Despite all my wishes to make Mother’s Day disappear, it arrived on Sunday like it did every year.

This time I was woken up by the clanging of our front gate.

“Go away, for Pete sake!” Papa was shouting from his room. That was all my father seemed to do these days: shout. “It’d better not be those church people coming so early in the morning. I told them never to set their toes in my yard ever again.”

Papa didn’t have to remind me. I was there last Sunday when two men and a woman came to our front door. There were three of them, all wearing white shirts, black trousers. When Papa had paused to take a breath, the woman said: “Be blessed.” All three turned back the way they had come. He had chased them away, the same as he had done to the people campaigning for their MP.

But whoever was at the door today was as persistent as mosquito. I heard the gate jangling. I heard Papa groaning as he got out of bed to stomp to the front door. I felt pity for the person who was going to be swatted away.

“Yes?” he called from the front door.

“Yes hello. I’m looking for Sis Beth…”

Papa’s face went from angry to sad. He glanced at the coffee table where a framed picture of Mama’s stood. Then he went to open the gate.

The woman who was visiting walked like she might keel over before making it into our house. I thought she sounded familiar. It was her voice, deep, for someone so slight. Then I remembered her eyes and lips but I did not remember where I had seen her. She wore a scarf round her head and the dress she was wearing hung on her shoulders then dropped straight down.

Her eyes went to Mama’s picture that we kept on the mantel piece. The visitor looked at me then, and exclaimed, “Oh, my goodness. You must be Naledi. You’re so beautiful. Just like your mother.”

And then an uncomfortable silence filled the room. No-one was quite sure what to say.

The woman spoke again. “I am Carol. This is Sis Beth’s house, isn’t it?”

“Yes…it is.”

“I’ve come to thank her for what she did for me. If it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t be alive…”

“My wife passed away last year.”

Our visitor looked like she was going to melt to the ground. She sank into the chair nearest to her. Her wrists were so thin I could have held them both in one hand.

“Oh, no. Oh my God. I’m so sorry. I had no idea. I’ve been ill…She babysat for me when I needed to go for my mammogram…I’m getting better now.”

“I’m glad she helped you,” Papa said gently.


Tell us what you think: What kind of woman was Naledi’s mother?