It has been a long overnight drive from Cape Town to Mthatha; we’ve driven through many villages and small busy towns in-between.
I take many pictures.
I am very tired when we arrive, but more than tired I am glad to be close to my aunt.
By the time I have put my bag away, and peed in the bucket behind the door, my aunt has warmed water for me to refresh myself from the long drive, she even gently commands me to check that my bath water is to my liking so she can adjust it if it’s too hot/cold. I feel like a five year old and my sad heart is very happy to be in her loving care.
I finish my bath and ready the shoes, dress and accessories I’ll be wearing to my uncle’s funeral the following day.
It is the day of the funeral, we are on our way to eMalungeni, to mourn, sing, pray, laugh and remember my uncle, her cousin. The drive is reminiscent of my childhood road trips to my grandmother’s house. It’s the same way but for the turnoff.
The funeral is of course a very sombre affair, cushioned by seeing cousins, and elders I hadn’t seen in a very long time. I hide behind taking photos of as many of my family members as I can sneak in.
On the drive back we talk about whom we were able to see and catch up with. My aunt doing most of the talking.
My heart is so full by just being with her, that I hardly make a sound as she speaks, apart from grunts of affirmation every now and again, so she knows she has my attention.
When we get home, we call my mom, who wasn’t able to make her cousin’s funeral. We take turns talking to her until it is time for dinner. My aunt is worried that I might get bored out here in the rural part of town, where the biggest disruptors of peace are roosters in the morning and the insistent moo of the village cows throughout the day.
I tell her that I feel almost overwhelmed with a sense of peace and wellbeing. I think she sees the truth of this in my content smile, because her body visibly relaxes.
In the evening she makes me umphokoqo from maize she has refined herself, the maas we use is from a cow whose calf can sometimes be seen being bullied by the naughty village boys.
My aunt brings two blankets out, one for me and one for her. She carries a bench for us to sit on, so we can watch the city lights while we chatter in the crisp cold. The dogs are by our feet and the chickens make gentle sounds in their coup on our right.
She asks me if I’m well, if I’m comfortable, if I’m full, if I need anything more. I look at her under the evening sky and tell her I am content.
This is the thread my visit carries until the day I leave for Cape Town.
She tells me how the lavender helps to keep the snakes away, how the dogs can be a nuisance because they help themselves to the chicken eggs and sometimes the chicks too. She says how the goats and birds eat the harvest and chicken feed. It feels like a dream to me. The entire stay feels like a dream.
On my last evening, my auntie is worried she won’t have anything good or fulfilling for me to eat, my vegetarian ways are the source of her concern.
She makes me carrots, spinach and potatoes, with onion and grated cheese, I look at this plate and picture my aunt, planting the seeds, tending the garden and harvesting it all, to deliberately make dinner for me. Her heart’s work. Her hand’s work.
I don’t have adequate words for what I feel when I think of this moment.
All the love my aunt has in her physical being and her emotional being she gives to me literally on a plate yet still she asks me if it is enough. Asking casually, conversationally and unconsciously, because if it isn’t she has more to pour out to me.
I am reminded all over again how incredible the women in my family truly are.