Mama Lotto - a remarkable person.

This morning I received what would have been an extremely exciting E-Mail, if it was not a scam. This is the opening sentence of the E-Mail:

This E-mail is to inform you that your e-mail emerged as a winner of £500,000.00 GBP (Five Hundred Thousand British Pounds) in our online Give-away draws.....".

If only it was not sent from a "hotmail" address, I might have become a little excited! However that made me think again of Lydia Nkoma.

Lydia came into my life in 1982, shortly after my son was born. I did not have a maid at that time as I did not work and could handle my household quite comfortably. One afternoon while I was kneeling in the garden weeding a flowerbed, this pair of rather thin black legs appeared next to me and a heavily accented African voice asked me if I needed a maid. I did look up but did not even stand up and replied, rather rudely I guess, that I did not need a maid and in any case, no maid could keep my house in order like I could myself. The thin black legs turned and walked away.

A couple of days later, I was busy bathing my baby son and heard a knock on the backdoor. Thinking that it was one of my neighbours, I called out to come in. Who would appear, but the very same thin black legs... this time with a body and face attached. She stood in the door with her hands on her hips and said: "I can clean your house better than you can" as if we had our first conversation only a minute earlier. To fully appreciate the moment, you must understand that in those years no black person spoke that cheekily to a white! For heaven's sake, we were in the middle of APARTHEID!

This attitude and the proud way in which she held herself, fascinated me but I had to tell her that with me not working, I could not afford a maid. She explained that she has three children back home and their father left her and she does not know where he is. She has a common-law husband now who takes care of her and her children but he wants her in Pretoria where he works and she is in desperate need of somewhere to stay. Her children lives with her mother in Naboomspruit, which in those days, were a little village somewhere in the back of beyond that I have just heard off but has never seen. After some discussion, I hired her for an absolute minimum wage and free accommodation in the outside room.

We very soon became much more than madam and maid. There was a very proud, intelligent and wise person living in that thin body and we connected in a way that persons of different races in those days just did not connect and we became firm friends. She was extremely capable and by the time my son was eight months old, I returned to work as by then, she had taken over the running of my home as well as the care of my son to such an extent that I felt quite comfortable going to work and leaving him with her. Of course, with me working, I could also pay her a much better wage.

She stayed with us until my husband was transferred to Saldanha at the end of 1985. When we moved to Naboomspruit in 1989, one of the first things I did was set out to find Lydia. This I did very quickly as Naboomspruit was still a tiny village then. We met again and I was very happy to find out that her children were quite grown up and settled and that she had a very good job in Potchefstroom.

This story has a very happy ending. In 2002, Lydia struck gold... she won R10,2 million in the Lotto (South Africa's official lottery). I was very excited and happy for her but I was a little concerned about what all this riches would do to her as a person. How would it affect her? How would she cope with all the hassles that would come with so much miney? I need not have worried. When I met her again a few weeks later, there she was, still walking all the way from her home to town to do her shopping, still wearing the same style of clothes and headdress (headdress is a bit of a status symbol in the African community) and still living in her old rundown house. All that money did not spoil her on little bit. Really a person with remarkable strength of character.

Today she owns a car and has a driver that drives her around, but when she sees me she still rushes over and gives me a huge hug. She is known as Mamma Lotto in the black community and is known for all the good she does with her money. She now lives in a beautiful new home (built on the exact spot where her old rundown house stood), but this house she had built only after she had a house built for her sister and a new church building for her congregation.

PS: Must remember to ask her if she has a job for me when I see her again!


DUTA said...

That's a lovely story with a real happy ending, and you write beautifully.

Viewtiful_Justin said...

This is so touching and sweet. Thanks for sharing!

Argent said...

What a wonderful person! This was really uplifting, thanks!