A little while after the last summer came to an end, Marothodi’s chest started beading. Her breasts pressed out a bit too much and sometimes when she touched them they seemed too tender with a residing uncomfort.
She hid them at first because she knew if her mother saw them she would ask questions to which she had no answer. Her cousin, Lebopo, had told her a story about growing breasts and the traditional broom. She didn’t want her mother to make her do that, not when the winter was that vicious and the mornings were a new kind of dark.
But it was inevitable.
One morning when she was visiting her grandmother, MmeBaile, she got woken up when the horizon was starting to bleed some life into the sky.
“It is time now, ngwanaka*,” said MmeBaile.
Marothodi stepped out in her pyjama and bare feet. MmeBaile instructed her to take off her top and face the budding Sun, and as it rises she must sweep her chest in measured soft strokes.
The entire time MmeBaile stood a few feet back, singing in mumbled melody about a young woman finding her soul in the sun and shining through the days and even the darkest nights.
When it was all done, Marothodi went back to bed a little embarrassed and unsure of what just happened. She had questions but didn’t know where to start. It was as if MmeBaile could sense her confusion but chose to never say another word about what had happened.
The air lay thick between them for some time, months even. Now today sitting here, a young woman who isn’t sure why her mother had to pass away so soon before she could ask questions. She worried and fiddled, but they had a steady and intimate closeness now. MmeBaile had taken really good care of her and allowed her to grieve, sparing herself. This old woman was now her mother and, therefore, she answered to a lot of things.
Today she had woken up to an unfamiliar wetness between her legs. It was not urine. It had been a while since she had a leaking waist, as her carefree aunt liked to refer to it. This was different and a tad bit stressful. She had known it would happen, again from the very forthcoming but not so helpful Lebopo. She touched the place where the wetness seemed to have pooled, only to return with trembling bloodied fingers. A whimper escaped her; it was a little bit of a cry and a scream. Whatever would she tell MmeBaile?
“Wake up ngwanaka, it’s time for school,” said the now worried MmeBaile. It was way past Marothodi’s wake up call. She touched her forehead searching for a fever that had to have kept her in bed past her alarm. There was none.
She looked at her again, this time searching her eyes, and then she saw it. Then the bed dipped where her weary body frame plopped on the bed. She held both Marothodi’s hands in hers and softly rubbed them with her own then said to her quietly “you are not in the wrong, ngwanaka. This is a part of you now. You have grown into a young woman. Wherever your mother is, her soul is resting well.”
*Ngwanaka (Setswana) – my child
The image in the post is an adapted version of a photograph by Ed Bierman via Flickr.
About the Author:
Neo is a young Motswana lady who falls in love every other day with the little things, and writes about it. She belongs to a literary arts society called Poet’s Passport that I first got published with. She then later got published on The Kalahari Review.