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The birthday wish


Michelle Friedman


Alzette Prins

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“Oh dear,” thought Lethabo’s mama as she sat at the kitchen table. “What shall I do? Tomorrow is Lethabo’s birthday and there’s very little money to buy a present.”

Lethabo stood at the sink humming as she washed the dishes. “Mmmm la la … Mmmm la la.”


“Lethabo,” said Mama, “it’s your birthday tomorrow. What can I give you?”

“Oh, Mama,” said Lethabo, “I don’t know what I want.”

“I’ll think of something,” Mama said.

Dum dum de dum … dum dum de dum. Mama’s fingertips touched the table top. Lethabo liked the sound. “Dum dum de dum … dum dum de dum,” she sang quietly as she went into her bedroom. She took off her shoes and sat on her bed. “What do I want for my birthday?” Lethabo said aloud.

“Funny you should ask that!” said a voice.

“Who’s there?” said Lethabo standing up. “I don’t see anybody.”

“I’m under the bed!” said the voice.

“Please come out!” Lethabo jumped back on her bed. “Eeek!”

There, in front of her, stood a spider. He stood on eight long legs. They looked like sticks.

“I’m so sorry I scared you!” The spider bowed his head. “My name is Felix. I’m an Anansi spider.”


“I’m Lethabo. I like your hat!”

“Thank you, Lethabo. My hat comes from Ghana! It’s the colours of the flag of Ghana − red, yellow and green.”

“Where’s Ghana?” asked Lethabo.

“It’s very far away in Africa,” answered Felix.

“What’s an Anansi spider?” asked Lethabo.

“I’m from the family of Anansi spiders. We’re famous. We’re from West Africa. Some of us get into trouble a lot, but I don’t. Well, not often anyway,” laughed Felix.

“Why are you here?” Lethabo asked.

“You called me,” said Felix.

“But I didn’t call you!” said Lethabo.

Felix chuckled. “Yes, you did, when you hummed a tune. Now, please close your eyes, I have a surprise for you.”

Lethabo put her hands over her eyes. She could hear Felix scuffling around on the floor. Then a sound filled the room.Dum dum de dum … dum dum de dum. It was like the noise her mother had made on the table top, but closer and louder.

“Oh what can it be?” she cried.

“Open your eyes!” shouted Felix.

Felix was playing eight drums at the same time. Each tiny foot was on a drum. The drums were in a circle around him. His head was bent as he beat each drum. Dum dum de dum … dum dum de dum.


“Oh I love it!” Lethabo beamed. She jumped around the room singing as he played.

The sound of the drums and Lethabo’s singing filled the small room. It bounced off the walls, rose to the ceiling, dropped onto the carpet, wriggled inside their bellies, tickled their toes and joined the beat of their hearts.

“Lethabo, are you okay?” Her mama’s face peered round the door.

“Oh yes, Mama,” said Lethabo. “I was just thinking about my birthday.”

Lethabo’s mamaclosed the door and went back to the kitchen. “Oh dear, what am I going to do?” she said.

“Felix! Where are you?” Lethabo looked under the bed. “You can come out now.”

“That was close!” said Felix. “Grown-ups like to chase me.”

“Please tell me why you came to see me,” said Lethabo.

“Well, I know it’s your birthday tomorrow. What do you want?” asked Felix.

“A drum, Felix! I want a drum!” Then Lethabo felt sad. “But it’s too late. The shops are closed.”

“Hee, hee,” chuckled Felix. “Justask your mother for a drum. Ask for a drum from West Africa. Now close your eyes again and make a wish. Goodbye, Lethabo!”

Lethabo closed her eyes, “I wish I had a drum,” she said. She opened her eyes. Felix was gone.

“Mama! Mama!”

“What’s the matter, Lethabo?” asked Lethabo’s mama as she ran into the room.

“Mama, I’d like adrum for my birthday!”

“But Lethabo − a drum?” Her mama shook her head.

“Not just any drum, Mama. A drum from West Africa, please.” And she sang as she danced around her room. Dum dum de dum!

Lethabo’s mama listened to the singing. She thought about her father. She remembered him sitting outside their hut in the sun. Between his legs stood a big drum. He was beating it, calling all the men and women of the village to a feast. A fire was blazing. He was smiling at Lethabo, his new granddaughter, as she lay in her mother’s arms.

“Oh, how I miss my father,” Mama thought. “But wait a minute! I still have some of his things in the suitcase under my bed.”

Mama found the old suitcase under the bed. “Oh, no, there are spiders on it!” Mama complained.

At the sound of her voice, the spiders scuttled away. Mama pulled the suitcase out and opened it. Inside she found a small drum − just the right size for Lethabo.

“Oh, thank you, Father! I remember this drum! You made it for Lethabo!”

There wasn’t a sound coming from Lethabo’s bedroom. Quietly, Mama tip-toed to the bedroom and opened the door. The light from the moon shone on her daughter as she slept. Mama putthe drum on the floor next to the bed and kissed Lethabo’s cheek. “Happy birthday, Lethabo,” she said quietly. “Happy birthday from me and from your grandfather.”