I grew up with a strict grandmother. At times I thought she didn’t love me as much as my sister and cousins. Her favouritism affected my relationship with my sister and we’re still working on fixing it today. My granny used to drink and smoke.
My mom, who was a stay-in domestic worker, visited every month-end weekend. When my mom gave my granny grocery money she’d send me to buy alcohol for her – whether it was raining, hot, day or night. At the place where we bought the alcohol men would stare at you like they were undressing you and sometimes they’d spank me.
Old men would ask how old I was because I was “fresh”. Those comments bothered me. When my breasts started growing my granny beat me, saying it is because I was sleeping with a boy, which wasn’t true.
We all had chores and mine were to clean the toilet; sweep a huge yard; wash my gran’s handkerchief, which she used to blow her nose after smoking snuff; and to go bet fafi (gambling) for her. It was a 15km walk to go make the bet so I'd come back home at night and I’d have to endure those men commenting on how “fresh” I looked.
By then I had a boyfriend who would walk me home. My cousins found out I was dating and told my gran who would beat me with an electrical wire or sjambok. One night I went to a study group and returned at 7pm. My sister, cousins and granny were in the house but they didn’t let me in.
I knocked for hours until I decided to sleep in the dog’s kennel. I was woken up at 5am by cold water. It was my grandmother spraying me with a hosepipe while my cousins stood there laughing.
My sister and I used to sleep on the floor and my two cousins on the beds. One slept on a double bed. At school I was a bright learner so one day me and three others were chosen to go to Magaliesburg on an HIV workshop.
That trip was the best thing to happen to me. I slept on a bed and I ate Corn Flakes for the first time. A month after that trip, my granny became ill and was hospitalised. She asked my cousins to tell me to come visit her. I went but she couldn’t speak.
She only managed to say “I’m sorry”, then she passed away not long after that. I forgave her.
*Not her real name