I Met Madiba twice, once at 4 and once at 24

Over the past few days South African’s and people from around the world have been sharing their stories about Tata Madiba. I never met him, but I met people whose lives he changed, and that for me is more important.

My first memory of the idea of Madiba, and I say the idea because I was four years old and had no real concept of who he was and what he stood for, was during the 1994 elections. I’m four years old, I’m standing in a really long line with my parents and our domestic worker at the time, Nollie…I’m happy finally because my father just bought me a orange lollipop and it’s delicious…I’m too little to eat it fast enough so I’m licking my hand and wrist as it melts and drips down.

My feet are sore and I’ve lost interest in playing with my brother and sister, I’m complaining because this is stupid, nothing could be more important than my sore feet and me getting home in time to catch an episode of Liewe Heksie. Finally I’m at the school hall, I remember it well because I tripped and scraped my knee, Nollie walks out of the hall crying, but I don’t know why, I figured there must have been doctors giving people injections inside. Six years later I realise what line it was and what year it was and try as I might I still remember the orange lollipop more than the 1994 elections.

My most recent and hopefully not my last memory of Madiba happened last Friday. I’ve since told one person because the sheer emotion attached to this experience is one of the most overwhelming things I’ve ever experienced.

I’m twenty-four years old, I’ve been up all night since hearing the news of Madibas passing, I’ve had a long day at work and I’m tired. I pass through Houghton on my way home as I pull up to a stop street swearing to myself at the rain that has made it almost impossible for me to get home. I turn to my right and sitting on the sidewalk is an old man drenched to the bone crying…balling his eyes out.

As my window rolls down it makes a squealing sound; the sound of rubber against glass, it catches his attention and our eyes meet. “Are you alright,” I ask. His eyes well up again and he continues to cry. I get out of my car, help him to his feet and guide him to the passenger seat in my car. As I close the door and slump into my seat, brushing my wet hair from my eyes. I take in the scent of damp and sweat and I begin to wonder why I just invited a stranger into my car.

“My name is Edward, I walked to Mandela’s house but I got lost and can’t find my way back,” I stare at him blankly not sure what to say. “I walked from Soweto, I had to say goodbye,” he adds. I nearly choke as my eyes begin to mirror his and well up with tears.

“I’ll take you home, just tell me where to go,” I hear myself saying, my voice cracking as Edward starts to cry even more gasping as he say thank you between sobs.

As the lights of the highway turn to side street lamps and in turn become fires, not a word passes between us, besides from the occasional sobs and the sound of tyres crushing dirt beneath them the silence is thick.He points to a house at the end of the road and I pull up to it, getting out once again to help him out, the rain soaking through my shoes and getting stuck like little crystals in my eyelashes, illuminated by a fire in the distance.

We hug…no we embrace and once again we both fall into a fit of sobs as he thanks me and I realise that Mandela means so much more to him than he ever will to me, and to have touched him is to have touched Tata.

I met Madiba twice, once at four and once at twenty-four. I cannot wait to meet him again.

Nelson-Mandela dies

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