supper. The excitement made the chores doable because Tata always brought something special.
The atmosphere at school the following day was always bright and energetic. I walked on the corridors with light feet, excited to clean the floors and windows of the whole school. During the last day of the term, every learner waited with bated breath for their results but for me no report card mattered, no results on the report card mattered but the presence of my father’s arrival to spend the holiday with us.
My sister and I, known to be shy and calm surprised our mates when we raced home after school with heavy backpacks to see who is going to lay her eyes first on Tata. The smell of his body spray greeted us the minute we stepped on the doorway, we witnessed his excitement to see us through a firm handshake and his resounding laugh, a laugh that filled the room. A laugh that would have been special if I were to hear it every day but then again it was much more special when I anticipated it during and for the holidays. Tata’s sense of humour is a characteristic that I adopted; it emphasised, and hammered in my head that life can be little lighter when humour is an everyday exercise, even at the serious things at times.
Having Tata at home for holidays meant eating chicken every second day other than the once in a blue moon when he was not around. My sisters and I never dragged our feet to make coffee after supper as coffee with powdered milk was something that Tata bought when home, it was like Christmas whenever Tata arrived. Speaking of Christmas, he would say, “Here they are, Lethu,” handing me a plastic with my new Christmas clothes and I, hopping towards the plastic bag like a rabbit about to receive its favourite vegetable with a wide smile would grab the bag and utter shyly, “Enkosi Tata/ Thank you Tata,” and run to my mother.
However, the atmosphere would be gloomy when he had to leave for work again, but we were comforted by the hope that he was going to come back home again, and his phone call every month to say he had deposited money for monthly groceries. This phone call however came with a lecture of how hard he sweats to make this money for the family. He would say, “Don’t waste the food, this money does not come easy,” thus this meant budgeting was a priority since no one wanted to be the one to call Tata when the house ran out of a 12 kg mielie meal. Thus, the above means that tata had perseverance and was and still is responsible because for close to 40 years he had to alternate between the Eastern Cape province and the mines of Johannesburg to take care of his wife and children. He carried this responsibility resiliently until he retired in 2018. These are characteristics I choose to emulate.
This was one of the highly commended entries in the My Father essay writing competition. Click here to read other excellent essays from the competition.