I see the tree, and I remember.
My brother and I would sit in its shade, feeling as though its strong limbs and branches protected us from the world. A world that didn’t seem to want us.
My mother worked as a maid for a white family. Because of apartheid laws, we weren’t allowed to stay with her. But after being mistreated by the family member who was supposed to be caring for us, we moved in with my mother, secretly staying on the property of the family she worked for.
We couldn’t play outside or make noise, or someone might hear us and we’d be taken away to who knows where.
Some days my mother would take us to a nearby park, to the safety of the tree. With our backs resting against the trunk, we’d stay there all day until it was safe for us to go back to the house.
Now I see my son, Leroy. Born just a few years before South Africa became a democracy, he walks through the door and plants a kiss on my cheek. My sweet boy.
I try to imagine if I’d been in my mother’s shoes—if Leroy had been born in a time where I’d been forced to leave him under a tree or entrust his care to someone else. Instead, I keep him close.
I’ve even started my own business in my home. This is something I could never have done under apartheid since people of my color weren’t allowed to run businesses.
Leroy has also started his own business. My boy is so full of dreams and ideas. I watch with pride as he pursues opportunities I never had.
When I look at him, I see a new future for South Africa.