To whom it may concern.
My name is Beauty. (Well, that’s my English name. Apparently, my birth name is too difficult for my employer to pronounce.) So, I figured if I settled for a simple name, it would make things easier. Besides, my name is quite fitting because my life is beautiful! I have switched on Mr Avery’s computer to type out my story for you. I have two children. Ayanda, my eldest; she is in Grade 10 at Klipspringer High School. She loves dancing! Often, in the evening, I will take a sneak peek into her room and see her practising some dance moves. (I must be sneaky because she gets all shy in front of me. You know how teenagers are.)
Kagiso started high school this year. He loves soccer. One of my favourite things is to see him and my husband supporting their favourite team: Ajax Cape Town. They sit huddled together on a Saturday afternoon shouting at the TV. (I keep telling them that the players can’t hear them through it. That joke never gets old!) They both just “shoo” me off with their cheeky smiles.
Solomon, my husband is a hard worker. I am so proud of him. For the last two years he has won Best Salesperson of the Year. He works at the local nursery called Green Fingers. He is knowledgeable with all things gardening and he is super friendly and helpful with every customer he deals with. They even return to the store asking to be served by him.
I have been working for Mr and Mrs Avery for about seven years now. I love their kids too. Megan is in Grade 6 and she loves to sing, we often sing together after school. Their son, Matthew is in Grade 8. (Kagiso and he are friends.) Matthew so desperately wants to play in the Under 14’s first team with Kagiso. I think that will happen soon – I’ll tell you more about that later…
I’m no ordinary “maid.” Oh wait, sorry: domestic worker (to be politically correct!). Read on, and I think you will see why. Most of us in this industry work from 8am to 3pm, our job responsibilities include vacuuming, mopping, doing the washing & ironing, washing the dishes and other general cleaning. I work on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
I enjoy my job! My responsibilities also include fetching Megan and Matthew from school at 1pm & 2pm respectively. Oh, and I work till 4:30pm, but I don’t mind the extra hours. Besides more pay, there is a lot more to my day than many realise.
I am incredibly grateful to Mrs and Mrs Avery. They have been particularly good to me and they even pay the full school fees for Ayanda. (That really does help Solomon and I a lot.) So, I return the favour to them in other ways…
Okay, okay, I will stop being all mysterious and get to the climax of my story. (On that note: I have learnt, online, ‘how to present a story’… so I am trying it out with this confession.)
I honestly don’t know how all the other domestic workers take so long to do everything – they must really dawdle! I get to the house around at 07:30, enjoy a cup of coffee, say a little prayer and then start my day at 8am. I am usually done by 11am. Maybe 11:30 max! So, I know what your next question is: “What am I doing with the rest of my day?”
The Averys have internet at home. And I didn’t want to waste that free resource, so I got creative. Ayanda learnt how to connect to the Wi-Fi with a subject she does at school called CAT (Computers and Technology.) She gave me a quick crash course and now I know how to use it too. In the morning, one of the first things I do is put the SMART TV on. (It really is smart! You can browse the internet through the TV.)
I navigate to the TED talks on YouTube and while I am washing dishes and doing the ironing, I am learning some new things. Why not? There are a lot of interesting things out there that one can learn. And it’s free! I’ve learned how to have better conversations and that has helped me with Mrs Avery and our own neighbours back home. I have also learned about the surprising habits of original thinkers. I shared what I learnt with both Kagiso and Ayanda. (They’re going to do great things one day, I believe it. #proudmom)
I also heard an inspiring talk about how to teach girls bravery rather than perfection. Some of the knowledge there I have also shared with both Megan and Ayanda. I would be thrilled to think that when Megan one day becomes a teenager, she won’t be sucked into all that unnecessary peer pressure that is so rife out there. Social media is full of nonsense! And I have seen over the years how it affects all cultures: Black, White and Indian.
I confess, I am sometimes very scared for the future of these four wonderful children I have the privilege of rearing. There is so much unfair pressure on them, and the busyness of these modern times is swallowing them whole!!
So, I am convinced of my calling. I am passionate about the mandate I have over these four young lives. Because both our boys are at the same school, I asked Mrs Avery if Kagiso could come back to their house when I fetch her kids. Thankfully, she obliged. And she doesn’t know, but it has truly done Matthew the world of good. ‘How’, you may wonder?
When all three (Megan, Matthew and Kagiso) get home, I tell them to put their school bags down and put on some play clothes. Then I take some old wood offcuts from the garage and make soccer posts at the one end of the yard. Megan plays keeper. (She is thrilled to even just be allowed to play with the “big boys.”) Then Kagiso teaches Matthew how to dribble the ball. He teaches him to shoot the ball correctly. Matthew’s ball sense has grown a lot in the last two months – next week he is going to try out again for the Under 14’s first team. Kagiso now believes he is ready. I agree. After half an hour of play I insist that they each go take a fifteen-minute power nap. Then it’s homework time.
However, before that we have a critical ritual that all four of us do. The Averys have an extensive library with a wide range of books: stories for kids, teenagers and adults. We each read for fifteen minutes. At the start of the year, we all made our own bookmarks. We used some cardboard, glue and glitter that I found in the crafts drawer. I encourage the reading for two reasons: firstly, to expand our imagination. (Sadly, this video game era has destroyed that for many kids.) The second reason is to help each of us with our reading ability – Megan is now the second best in her grade.
While the kids are doing their homework, I read and learn online about how to write stories. There are lots of free online courses. (I hope to write a book one day. That’s one of my own goals.) If the kids need help with their homework, I gladly assist. I am not stupid! (Contrary, to popular belief or stereotyping). I choose to work as a domestic. It’s very rewarding in many ways!
When it’s home time, Megan and Matthew always run to give me a tight squeeze which warms my heart. Mrs Avery has offered to drop Kagiso and me off at the taxi rank but the walk there is not far. Plus, I enjoy the quality time I have with my son on that walk. He and I try to spot and identify various birds. (The bird book at the Averys has been helpful.) Our list numbers seventeen different species since the start of the year.
To save money, I negotiated with the taxi driver that Kagiso can sit on my lap and I buckle him in with me. It’s quite fun in that taxi. All the passengers and I sing together. (I guess you could say, it’s in our culture.) Kagiso has such a powerful voice. I think when he’s a bit older, I will encourage him to audition for The Voice.
To save further money and to also prevent my legs from getting old too quickly, I ask the driver to drop us off about a kilometre away from our home. Once, I met a wise old “umlungu” (white person) who told me that walking everyday will keep one healthy! On that last stretch home, I encourage Kagiso’s imagination again and we try seeing interesting shapes and things in the clouds.
6pm is my favourite time of day. All four of us are together. Solomon, Ayanda, Kagiso and I all congregate in the kitchen and work as a team. Ayanda will peel and slice the potatoes. My husband will prepare the chicken. Kagiso and I prepare the vegetables. (This entails taking them from our vegetable patch, washing them and cutting them up, ready to be cooked.) Then whilst the food is on the go, we wash and dry the dishes and set the table too. Before we eat and before we say Grace, each of us has a turn to say two things we are grateful (or want to celebrate) about that day. I always want my family to be appreciative of the lives we live. There is a lot to be thankful for!
Before Solomon and I head to bed, we make some tea, stand outside and look up at the stars in silence. Okay, I lied previously – this part of the day is my favourite! This handsome and kind man standing next to me. Bliss! I am the luckiest lady alive. We may fall asleep with a corrugated sheet of iron over our heads, but we are happy. This little place is our haven. My children are going to make it big one day and they will become a lady and a gentleman and will not backstab anyone to be successful. Not a chance!
So, this is my world, and this is my life. I am proud of it! I’d like to believe I am a positive influence on Ayanda, Matthew, Kagiso and Megan.
By the way, it is no accident that you found this in your post box and that you are now reading this. I walk past your home every day. Again, I confess that I have sometimes heard the arguing. I have seen how disobedient your kids can be. (One can learn a lot from the after-work interaction of your family on your driveway.)
In conclusion, I’d like to end with a question for you:
I have Tuesdays and Thursdays free. Would you like me to work for you?
(My cell is 072 941 8036)
PS. I did switch off Mr Avery’s computer and printer.