A memory from my childhood ( Second Prize)

By Valerie Muyambo

Hindsight is truly 20/20. While this proverb is generally associated with negative connotations, it has rung so true for me, coincidentally in the year 2020! However, in my case, hindsight has been a powerful testimony to our endless potential as human beings and has called to mind a memory from my childhood.

Growing up, I cannot remember a day my father came home or called to check on me that he said he was too tired to take on the issues that, to me, were the end of life as I knew it. Besides being a family man, he was also an accomplished engineer, athlete and avid tennis player. His work required him to be away from us at times as he would work at various sites around the country. It is only when I became a parent myself with a demanding job that I fully appreciated how draining just those two responsibilities are. As a child, though, I was as “selfish” as any other child, believing that my parents’ sole privilege was to serve at my pleasure. As such, my siblings and I would call my dad while he was at work and even spring a surprise visit here and there if he was working from the office. Amazingly, this never seemed to faze him and so I had this confidence that my father always had time for me.

One thing I cannot forget is that my father made it a point to attend all parent/teacher consultations no matter what else he had on his plate. When I was preparing to sit for my Ordinary Level examinations, I struggled with focusing on my studies and some of my teachers reported that I was disengaged in the classroom. While I was somehow managing to pass most of my tests and mock exams, I was on the road to failing Physics as my average was a D. It is important to highlight here that my father is an African man and the African solution to such issues is to give a stern lecture – or two, or thee – followed by a few threats on how impossible life will be if you do not do well in school, along with bookings for extra lessons. However, my father went off the beaten African track and booked sessions for me with a psychologist that diagnosed my learning issues and ensured I participated more actively in the classroom. No extra lessons were booked for Physics and it was my father that became my after-school teacher.

There were concepts I grappled with in Physics despite my best efforts that my father understands so effortlessly as an engineer. He is not always the most patient man but I believe he realised we were only going to make it through this subject by working together and so he would go through my work at a very slow pace and then check for understanding before proceeding to the next concept. I distinctly remember a night when he was working late and I was on the verge of tears because a test was coming up but I was far from prepared unlike my friends that all seemed to know what they were doing. My father told me to wait for him so that we could go through my work together. At the time, selfish me was only thinking about myself and the need to pass my Physics so I had no trouble waiting for my dad to come home. When he finally came home, he patiently revised my Physics with me as if it were the start of a brand-new day! Looking back, of course he was tired, but I guess that was not my issue to deal with.

From my averaging a D for the most part of my Ordinary Level years, we have a B on my certificate! I have to say “we” because I was not going to get that B without my dad’s support and perseverance. Of course, at the time this is something I took for granted – it was my “right” as a child to be completely taken care of by my parents no matter what it cost them. This memory has come to me in 2020, with the hindsight to fully appreciate that being a parent is not easy. Parents are human beings and life in Zimbabwe has not been the smoothest of rides, However, my father’s outstanding work ethic is something he has passed down to me and I truly appreciate what most parents have had to go through for their children. Inheritance and legacy go far beyond material things and I am constantly asking myself what qualities I am also passing down to my seven-year-old son.

2020 is proving to be a year with challenges at every turn and there was a time I was feeling completely overwhelmed by the load that I thought I simply could not bear. Just when I was getting to a part where I was juggling motherhood, a full-time job and all the housework during the lockdown almost in harmony, along came home schooling to further shake things up. As I was about to throw in the towel, the memory of my father coming through for me when he had his own hectic life to deal with came to mind. My resilience and ability to get through this year and all its challenges are beyond what I can conceptualise. A great example has been set before me by my own father and I have only to look back, remember with a smile and take each day as it comes. We are all in this together and we shall get through it.

Valerie won a painting by artist Sue Bell

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