The year progressed and we were moving closer and closer to Parents’ Day and I still hadn’t come up with a plan. I hoped something would happen. Maybe my mother would return. She would be fine at Parents’ Day. She would fit right in. She could wear the blue dress with the white collar she wore for church. No-one would think anything.
At night I would try to focus my mind very hard, hoping my wish would travel straight to her, wherever she was. I was her child, anyway. Maybe our minds had some sort of connection. I just hoped so.
The night before Parents’ Day my father and I sat at the table. Mma Kaone had brought over chicken stew and palache. We sat at the table, the paraffin lamp between us, eating in silence.
“Am I supposed to come around for this Parents’ Day tomorrow?” my father asked, and my heart jumped.
I had thrown away all of the letters the school sent home about Parents’ Day, so how did he know?
“No, I know you’re busy. Mma Boago said I could just bring the report home myself,” I lied.
My father looked at me, and a few seconds passed by, then he nodded his head.
The next day I sat on a rock at the back of the school. I didn’t want to see everyone with their parents. Mothers in doeks and shawls and red high-heeled shoes. I didn’t want to see fathers in ironed shirts with collars and pants with sharp creases at the front. All of them proud and happy to hear about their children, happy to collect their grade reports.
“Hey, Kago!” Boitumelo shouted, running up to me. “I’ve been calling you forever. Didn’t you hear me? Mma Boago is calling you. She says your parent is there.”
I jumped to my feet. I couldn’t believe it! My mother had come after all! I would get my grade report collected just like all of the other children! I ran to the front of the school where my class was, and I saw a crowd of people near the door.
When I got nearer, Mma Boago turned toward me, opening a gap in the group. I was shocked to see my father in the centre of the crowd. My heart jumped in my chest. What were they doing to him? Were they shouting at him for coming to school with his dirty hands? Were they making fun of him? I rushed towards the crowd.
My father was standing with Rre Oagile next to him. Someone’s arm rested on my father’s shoulder. When my eyes followed it from hand to elbow and finally to shoulder, I found it belonged to Mr Nareetsile.
I was confused. All the people were talking to my father and smiling. My father stood in the middle. He wore a clean pair of blue overalls – clean compared to his everyday pair, at least. People were reaching forward and shaking my father’s grease-creased hands, some holding them much longer than they needed to.
“Kago, come here!” Mma Boago called. She waved that I should come to where she stood next to my father.
I slowly walked toward them, not sure what was going on.
“Why didn’t you tell me Renalemang was your father?” Mma Boago asked.
I shrugged my shoulders, looking carefully at her face, trying to see what she was about to say.
“He fixed my mother’s car when she got a flat tyre on the way to Gaborone a couple of years ago,” Mma Boago smiled at me. “He really saved her that night.”
“Oh, my boy,” Mr Nareetsile said, smiling at me, his arm still around my father’s shoulders. “This man is a genius! A regular car engineer. He came over to my house and sorted out the mess the garage in town made of my Land Cruiser. I thought it was a write-off. But I’m still driving it today!”
I listened and watched as everyone had a story about how my father had helped them. No-one noticed his dirty hands or the stains on his overalls. He was their hero. I felt ashamed for how I had behaved. Why was my father everyone’s hero except for mine? Maybe I didn’t know what to look for. And, I thought too, maybe my mother didn’t know either. We had been confused by unimportant things, and missed the real hero who was my father.
Mma Boago spoke up through the noise.
“Let us get inside, Rre Renalemang, and see how this boy of yours is doing.”
I looked at my father and smiled. He reached forward to take my hand and I grabbed his in mine. We walked into the classroom together and I was happy.
Tell us: What would you like to say to Kago’s mother?