Growing up, one would always hear about deadbeat fathers/uncles/brothers and all the abuse they came with – emotionally, psychologically and physically too. It’s a song that’s still sung today that I see/read about, in this world of social media, on a daily. We’re all up in arms about it, ready to throw stones at any known man that has neglected his own seed. We curse, kick and scream at the top of our voices trying to make this crooked path straight. But there’s another song that’s still stuck in many a throat – that of abusive mothers.
Like my own.
Her name is Mpume. I don’t recognize her by any title, so I refer to her by her name.
A quick background; she abandoned me when I was three months young and I was raised by my father, my aunt, and grandparents. Ubaba passed away when I was seven, and my aunt and her husband took the role of parenting me. Under their care, I had the greatest support, love, and warmth every child needs. From my uncle helping me out with all my maths homework and science projects, to watching iDiski together as a family, to the planned family trips out of the province every year (my first unforgettable trip was to Cape Town in 1995), to the braais we hosted every second week or so with their close friends (I owe my good taste in music to my uncle), to listening to my recitals when I developed a love for poetry and had to memorize words for my monologues at school, to actually journeying with me in my poetry career in my yesteryears, to financing an international opportunity I got after matriculating (to count a few). We were a praying family that was open-minded and communicated all victories and faults. We danced, we laughed, we sang together. There is absolutely no need of mine that was never met.
I knew of Mpume, and only in 2004 did I spend more than a minute with her when I asked to visit. Fast forward to 2006, I asked my aunt if I could go stay with Mpume because I wanted to have a mother-daughter relationship with her. Little did I know that that would turn out to be a nightmare and the worst decision of my life.
From 2006 – 2012, I endured all forms of abuse under her roof. I literally slept with one eye open (if I managed any sleep at all), especially on nights when she came back from drinking. I have had a plate of food smashed and broken on my head, blue/black eyes from her fists and bruises from her kicks. There is no curse word under the sun that she has never uttered, belittling me in every way possible.
In my young mind, I quickly concluded that this woman hated me – I disgusted her and I didn’t know why. I have three younger brothers whom she openly loved and never even lifted a finger to, no matter their wrongs. Seemingly I was the rotten fruit, so I prayed – for her betterment more than anything. I had cried enough tears but still held on to this broken rope of hope that one day the sun would shine for her and I, that she would find it in her, somewhere, to love me, or to even try to, at the very least.
Six years into this abusive relationship, I still stayed. I held on. I prayed on. I Marvin Sapp’d on. She eventually couldn’t stand the sight of me one afternoon and packed all my clothes, telling me to go back to my aunt’s place. I thought she was joking; surely, she must have been, but she wasn’t. She even walked me to the taxi rank to make sure that she was getting rid of me. I went home, baffled and crying.
The following year (2013) she saw me standing outside a salon talking to a friend, waiting to wash my braids. She walked my direction and started slapping and swearing at me. I walked away and walked back to my place. Between the time she threw me out and that day, she had never called or worried herself about my well-being and now suddenly had the audacity to attack me?!? I was livid. The following morning I got a restraining order against her.
I was tired.
I was angry.
I had had enough.
It’s a shocker to most when they learn that some mothers are capable of being devils, as they are perceived as apples of the eye and would never commit even half a sin. It’s a hard pill to swallow. I too have moments of disbelief when I reflect on my life during that time. Many have tried to talk me into mending things with her and always fail, because if there’s anything I’ve learned and lived by since then, is that it’s okay to cut off all ties with anyone who; disturbs my peace, makes me feel like I’m walking on eggshells when I’m with them, who makes me live in fear, who makes me question if I’m worthy of being loved, who is especially physically abusive towards me, who doesn’t apologize and who is a dictator. I switch off and take the cables with me, even if it’s to my own mother.
Writer: Ayanda Chamane.