Themba was up early in the morning. He was whistling and singing as he poured water in a bucket, getting ready to wash the car. This had been his weekly routine for the two months since he’d got his car. Each day when he was off, he spent about two hours cleaning the car, even if it was already clean inside and out.
“Hawu, Themba. Are you trying to wake the whole neighbourhood?” Baba said, standing at the front door with his cup of coffee.
“Cha Baba, is it too loud?” Themba turned down the music that was blasting from the car. Music was everything, and Themba was lucky he didn’t have to spend hundreds on a new music system. The previous owner clearly loved it just as much as he did, and it showed. The car was in good condition and the system was sharp. The speakers looked new. It was one of the reasons he chose the car.
“I hope when you have children, you’ll give them as much attention as you do this car,” Baba teased.
“Hawu, Baba. I will love them more, the way I was loved, ubaba wami.”
“Do you know that when you were young I couldn’t go anywhere without you? You followed me everywhere,” Baba laughed. “I had to hide so I could go to work.”
“Woza, woza,” Themba called Baba, handing him a cloth. “It’ll be like old times; doing things together.”
Baba took the cloth and started polishing the car with Themba. This was what he had dreamt of for a long time; being part of his son’s success. He was proud of all his kids. They had come so far, especially this last year – which had been the toughest for them. He knew that Grace was looking down on them with pride.
* * * * *
It was the day before they were to leave for Mpumalanga, for Grace’s tombstone unveiling. Everything was set, and they were ready to go.
The two men fell into a silence, listening to the gospel music coming from the car.
The gate squeaked and a young man walked in.
“Sanibonani,” he greeted. “I’m looking for Busi. I brought her photos.”
Baba signalled the young man to go inside. The girls were up already, cleaning, and making breakfast. The house was buzzing with excitement.
After the young man delivered the photos he left. Busi didn’t even wait for the others. She immediately opened the envelope and started looking at them.
“Are those your Matric Dance photos?” Lerato asked from the kitchen. “Let’s see! Samke, Busi’s photos are here,” she called.
Samke came out of the room and joined them in the lounge. They pored over the photos.
“These are amazing. Busi, you look so beautiful,” Samke said.
“Wow, look at you. You look so different,” Lerato observed.
“I’m glad you decided to go with the weave,” Samke said. “These pictures will be perfect for my portfolio.”
Samke gave her little sister a wink before going back into her room to dress Khwezi.
“Busi, can you believe that you’re done with school now?” Lerato asked, setting plates at the table.
“I know. The year went quickly and now it’s over,” Busi said.
“And next year you start all over again. New adventures at a new school – I’m sorry – at college.”
“And wena? When are you getting your BCom results, Lerato? It’s been a long haul,” Busi asked.
“Soon, I hope. But I’ve already started applying for better work now that I have completed my degree.”
“Yes, our girls are moving up in the world,” Themba said, walking in with Baba. “Even Samke is going to study a course in Business Management.”
“Yes, our girls will soon run this house and we can retire in style,” Baba teased.
Breakfast was laid out on the table and Busi took Baba’s tray to serve him.
“Samke, breakfast is ready. Come eat,” Lerato called her from the kitchen.
“I’m almost done. Khwezi is too excited this morning. He refuses to get dressed.”
“He knows we’re leaving, and that he’s going to drive with Malume and go see Gogo,” Themba said proudly.
As the family was still eating breakfast, Ma Ruby and Bra Mike came to greet them.
“Makhi, kunjani?” she greeted.
“Kuhle, Makhi. We’re well.”
“I’ve brought you some padkos. My little Khwezi won’t survive the long drive without any snacks.”
“Haibo, Ma Ruby, you’re spoiling him. It’s only a three-hour drive to Mpumalanga,” said Samke.
“Four. You must drive slowly,” Baba said.
“You see, mfowethu, these kids are always rushing to get from nowhere to nothing,” said Bra Mike. “Back in the day, when you had …”
“Oh, I must check the … in the car … my phone,” Themba said, avoiding a lecture from Bra Mike.
“You see, from nowhere to nothing.”
Themba only smiled. He didn’t want to argue again. It had taken them all evening to convince Baba to go with them; that they would all fit in the little car. He would sit with Themba in the front and the girls in the back. They even gave it a practice run to the shopping centre to get their last-minute things before the journey.
“Oh, Themba. You’re a big man now, with your own car,” Ma Ruby praised.
“Yeah! And to think he wanted a Mercedes,” said Lerato laughing.
“Bona, don’t joke about the Merc wena. That car is a beast,” Themba defended himself.
“Yeah, a beast with petrol too,” said Bra Mike. “Back in the day the girls, I mean ladies, would die for that car. But now you just must be smart, be economical.”
Lerato smiled. It felt like only yesterday she was trying to convince Themba that buying a Mercedes would cost him more to maintain. And now here they were, about to take their first trip.
“Yeah, stubborn Themba,” Samke said laughing.
“Hawu, you call me stubborn. What about you?”
“What about me?” Samke flashed him a look. But Themba just smiled.
“You and your big dreams, always wanting the high life and never listening to anyone’s advice.”
“Be grateful my stubbornness paid off. Otherwise you’d still be buying me airtime and weaves big brother.”
“Look at all of you. Grace would be so proud of you,” said Ma Ruby.
“We couldn’t have done any of this without you, Makhi. Siyabonga.”
“What will you be doing while we’re gone, Ma Ruby? Maybe another date with Bra Mike?” Themba asked, smiling.
“He, wena. Don’t ask izindaba zabantu abadala. That’s not for young ears,” Bra Mike said.
“Ma Ruby, you must look after him,” said Baba. “Umfowethu is doing good.”
“Bafo, I’m right here. Why talk about me like I’m not? We’ll be fine, my chicken. Finally I will get some peace with all of you gone.”
“Some quality time,” said Themba and everyone laughed.
The family packed their bags in the car and said their goodbyes to Ma Ruby and Bra Mike. They set off on their journey.
When they arrived Gogo was waiting for them, excited. As soon as she saw them she started ululating; praising the ancestors and dancing around the car. The neighbours came out and joined in too. It was such a proud moment for the Majolas as they shared in Themba’s glory.
Later that week, as they stood at the grave site admiring the tombstone on Grace’s grave, they were all happy. They were grateful for this moment, and every moment that had led them to this point. They each knew that Grace was pleased with them, and they knew they had honoured her.