Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng reminisces on the joy of past youth while under lockdown

Lockdown has been a difficult time for me, partly because one can never plan for or even imagine a time such as what we are facing now but also because by the time the national lockdown happened, I was only 3 days out of a 14-day quarantine. I had returned from a high-risk travel area, Geneva Switzerland earlier in March.

Mentally, I was on a slippery slope, attempting to balance productivity and at the same time needing to be gentle with myself amidst a COVID-19 global pandemic.  It was also very lonely because at that time, the risk was still very much about the individual and I didn't have enough people around me to share the frustration of a self-quarantine with, outside my house life carried on as usual. By this stage I had lost the sense of the work week and I referred to the calendar a dozen times a day just to check if it was still today. I started to fill my spare time with Netflix and slowly I started to escape into my childhood. I was remembering and reminiscing and as I became more and more nostalgic about my childhood and years as a young adult, I realized that I was searching for a place that felt safe and sure, my subconscious mind was taking me back to  those places, places I had not previously re-visited.

One such memory came to me just before midnight over the Easter long weekend, and I jotted it down as I remembered it. That morning, I thanked my mother Aus’Aggie, for protecting me and doing the best with what she had to raise me. My memories are my safe space. I hope you have enough safe space in your memory bank to help you escape and ease the days when you feel overwhelmed and uncertain.

After school

Akofang Intermediate School, Phuthaditjhaba, Qwa-Qwa, 1992

On Fridays, school finished early.

Fresh from long break, the boys were in charge of moving the desks and chairs before they go out to play soccer in the patch of grass in front of the classroom. The girls, in between mutterings and humming would sweep, mop, and put polish on the classroom floor. It was obvious, the teacher's favourite, they were trusted with neatening Mam's desk and wiping down the adjacent chalkboard. Sometimes, we would steal the chalk to chew on while passing around the dusting cloth for the windowsill.

By mid-afternoon, the boys would return, a torn jersey in hand, they would take turns to pull each other as they slide on it as their buttocks shined the floor.

Mam's footsteps echoed in the distant corridor, getting louder as she got closer, a signal that school is finally out.

The laughter of black children filled the classroom.

Someone is worried though because after school is after school.