Each time I think of my childhood, I cannot help but think of Malambule, my great grandmother. She seemed to know everything that happened in the world and why it happened. Stories came alive when Malambule told them. Thoko, my sister who comes after me, would sit across from Malambule on the other side of the fire called "imbawula." All of us would sit in a circle. Of course, I got to sit next to Malambule each time she told a story. I thought I had a closer look at her.
You see, Malambule lived in a hut. It was called "uguqasithandaze." The only light was the fire, if not the lamp, which was seldom used. As we listened, we would roast and eat corn while it was on the cob. The smell of roasted corn seemed to add to the story-time atmosphere. Malambule was a very animated woman. When she came to the climax of the story, her arms would be in the air wide open, and our mouths would be wide open. I would throw something like a jersey over the fire to scare the other kids. You would need to have been there to appreciate the reactions, especially Thoko's reaction. She was a first-class coward. The tired flesh on Malambule's arms never seem to bother her. Some stories were funny, some sad, some scary, and some had more lessons than others. All of them seemed to have one thing in common: they had valuable lessons about life and relationships.
One of my favorite stories was entitled, "I qaqa aliziqondi ukuthi liyanuka." This meant the skunk does not understand that it stinks. I do not remember the details of the story, but I do remember the lesson it entailed. The lessons was that we should not be too quick to judge others because we may be having the same problem and think it does not exist. A skunk may that dogs stink and go to the extent of saying, "I cannot stand the smell of the dog." By so saying, the skunk thinks it smells better than a dog.
I was about twenty years old when Malambule died. She was over one hundred fifteen years old. Al least, that is, when I stopped counting. You see, I had seen her in the corn field picking corn for us. I helped her carry the corn to the house. She sand as we walked to the house. When I asked her why she did not ask us to help, she said, "Grandson, as long as I have hands and not branches, I shall do things by myself and send no one to do things for me." "Immbila yaswela umsila ngoku yalezela." Immbila is an animal which lives under the rocks and has no tail. It is believed that when all other animals were getting their tails, immbila requested other animals to bring a tail for it. No animal did that for immbila and today it has no tail.
The last time I saw Malambule alive was at night. She had been telling us a story. When she reached the climax she said she needed to rest. I pleaded with her to finish the story. She insisted that she needed to rest. She never got up the following day. She died in her sleep. I guess she was really tired. After finding out that she was dead, I was very upset with her. "I told Malambule to finish the story, but she did not," I said. I guess the six or seven year old in me was still there at the age of twenty. Seeing that I have tears falling from my cheeks right now, I should stop thinking about my childhood.
As I conclude, let me confess that Malambule's death was a lesson for me. The lesson was simple yet profound: "You should love your parents because these good things called parents do not last long. Love them while you can." I realize that not everyone had the positive experiences I had about parents and childhood, but I love mine.
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