It was Friday evening at the end of term when I went around to Mam Zondi’s house. She had gone shopping for herself and for our birthdays, she said. Mama’s and my birthday were within a few days of each other.
Mam Zondi squeezed her voluptuous curves into the new dress she had bought and admired herself in the mirror.
Then she handed me a parcel. She had bought me jeans and a blue, matching top. I had been going with her to the Fitness Club and I was feeling good.
“Now Lizzy, aren’t you going to try on your new clothes?” she said to me.
“I don’t know …”
“Go for it! You rock, girl!”
“Mmm girl,” Mam Zondi commented, as I came out in the jeans and did a twirl. “Just look at those gorgeous curves.”
She led me to the mirror and spun me around. “Now let’s say it together, loud and proud,” she said.
“We are the biz niz!”
“Now come, let’s get your Mama into the dress she deserves.”
“What is this?” asked Mama, when she held up the dress.
“Yi lokhwe,” we both said. “Khawu yinxibe.”
“I don’t think it will suit me,” she said. “I am too old to wear this and I’m not and young and pretty like you, Lizzy.”
I smiled at her. She had called me pretty. “You are beautiful just the way you are!” I sang.
“And you can sing,” laughed Mama.
“I am beautiful just the way I am …” Mam Zondi’s voice boomed. “Come on, join us, Sisi.”
Mama shook her head.
“I dare you,” said Mam Zondi.
Shyly, Mama said the words. Mam Zondi and I kept singing, and suddenly we were all singing together. “We are beautiful, just the way we are.”
“Go put the dress on Mama.”
To my surprise, she put the dress on. She really did look beautiful. We clapped as she turned in front of the mirror. Then her face broke into a big smile. “Well, who would have thought …” she said. “Not bad!”
“Wow mamBhele umhle nzwakazi,” Mam Zondi said.
“Yes, you are really beautiful Mama,” I said.
Mom blushed. “Enkosi girls,” she said. “Enkosi sihlobo, nawe mntwanam.”
“You should come to Fitness Club with us,” said Mam Zondi. “Uthi kulamlungu wakho ucela i-weekend off.”
“Hayi ntombi inzima lonto,” Mom said. “That is difficult. How do I change my life?”
“Change begins with you,” said Mam Zondi firmly.
“I guess we can go and buy gym clothes together,” Mama said, as she turned to me.
Gym clothes? I couldn’t believe my ears.
That afternoon Mama and I went shopping, this time for tracksuits. Mama had agreed to come with us to the exercise class in the community hall.
Before we left for the class in our matching tracksuits Mama sat me down on her bed.
“I just want to tell you how much you are special to me. You are a beautiful girl and I want you to always know that.”
I felt a lump in my throat.
“Really?” I said. “Do you mean that?”
“Yes,” said Mama. “I just haven’t said it to you. I’ve been too hard on you. I realize that now, and I’m so sorry.”
“You’ve been too hard on yourself,” I said softly.
Mama nodded slowly.
“I suppose I haven’t known how else to be. With you or with myself,” said Mama. Her shoulders slumped, and she looked defeated.
“Our lives aren’t over,” I said. “We can learn to do things differently. The Girl Power Programme is teaching me that.”
Mama put her arm around me and hugged me tightly. “I’d like to learn to do things differently. I’d really like that.”
“We can Mama,” I said. “We really can.”
I kept hugging her, and for the first time, I felt it really was possible, for both of us.
* * * * *
It was Saturday some time later and Mom, Mam Zondi and I headed to Fitness Club. I had never seen Mama so excited about something. When we got to the club, I noticed one man was staring at Mom. He kept smiling and looking in her direction.
“Mama go to him and start a conversation,” I said, trying to convince her. But before she did, he came over and introduced himself. I went to join Mam Zondi, who couldn’t take her eyes off them. We watched as Mama laughed at something he said.
“You see,” said Mam Zondi.
It warmed my heart to see Mama happy.
I thought of those big brave words that we had put in that bag and handed to each other at Girl Power and I knew in my heart that they were true.
Tell us what you think: Do you think life coaching programmes such as Girl Power can help people? Why/Why not?