Shoppers at Fashion World, Cape Town in a queue with piles of clothing. Picture: Zeenat Vallie
Last week Friday I hopped on a taxi to Pankop, my home village, from the Pretoria taxi rank at Bloed Mall. It was a taxi full of parents and their children.

These children clung to paltry plastic bags of clothes. Almost all of them had no cheerful face. I realised that they were in town to buy Christmas clothes. One of the mothers was agitated with her son.

She snapped. “You are really going to irritate me. I bought you clothes, that’s something your father is failing to do. I did not make you alone. I am trying my best and this is the thanks I get? You are such an ungrateful child.”

Lo and behold, the other women jumped on the bandwagon, with one of them saying: “These kids are the same. They show little or no appreciation to us as their mothers. My daughter is equally mad at me because I couldn’t afford to buy her All Star sneakers.”

These are the frank conversations I love about people from the village. They don't hold back when they are in the crowd. Your business as a child will be shared with everyone.

I looked back to suss out the ages of these mothers and children. The kids were definitely teenagers and the mothers relatively young, about 30 and 40.

Christmas clothes are a big deal. The absence of Christmas clothes leave many teenagers heartbroken, miserable and feeling like outsiders.

There were two to three years where I did not get Christmas clothes. I literally cried the whole day. 

Usually, the lack of Christmas clothes was accompanied by a lack of good food from the 24th, 25th, 26th through to New Year’s Day. Those were years of famine. I faked illnesses, to such a point that I got sick. The pain is unexplainable, the tears flow freely.

Another conversation ensued as one of the kids in the taxi responded in tears, with a broken and piercing voice.

“Yes, you refused to buy me those Nike sneakers, but you will be drinking your ciders, Savannas and Hunters Gold from your Stokvels from the first of December until next year January. How is that fair, that you will have alcohol to drink for the whole month and I just asked for one pair of sneakers and you refuse?”

The crying boy’s comment was followed by dead silence. He hit some nerves.

I said to myself, Bingo! That is the lesson these parents should keep in mind next year. The kid came up with something to think about and consider.

So, as the conversation was open to everyone, as is always the case in a taxi, I quickly jumped in with my two cents. I was one of two or three males in the taxi with no kid. I greeted again to break the silence. I then said to the parents, “Did you all hear this kid? He just gave us a solution to the Christmas clothes challenge we have year in and year out.

"If you can have stokvels for Christmas groceries, stokvels for extensive festive alcohol and so on, why can’t we start a stokvel for Christmas clothes? There was a short silence, and they all voiced different opinions that were in agreement.

One of them cracked me up when she said: “Eish, the thing is, we hardly think of Christmas clothes during the year, but we know gore tshwanetse re botshele come Dec.” (We know that we must have lots of alcohol in December.)

I also added, if as parents you start a stokvel of this kind, it will also lessen the burden of buying school uniforms at the beginning of the year.

Of course, those kids embraced the idea fully. One of them even dared her mom: “Actually, mom, you could take some of your stokvel money for alcohol this year and come back to buy me the All Star sneakers.”

The mother did not respond in words, she just gave her child a look that signalled anything but agreement.

That conversation about a clothes stokvels made our journey home so peaceful. It may have not gotten those kids the clothes they needed, but their mothers were already starting WhatsApp groups with their cousins, siblings and friends for Christmas clothes stokvels.

I must say, initially, I thought that the lady should have waited to get home before she chastised her child, but that hardly happens with most black parents. It is also good because often, the challenges we face as black communities are as common as Christmas Day.

I hope those kids will have a better Christmas in 2018.

* Kabelo Chabalala is the founder of the Young Men Movement (YMM). E-mail [email protected]; Twitter, @KabeloJay; Facebook, Kabelo Chabalala

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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