Here we are! Do you see that little brick house down the road, the one with the old thatch roof and the umber streaked curtains? That’s it. Were you expecting something grand? Something, luxurious?

I remember those curtains being a hypnotising white, only because Mum would not allow us to touch them. I also remember the nights Mum would start a small fire on the braai stand on the veranda during loadshedding.

My sisters and I would sit near the fire and play Monopoly. “Iwe!” Adanna would shout, signalling that it was my turn to roll the dice.

I was distracted by the way the flames danced across her face and how they marched on the pearly white curtains, leaping from wall to wall as if they were performing some sacrifice.

In a way they had sacrificed us to the hardships of life, as Dad always said, “There’s no time to wallow in ash and other sorrows. You must work smart, and not hard, if you want to be successful.”

With that, I shook the dice in my small palm, then blew into it, praying for at least a four, maybe I could buy ‘Victoria & Alfred Waterfront’ or ‘Table Mountain’. These are only a few of the many places Dad has seen.

Three pairs of trousers, double the amount of shirts and five pairs of socks rolled into the tiny crevices. That is how he taught me to pack. I did not always understand why he had to travel so far for work, but I understood that to love your children is to sacrifice for them in whatever ways are necessary.

When he was gone, missing the thought of him was how we grew up.

There was a photograph of him, hidden in the corner of a black shoebox, smiling like an idiot. 1979. I wanted to call him softly, to see if he could step out of the dusty film and tell me what made his gorgeous, umber eyes light up like that.

In those times, I longed for his animated stories of all the scars he happened to obtain from war only for grandma to inform us that they are from a horrible fall from the mango tree in her backyard. The older I get, the more I realize how blissful everything was until I stepped into what he called ‘the real world’, that quickly flung shrapnel into my dreams.

However, my father’s comforting words always seemed to spill out slowly, as if the truth can take its time. In those two minutes of fatherly advice, I could not and can never be touched, because he is the firefighter of my troubles, the light when I cannot see my path.


This was a winning entry in the My Father essay writing competition. Click here to read other excellent essays from the competition.