Memories of my grandparents’ home are bittersweet.
“Across the road live your grandparents,” says a fatigued voice that comes from my mother’s dehydrated throat. I follow her voice and fingers as they gesticulate towards a plot of land dotted with premature greens that pierce through the red dusty soil.
Closer to the entrance made of thin durable tree stalks nestle three mud huts and a peculiar hybrid structure made of mud and bricks, and behind the first mud structure a ram knocks horns with the four goats huddled in a corner, in a pathetic poorly constructed kraal. Two old figures saunter out of a hut. Here they are, my grandparents, two stocky figures, with smiling eyes that say, “You’re home”.
I smile and stretch my arms to hug them, our luggage on the cow dung-decorated floor. They moan like street dwellers tasting a longed-for meal, with each squeeze a gush of “ohhhs and ahhhs” flow like melodies in the blistering Sunday sun. I am half excited and annoyed after travelling for hours from Alexandra Township to Raphukula, the home of river crocodiles, burning hot red soil, snakes, scorpions and bilharzia.
My cousin Nkotwana rushes in, mad with excitement, “Ali, Ali…” he shouts for me. We walk barefoot to the store, with each step I squeal as the flaming hot soil batters my tender urban feet. We spend the day playing shepherd with my grandparent’s livestock, and the evening telling stories about brooms, witchcraft and Nkotwana visiting Johannesburg.
The morning creeps on me like a giant spider to a succulent insect. I am due to leave later today; transport has been arranged with an uncle whose name I can’t remember. The old white vehicle hums languidly through the thick soil. Before I know it, the dry undulating barren landscape becomes smaller and smaller until it is nothing but a distant memory.
Nkotwana never saw Johannesburg and with time we stopped travelling to Raphukula. Slowly all my memories began to fade. I lost the fresh smell of cow dung on my nostrils, lost the feeling of mountains of sand on my feet, and all but forgot the two historic figures called grandpa and grandma.What role can grandparents play in children’s lives? Were yours important to you?