“Close your legs, little lady!” she admonished me; I looked to my grandmother to reason for me. I knew better than to speak back to her or look her in the eye. My grandmother sighed and motioned for me to come sit on her lap.
I settled my head in the crook of her neck and looked at the wrinkling skin at her collarbone and how the colourful beads, matching my own, contrasted beautifully against her skin tone. She spoke to the women in her calm tone about the developments they needed to bring to the ward and they debated on what could be done with the recent raids on their small tuck shops, one of the hooligans was said to be the son of the prissy MmaTebogo, the one who just disapproved of my posture.
I was eventually woken when granny made to stand up then I stood and helped her gather some of our purchases from our stop at the market before coming for the meeting. “You are too old to still be sucking your thumb, little lady. How do you learn in class with that thing in your mouth anyway?” I hid behind granny’s skirt from MmaTebogo and waited for her to finish saying her goodbyes so we can go.
I walked ahead of my grandmother occasionally skipping the small streams the rain had left, and playing with the small clear winged black bugs that came after the rain. My cousin had fried some for us one day while granny had gone to the market without us, I couldn’t stomach them, they were too oily. She had said everyone in her class had insisted that they are tasty and had laughed at her for never having eaten them. I grabbed them by the wings and plucked their round bottoms while giggling and whistling.
“Don’t step in the mud, ngwanaka,” my grandmother cooed. I was asthmatic and they always kept me away from the rain and unnecessary contact with water. “Mme, why did you not tell MmaTebogo that I am wearing shorts under my dress?” She laughed and grabbed my upper hand stopping me from slipping in the mud. After a while she said, “you are supposed to sit like a girl even when you have on a pair of small shorts, nnana wame.” I did not understand. How do girls sit that’s supposedly so different? It appears there was a secret conduct code for all girls that I had missed out on.
As we neared our house, RraBantsi, the irritant old man next door whose mouth always pressed around a pipe, called out to my grandmother and stood up from his chair tossing his hat on his head and hollered greetings, staggering towards us. I skipped up a log that hung down the side fence of his yard then hopped on the ground giggling in glee. I did it again this time completing it with a cartwheel on the smooth path. “Little girl, you can’t be jumping on trees like a reckless boy revealing your undergarments. Hold your dress down and be a good girl, stand still while I talk to your grandmother.” My grandmother reached a hand out to me; I took it and straightened my dress down.
I picked at my shoe with my left foot, whistling to distract myself, the old man snapped me out of it. “Who told you that girls are supposed to whistle? Don’t ever do that again. That is a habit only herd boys relish, are you a herd boy?” I shook my head a little; “answer me when I speak to you, little girl”. There was a trace of anger in his voice that welled tears in my eyes. “Nyaa rra,” I said in a little voice. My grandmother reasoned somehow with him that I am only a child, he disregarded her and continued asking about my grandfather’s whereabouts, asking to get in touch with him about a horse.
Grandma kept my hand in hers as we walked away in apology; I wiped the hot tears that threatened to spill on my cheeks with the back of my hand and sniffed. “Don’t cry, ngwanaka. They mean well, they don’t mean to frighten you.” We walked the rest of the way in silence.
Ngwanaka – My child (Setswana)
Nyaa rra – No, Sir. (Setswana)
Photo Credit: PaigeeWorld
Bio: Neo Bridgette Kitso is a Botswana born writer who wears her heart and lust on her sleeve, always. She belongs to a youth literary arts organization called Poet’s Passport that she first got published with. The Kalahari Review and Brittle Paper recently gave home to some of her work as well.