My life as a young child was like one of a tourist…full of excitement, wander and new places. If you asked me where I grew up, I would have a list of towns and cities to tell you about. I remember at some point between the ages of 4 and 6 I lived in Beitbridge with a thousand other cousins plus my grandparents…my mother’s parents. Ok, a thousand is an exaggeration but it felt like that especially when it came to eating time. We all ate, the thousand of us, from 3 big bowls of food. One would have sadza, the other collard greens and the last with meat. Being one of the youngest, I would have to be satisfied with the 3rd smallest piece of meat. The rule was you eat the sadza and vegetables first then lastly a piece of meat, picked from the oldest to the youngest. Meat was like our dessert. After a quick sadza and veggy gulping, you could nicely relax, stretch your legs and slowly savour your designated chunk of meat. You also had to learn the art of eating quickly otherwise you would sleep hungry. We were taught at a young age a practical lesson on how survival of the fittest works. Till this day I’m one of the fastest eaters I know…as pretty as I am.
The worst challenge was during breakfast or 4pm tea time featuring sweet sugary tea with milk and bread with delicious red sun jam. The problem was the “butt” of the bread…you know, the end part…the crust. Everyone wanted it. I’m not sure why there was so much fascination for it because I don’t eat it now. Maybe it was thicker or the mere fact of its limited slices in a loaf brought the law of scarcity to its full effect. The fights would start, a lot of crying and name calling…big head…big eyes…big nose…and the insults would go on and on until the baddest and toughest would be the last man standing and win or an adult intervenes and takes the butt for themselves. I don’t remember having rules for the butt of bread like we did for the meat so tea time would be messy business and quite chaotic. The other problem for being one of the youngest was bathing time. I honestly can’t recall how many we were, we should have been more than 7 but somehow we all fit in one regular tub. The adults would insist on us bathing at the same time, maybe it was an energy conservation and time management tactic for them and again, like dinner time, the tub had rules. The oldest would be closer to the tapes which was warmer and the youngest at the back. I remember sitting in what seemed very little and cold water at the back. The oldest must have had a vendetta against us the young ones because for the life of me, I don’t not understand why our water was always little and cold. They must have blocked most of the water to themselves such that by the time the water reached the end of the tub, it was the reject and most poorest quality of water we would get.
We had a grumpy great grandmother whom we “lovingly” called gogo Mathanyela. I think it was because she would aim brooms at us whenever she was upset. I cant blame her because our favorite past time was irritating her the entire day. Gogo Mathanyela according to adults could not walk but us kids knew better. So gogo would sit in a corner or convenient place all day…basking the warmth of the sun…enjoying the shade of the trees, whatever tickled her fancy that day…peeling groundnuts…doing anything that made her look busy. So because we were told she couldn’t walk we would go to poke at her and make faces at her, one at a time or the lot of us would attack her all at the same time. So to wade us off she would throw a broom at us…those African brooms made from grass. For those repeatedly stupid ones who would go closer, she would pretend to be sleeping or not paying attention and the curious brood would be caught, swiftly placed on her laps bums up and she would spank the living shit out of them. That act we would call it “Bhaaaa ncwwiiiii…” because shed clap your bum then pinch it and repeat the process numerous times until they could escape. So one day, we were playing in a thatched hut and gogo was in there sleeping enjoying her afternoon siesta. One thing led to another and we ended up lighting up a few straws on the thatch and to our shock and amusement, the hut began to burn. Gogo Mathanyela woke up in shock and all of a sudden, like a miracle, stood up and ran for dear life. This is when we discovered the woman could walk but of course no adult believed us neither could we explain how we knew least we confessed to a crime of arson.