The morning always started with Mum’s hand shaking me awake at 5:30. My bed would then be examined to see if I had messed up. If I had, I would be started off for the day with a thorough beating. Urinating on the bed was the one crime neither Mum nor Dad was prepared to pardon. It was as simple as that.

Next, I would be whisked off to the bathroom amidist protests for the inevitable morning shower. With my parents, you had to literally come clean. There was no compromise for hygiene. Dirt was frowned upon. I guess they made a fuss about it only because I was the the firstborn, the only child then. I don’t blame them. They were learning parenting and they wanted to get it right. Suprisingly, they seemed to be getting it all wrong. A cold shower in the 5 a.m. cold preceeded by a thorough beating would never be my idea of good parenting.

I would sulkily wear my school uniform after the shower. Still shivering from the rage of such heartless treatment and the cold, vowing never to forgive Dad for allowing these crimes of terror to be perpetuated against me by Mum; I would be introduced to the welcoming aroma of milked tea, boiling away in the kitchen. The thought of sinking my teeth in the buttered triangular toasts of bread, carefully prepared by Mum, and sipping at the hot tea would brighten my moods. I would almost suddenly forget that acts of aggression had been perpetrated against me. By the time I would be half-way through the breakfast, I would be blessing God for the gift of the best Mum in the world.

Children do forget. They forget too quickly and too easily. Note: this is a terrible excuse to mistreat yours.

Mum would then hold my hand and walk me to the nursery school 6 km away. She would tell me stories as we trudged along the narrow foot-path, side to side. She would sometimes carry me on her back if we came across mud or a pool of water, to avoid muddying my shoes or wetting my socks.

I tried to understand her but I could not. I mean, she had just beaten the hell out of me and shoved me into cold water. Then she had given me a sumptous breakfast. Now, she was telling me stories and carrying me on her back. What paradox! I guess women are never meant to be understood at any point in life. The sooner we accept that the better.

We would arrive at school at precisely 7:30. Mum would set me down, hand me my exercise book and the pencil. She would help me remember the things we had been taught on the previous day because the teacher would ask. This would give me an edge over the other unfortunate pupils, whose parents cared less whether they were being taught or not.

There would be enough time left for us to say our good-byes because classes started at 8. Mum would remind me in between to be a good boy and to ensure that I lifted my hand high enough to catch the teacher’s eye. “Do not forget to hand in your book for marking,” she would call after me as I ran into the school compound, confident that at the end of classes at noon, she would be there, waiting for me as if she had never left, to take me back home and deal with my hunger.

Those were the good old days.