I recognised the woman then. She was the woman from the community hall. Her eyes went to the picture of Mama on the mantelpiece.
“Oh, I’m so sorry…oh…so, so sorry. Do you maybe have her funeral programme?” We had a few programmes left. The woman paged through one and stared at Mama’s picture. It was the one I had used on my Facebook page the year before.
“She was such a beautiful soul. I loved her.” I heard the woman’s voice shake a little and wished she would leave. “She was so proud of you, Naledi, and she spoke about you all the time. You look so much like her. I’m sure people tell you that all the time.”
Now I wished the woman would keep talking. I felt like Mama was with us. Papa tried to make small talk, asking about the woman’s children, but he didn’t do very well. Mama had always been the one who laughed and made visitors feel welcome. I watched the woman leave and went to my room.
I heard an unfamiliar sound coming from Papa’s room. I knocked before pushing the door open. He was sitting on Mama’s favourite chair, looking outside. Mama’s pink fluffy gown was on the back of the chair. Papa had covered his face in it.
He nodded but continued looking away and did not respond. I decided to leave him alone, but not before I had seen him dabbed at his eyes with Mama’s gown. I felt the pain of losing my mother make my head ache.
“Papa? Can we go to the mall?”
“What for, Naledi?”
“Please, Papa. We need to get there before the shops close.”
The mall was closed by the time we arrived.
“What did you want, Naledi?”
“Something for Mother’s Day.” Then I remembered: “Let’s use the road we use to go to school, Papa. Please, and then we can go home.”
Papa looked at me and I could see him pressing down his anger, but then he smiled. “You’re so stubborn. Just like your mother…just like that lady said…”
I remembered when I was a little girl. I used to play outside with Papa. He carried me on his shoulders and swung me round and round and I laughed and shouted that I was a star. I could hear Mama warning: “You’re going to drop that child.”
“Come and join us. All work and no play…” Mama hardly ever played with us. I remembered Mama and Papa dancing in the living room whenever that mushy song came on. It didn’t matter where Papa was, he would come into the house and they would dance around in the sitting room. I loved to watch them.
We turned down the road to the busiest intersection. The flower seller was packing up but I could see some red in his bucket. He looked at our car and turned his back. I thought he didn’t want to see the man with the bad temper.
I rolled down the window. “One rose, please.” When we had given him his five rand, I said: “Let’s go see Mama now.”
I saw Papa grip the steering wheel more tightly and saw the little vein on the side of his head pulsating. The smell of the rose filled the car and Papa sneezed. I thought he would say no, but he turned left onto the road to the cemetery.
We walked to Mama’s grave and stood together. I wondered what Papa was thinking. I was thinking that Mama had been gone a year. It was just me and Papa now, and Mama and I knew that one day, Mother’s Day would not hurt so much.
Tell us what you think: How have Naledi and her father changed?