I took part in a short story compo recently held by South Africa Writer’s College. Here is my entry:
The Confessions of a Domestic Worker
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! And this is my story:
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 practicing some dance moves. (I have to sneak, 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 the TV. 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 really 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. She loves to sing. We often sing together after school. Their son, Matthew is in grade 8 too. (Kagiso and he are friends.) Matthew so badly wants to play in the Under 14’s first team with Kagiso. I think that will happen in the near future. I’ll tell you more about that, later…
I’m no ordinary “maid.” Oh wait, sorry: domestic worker (to be politically correct!). Most of us in this industry work from 8am to 3pm. And our job responsibilities include: vacuuming, mopping, doing the washing & ironing, washing the dishes and other general cleaning. And in my case, I work on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
I actually 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. Despite more pay, there is a lot more to my day than many realise…
I am very grateful to Mrs and Mrs Avery. They have been very good to me. They even pay the full school fees for Ayanda. (That really does help out Solomon and me 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 script.)
I honestly, don’t know how all the other domestics work. They really do seem to 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 Avery’s 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.)
So, 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 is a lot of interesting things out there that one can learn. And it’s free!
I’ve learnt how to have better conversations. And that has helped me with Mrs Avery and our own neighbours back home. I have also learnt about the surprising habits of original thinkers. I shared what I learnt there with both Kagiso and Ayanda. (They’re going to do great things one day! I believe it!)
I also heard a stirring talk about how to teach girls bravery, and not perfection. Some of the knowledge there I have shared with both Megan and Ayanda. I would be thrilled to know when Megan one day becomes a teenager she won’t be sucked into all that unnecessary peer pressure that is so rife in the western world. 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 the 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 twenty minute power nap. (The Spanish call it a siesta.)
Then it’s homework time.
But before that we have a critical ritual that all four of us do… The Avery’s have an extensive library with a wide range of books: for kids to teenagers to stories for adults. We each read for half an hour. (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: to expand the imagination of us all (sadly, this video game era has destroyed that for many kids.) The second reason is to help with their reading ability. Megan is now second best in her grade for reading.
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…)
When it’s home time, Megan and Matthew always run to give me a tight squeeze. It warm’s 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 spot and identify various birds. (The bird book at the Avery’s has been helpful.) Our list is on 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 also to 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 every 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 actually 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 safe haven. My children are going to make it big one day! And they will remain a lady and a gentleman and will not backstab anyone in order to be successful. No a chance!
So, this is my world. This is my life. I am proud of it. I’d like to believe I am a positive influence to 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? I may do some good with children too.
(My cell is 072 941 8036)
PS. I did switch off Mr Avery’s computer and printer.