dimbali: to help


In our house, there is always something to do, some chore to accomplish. For the first two weeks I feel so useless—not sure exactly how to help, and fairly incompetent doing so. After all, I don’t know where to find the plates or the correct way to cut onions here or sweep as my sisters sweep. Of course, I’ve found plates and cut onions and swept before, but never quite the way my family does it all here.


Every night, my sister Nene and little Gay sweep the entire floor and mop. Let me help, I say. You can’t do this, Nene replies sharply. This room is too big for you, she retorts. I can do that! I can sweep and mop! I argue, but she just tut-tuts and shakes her head, leaving me feeling useless and unwanted, sitting around on the sidelines.


Finally, tonight, Nene squeezes out a rag onto the wet floor. I seize my chance. Ma dimbali la? I say. Can I help you? And for some reason or other, tonight, Nene says, Okay. Go upstairs to Jojo and get a broom.


Before I know it, trying to hide my smiles, I am sweeping the stairs. Little Mafanta, who is three, watches me with skepticism. I sweep the stairs, I sweep the floors, I sweep the outside balcony. I sweep and sweep and sweep. I have never swept so carefully in my life.

Nene comes outside. She surveys my work. And when she finally says Bravo, nodding in approval, I am the happiest sweeper on the planet!

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