Translate

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Christmas Thoughts

It is the last weekend in November and my little family and I sit down to watch our first Christmas movie of the year. There is Tigger and Pooh Bear and the little pink Piglet all dancing about singing happy songs about the Christmas tree and the joys of giving. Even Eeyore manages to crack a smile! It’s a simple children’s movie about how the inhabitants of “the hundred acre wood” help “Santa” deliver all the presents on time. The movie was very cute and our Butterfly thoroughly enjoyed it, especially “Tigger” who’s bouncing about seemed to inspire in her more energy than usual. Eeyore was, of course, greeted with great enthusiasm he was after all the very first Disney character she met. Despite our enjoyment I did start to wonder what happened to the types of Christmas movies we watched as children. The ones that spoke about the real reason for the Christmas celebration, the ones that acknowledged the religious aspect of Christmas time, it all seems to have been forgotten or shoved aside. With all this going around in my head and the prospect of a family less Christmas this year I was yet again not looking forward to Christmas. The Butterfly however seemed filled with enthusiasm at the prospect of Christmas and asked over and over where our Christmas tree was. So to satisfy her curiosity and rescue my ears from Butterfly’s constant refrain of “Ummy, geta chrisamas tree, getta chrisamas tree” I dragged the Mauritian off to our local “get anything” store and bought a few more decorations and a little nativity scene and promised Butterfly faithfully that we would erect the Christmas tree the next weekend. I could not bring myself to put up the tree in November even though we were in the last days. I was hoping that by the following weekend the Butterfly would have forgotten about her obsession with the Christmas tree and be more involved in her new “Dora the Explorer” colouring book. However all that happened was the “office” walls were beautifully coloured in and Butterfly now thinks that “Father Christmas” is a chocolate shaped like a fat man with a beard and filled with caramel. So now she insists “Ummy, getta Farfur Chrisamas getta chrisamas tree.” Oh woe is me, how I wish she would harass her father sometimes.

Saturday morning dawned warm and bright so with the Butterfly hopping around my ankles and the Mauritian lording over the kitchen and the cooking of breakfast I dug out the Christmas tree and decorations in preparation for the task. In a rare moment of genius the Mauritian put on a CD of Christmas songs, which helped to set the mood and the Butterfly and I got down to business. Up went our little fibre optic Christmas tree with some plastic candy canes, bells and mini Father Christmas’. We hang some tinsel on the window a “Merry Christmas” sign on the door and some plastic mistle toe over the lounge doorway. At the base of the tree is a small nativity scene and a fake present box in which I store the tree decorations throughout the year. There is also a dancing Father Christmas, dressed in green baggies and a red t-shirt with the words “Ho, ho, ho, Dude!” printed in white. He is wearing a pair of sunglasses and carrying a surfboard and when you turn him on he shakes his booty to a Beach Boys tune. Hanging on the side of the bookcase on which the tree stands is the Butterfly’s enormous Christmas stocking, on it is stitched a Christmas tree which has tiny flashing lights, it’s very cute and the Butterfly enjoys it but we’re going to have a job finding little gifts to fill it up with. On our antique bar stands a silver glittered star, bought for the top of the tree because I forgot the tree came with one already and a wooden dye cut snowman that I painted just for fun, unfortunately he is a yellow snow man cos the white paint supplied with the kit painted on clear. So I mixed it with the yellow paint thinking it would make it pale yellow, that didn’t work either, so we have a snowman with liver disease. Lastly I wrapped a delicate chain of gold coloured bells around the tree and we were done, I stepped back to survey my work and the Butterfly stepped forward and removed two candy canes! I scolded her and put them back she laughed at me and took off two others, thus establishing the pattern for the day. Throughout it all the Christmas carols and songs played in the background and the Mauritian’s laughter at my attempts to convince the Butterfly not to touch made for a wonderful morning and filled me up with that long forgotten feeling of Christmas spirit.

It is one week later and the only decorations left on the tree is the chain of gold coloured bells, the fake present box is bent out of shape and the lid has been stripped of its wrapping paper. The dancing Father Christmas has been banished to stand on our antique bar because the Butterfly is terrified of him and the star is glitter less. There are still two weeks till Christmas I hope the Christmas tree will survive.

This weekend we went shopping for Christmas presents for the Butterfly, how exciting that was for the Mauritian and me. We were like kids in, well a toy store. With the Butterfly distracted by a displayed baby gym we went about ooing, aahing and jumping about in excitement as we found more and more toys we know she will enjoy. We were about to be financially ruined had the Butterfly not realised she was alone and came looking for us. We quickly put everything back and innocently stood waiting for her to come to us. We then guiltily move on to a different isle and after half an hour in the store we left with a salad for supper. Over supper we wisely decided on the presents we would buy that would represent gifts from her grandparents, her parents and of course “Farfur Chrisamas” which the Mauritian will purchase after work during the course of this week. We topped off our weekend with another Christmas movie all about “Frosty the Snowman,” a round of monopoly at which I was thoroughly destroyed while Christmas CD's played continuously and an early night in bed with some good literature. I really did feel like I was filling up with the spirit and excitement of Christmas time.

But as I sit here struggling to straighten out my thoughts and place them into some sensible order I am reminded of all those glorious Christmases spent in the company of my numerous cousins, aunts and uncles. The cousins charged about passing those balmy December days in play oblivious to all the work that went into making those Christmases so memorable for us kids. It was such a magical time everyone was smiling and happy and I am sure there were many mornings that the grownups quietly nursed hangovers while the children screeched and ran about having slept long and well the night before. It is only now that I realise and appreciate just how much effort and organisation went into those Christmases. It is only now that I realise just how much joy my parents and my uncles and aunts gained from those busy holidays. We all have so many memories of that time; they seemed so happy and carefree.
The cousins are now scattered haphazardly across the globe, the aunts and uncles much calmer and happy to spend Christmas quietly with their children and grandchildren and look back fondly at those crazy days. Those days when Christmas wasn't just about who got the best present or which house was lit the brightest with energy sapping Christmas lights or grabbing that Christmas bargain before they are all sold out or buying the biggest turkey or ham. Those days when Christmas was about celebrating family, friends and the birth of Jesus, for many believers, our Saviour and teacher, when Christmas was about true giving that came from the heart and not from a need to be noticed. Those days when people respected the religious days and closed their stores and whether they believed or not spent a day in peace and harmony with their families. I used to love Christmas but somewhere along the way, somewhere in the working adult stage I began to not look forward to Christmas and everything that came with it. The crowds, the, the frayed tempers, the cost and those dreaded work Christmas parties, where your manager got drunk and actually claimed to like you.

We are alone for Christmas this year. For the first time in my life I will be spending Christmas with none of my family and that makes me sad. I know that this is because we made the decision to start a new life here at the end of the world and I will never regret that decision, but this is my first Christmas away from home and the prospect seems so lonely. Then it occurred to me that even if I was in South Africa for Christmas this year, it would just be us anyway because my baby brother will be somewhere in northern KZN, my brother the fireman and my delightful sister-in-law will be celebrating a white Christmas in their home in California and my now “retired” parents will be spending Christmas in Tanzania with my big brother and his family. With this realisation came the reminder of the invites we have received from people to join them for a meal at some point over the Christmas weekend. So many people who were strangers only six months ago are willing to open their homes to us new comers and help fill the Christmas weekend with cheer. Their kindness to us will not replace our family but it will fill the gaps left in the distance between us. So with this reassurance, a grateful heart and the contagious excitement of the Butterfly I am looking forward Christmas, the prospect of doing things differently and the chance to make new magical memories with new friends.

As we approach the end of this year and into our second year residing at the end of the world I wish you all, my family scattered around the world, those yet to be born and those no longer with us, my friends old and new a blessed, peaceful and magical Christmas. I hope you will all be filled with the spirit of Christmas and look forward to it. I hope you bring in the New Year in with laughter and love and I hope you will all be back on this web page reading my blogs!

Merry Christmas one and all and God bless!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Man That Starts Anew

Tomorrow is my father’s birthday and tomorrow, in accordance with that which most will call it and what is accepted as the norm; my Dad will retire after forty odd years as one of the employed. Being my Dad and, I am proud to say, not of the norm he is not retiring but rather “embarking on his new career.” For his own private reasons my Dad will be tackling something completely different to what has become his “line of work” and will no doubt succeed, not for any reason other than he knows he will succeed. Growing up in the light of that positive attitude and his unshakable belief in his own and our abilities has given us all a firm starting block from which we, his children have launch off into adulthood. My brother’s and I have been infused from birth with my Dad’s positive energy and belief in us and though we have all made our share of mistakes and encountered our share of stumbling blocks we can all hold our heads up high look back and know we are who we are because we were taught to believe in ourselves. How lucky we were to grow up in such a positively charged environment. It is our Dad we turn to for advice and guidance and in times of hardship what our dad would do is what we strive to achieve. My Dad is not the kind of man who will tell you what to do; he shows you what to do, I can proudly say with certainty that there is no other quite like my Dad. So armed with his positive attitude and guided by his self confidence my Dad is forging forward, making some well deserved and much needed changes and doing something new. He is a brave man my Dad! Amongst all this bravery is a lesson to others, like myself, to never be afraid of change, to do something different because it’s what you want to do and to do it for yourself!

My Dad is taking his leave from a company that has been as loyal to him as he has been to them. He has given one hundred percent of himself every day for almost thirty years, perhaps more. So many people have sat across from him and been affected by his work ethic, his attitude or his seamless logic in some way. I have no doubt that there will be a few tears shed as he leaves his place of employment one final time. I cannot begin to imagine the emotions and thoughts that must be going on inside my Dad’s mind and heart today as he celebrates his birthday and looks towards his new beginnings, his new “line of work.” I do know that Tuesday morning will dawn and he will follow his regular morning routine, a little more casually than before then he will take a deep breath and step forward out of his past and into his future. He is a brave man, my Dad!

When my Dad finally made his decision to “start his new career” official my very talented mum’s imaginative mind kick into gear and she come up with a plan to mark this day as a day to remember. My Dad’s decision to make these changes was not a decision taken lightly or arrived at with any haste; it is after all a big “step” to take, emotional too. My very talented Mum believes that we, his family need to acknowledge this and not only show our support but also celebrate it. As part of this celebration she asked me to write a poem to commemorate the occasion, I was happy to oblige but agonised over what to write so in desperation I asked my Mum to make list words which remind her of my Dad. Her response was: “Integrity, honesty, love, compassion, deep thinker, wonderful provider, loving husband and friend. Best father ever.” Nothing describes my Dad more than those words nor will anything I ever write carry the depth of the love and respect we have for my dad than the words of my Mum written to help me speak of my Dad in poetry. Testament to this fact is the pleasure and joy my very talented Mum gained from arranging what I have come to refer to as my Dad’s “ Surprise retirement/career launch dinner breakfast midnight snack” because from across four different time zones via that marvellous invention called “SKYPE” my Dad will be surrounded by his family in celebration. It will be a bitter sweet moment for us all, happy to be there with him in some way but sad because we can, none of us, be there in person. We will laugh, joke and swop stories interrupt and talk over each other my mum leading the festivities, my dad sitting back observing the goings on his eyes twinkling as he smiles. Then when we have said our goodbyes my parents will read this blog and the poem I wrote and like all their children will store it away in their memory to look back on when it no longer hurts so much to remember and return to their lives.

So Dad as you read this remember that “you will always be the first man I remember and the last man I’ll forget.” I lift my glass to you and thank God that you are my Dad and while I wish you happiness I do not wish you luck in your new venture because I know you will succeed because we, your family believe in you.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

BURNT BRIDGES

Uprooting ones family and moving to a different country teaches one so many things. We have, in the short time we have been living here at the end of the world, learnt so much about ourselves and each other. Moving to the end of the world has highlighted for us what is truly important and though we regret a little that which we took for granted, we know that had we not made this move that which we deem important now would not be if we had not change our circumstances willingly.

For the first time in our lives both the Mauritian and I made a conscious decision to sever the ties of friendship we made with a couple for the wrong reasons. It was a decision we agonised over as both the Mauritian and I are very loyal to those whom we call friends. It is both a blessing and a curse as we have, through the years, allowed ourselves to be used in the name of friendship. We have spent many recent winter nights huddled under a mountain of blankets and duvets reminiscing about the people we have encountered throughout our numerous years as a couple. In the course of these many shivering discussions we realised who our true friends were, we realised there are some people we should have spent more time with and those we should never have meet. We do not however regret meeting anyone, it has made us stronger, wiser and perhaps a little richer for the experience we have gained from befriending those we should not have.

When you look at the people you have called friends from a distance and analyse the time you have spent with those people it becomes clear which of those people have given back as much as they have taken. It becomes clear to you which of these friends you need to give a little more to and those who have taken too much from you. It becomes clear to you those who enrich your life and make you feel special and those whose “friendship” takes work and energy from you leaving you feeling empty because you receive nothing back in return.

It is never easy to admit that the friends you have made are perhaps not the right people for you and even harder to sever the ties that bind you together. Ideally one should sit down with these people and explain rationally and calmly why the ties of friendship must be undone. After all, no matter what your view is on the situation you are perhaps not blameless for the state in which the so called friendship is in. It is easier to block all forms of communication and ignore their calls and text until it is unavoidable, because by then you have decided exactly what it is you are going to say, yet you hope that you never have to say it. Ashamedly this is how we have handled our decision to no longer be friends with this couple. We do know that we owe them an explanation and that our silence is confusing to them, we know that eventually we will have to explain ourselves. We do know that it is within our power to be the exception to the norm and be open and honest. We have admitted this to each other but we have agreed that the consequence of this honesty would leave us open to the kind of manipulation this couple is capable of. Granted, it is up to us to allow the manipulation to occur or not but we have chosen to avoid the responsibility completely. We have decided to take the easy way out and just stop talking to them.

We are after all, only human!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Legend and Belief

I recently watch a “mini -series” called “The Last Templar.” I initially started watching it because I mistakenly believed, having admittedly only caught a glimpse of the trailer, that it was a story set at the time when the “Templar Knights” were at their Zenith.

We all know the basic story of the “Templers” and the “treasure” they were charged with protecting, yet the legend of what that treasure is has changed from a simple golden chalice to a complicated blood line. The theories, legends and controversy are all very fascinating and the research material available in print and online is truly phenomenal. It is unfortunate that so much of it is utter rubbish but there are real jewels among the dirt if you take your time to look. We’ve all seen the movies or read the books about the “treasure hunters” searching for that elusive wooden chalice that holds the “gift” of eternal life. I am amazed that after so many thousands of years hidden away in the depth of some dark, unstable and wickedly booby trapped cave, this “wooden” chalice has not been covered in layer upon layer of dust and cobwebs and that the “water” inside it is untouched and still drinkable. All a little too unlikely and unbelievable for me I’m afraid. Perhaps somewhere, lost in the dust of Israel is a fragment of the chalice that Christ used when He celebrated His last Passover meal with the twelve. But, when or rather, if, it is ever found there will be so much controversy and opposing opinion surrounding it that it will be left up to the believer to decide whom they believe.

Then Dan Brown burst onto the scene bringing with him his much discussed story of “The Da Vinci Code,” and enraging the Catholic Church. Ultimately it is a superb suspense thriller with twists and turns and unexpected developments that keep the reader turning the pages. It is remarkably well researched and written and Dan Brown has a very active imagination, a winning recipe for an internationally bestselling novel. It is unfortunate that because of his meticulous research and his imaginative story telling that so much of Dan Brown's book has been mistaken for fact and thus sparking so much of the controversy. I believe that the Catholic Church over reacted to this book and contributed greatly to Dan Brown’s success, I’m sure there was many a Catholic and non Catholic alike who read the story just to see what all the fuss was about. I know for a fact, had I not been already fascinated by the “Templar” story or the legend of the “holy grail,” that I would have read it for that exact reason. As it was, I read “The Da Vinci Code” because I had read a fascinating true account of the research of three people into the legend, called “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” and I wanted to compare it to Dan Brown’s interpretation. Then I read “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” again and thought about things. Is it so bad to think that He who we call the Christ was really just an ordinary man, a poor carpenter from Nazareth? Is it possible that somewhere there is someone who can claim to be of the same bloodline as Jesus? I cannot discount the possibility even though it would spark much discussion and argument among my own family and certainly bring a frown to some of their faces. No I do not discount the possibility that Jesus may have been just an ordinary man of flesh and blood born of woman and died at the hands of men. But, doesn’t it make it all the more extraordinary that such a man could rally millions to believe in a greater power, to embrace the virtue of peace, of giving of one’s self to others? Is it not amazing that one ordinary man's teachings of faith and love should be passed on from generation to generation for two thousand years? Is it not awe inspiring that billions of Christians live by the words of “The Beatitudes” a sermon delivered by this “ordinary” man while standing on a hill? Is not every Christian affected by this man’s most famous words when at his death he cried “My God, why have you forsaken me?” It makes no difference to my faith if Jesus was just an ordinary man, a poor carpenter from Nazareth or God made flesh sent to suffer for our sins and bring us to everlasting life. It makes no difference to my faith because whether Jesus was of man or of God, He was no ordinary man, there is nothing ordinary about His life or His teaching, and they have survived for two thousand years and have inspired millions to lead a life of goodness and truth. His teachings have inspired many to give all of themselves to mankind. How poor the world would be today without St. Francis of Assisi or St. Vincent De Paul, how uninspired women would feel without Joan of Arc, oh how much poorer the world would be without the blessings of Mother Teresa. Without the help of St. Antony or St. Jude so many causes would be lost and our possessions remain unfound, without St. Christopher so many more journeys would end in tragedy. No I cannot discount the possibility that Christ may have been of the flesh and not of God, because any man or woman who is capable of inspiring billions of people for thousands of years to have faith and to strive for good and pureness of soul, is by no means, just an “ordinary” person. A “man” such as that deserves the praise given in the prayers spoken and the title of “The Son of God.”

The miniseries was a disappointingly predictable treasure hunter’s story with the usual hero, heroine and anti hero all in a race to be the first to find the elusive “Gospel of Jesus." There is the inevitable love scene, the triumphant find, the tension filled escape from the tumbling ruins and the out witting of the bad guys by the industrious hero and the butt kicking heroine. In the end the “gospel” is lost forever to the sea and the story is never told to the world thus bringing the bad guy to justice and Christians safe from controversy. All rather insipid and overdone, but there was one unexpected twist that was to be its saving grace. This story ends where it began, with the “Templar Knights” been given the task of returning to Jerusalem, a parchment on which was written the “Gospel of Jesus” they of course die before making it there but manage to hide the parchment before death comes to them sparking the treasure hunt hundreds of years later. The twist is found when it becomes apparent that this so called gospel guarded till death, this “gospel” that “proves” the ungodliness of Jesus is faked by the “Templers” themselves in the hopes of ending the wars that raged between the Christians and the Muslims in Jerusalem. By claiming that Jesus was no more than a Prophet of God as Islam teaches that Mohammed was no more than a prophet himself both Christians and Muslims would be united in one belief.

Gives one pause for thought does it not?

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Old Flames and Old Friends

I recently attempted to reconnect with an ex boyfriend on Facebook, but as of now have had no response. There could be many reasons for this, one of them being he doesn’t remember me. I’m sure it is true that you remember more the ones who “dumped” you rather than the ones you “dumped.” I do hope that he will eventually accept my request and does remember me. I like to think that we would have been friends if it weren’t for the teenage complications that we weaved into the fabric of our relationship with too much anticipation and expectation. Ah yes the wisdom of age and the clarity of hindsight. I really did like him, and still do, at least I still like the memory of him even though he unceremoniously “dumped” me for the ex he would slate every chance he got. I don’t recall been particularly heart broken by the breakup I don’t think I really expected “us” to last forever but I was bummed at being single again. But despite all the “history” I would enjoy reconnecting with him and finding out about the paths he has walked to where he is today.
“Facebook” for all the time it can waste and obsession it can create has put me back in touch with so many people, like those I went through primary school with and the girls I charged through my high school years with. Looking back there are those I would’ve treated so differently, those I should have ignored, those I would like to forget and those with whom I will remain forever friends despite the distance that separates us. I had a long typed conversation with one of my primary school classmates via Facebook recently and was vividly reminded of his wicked sense of humour which he has not lost. His recollection of those days brought them back to me so vividly and the ease with which we were able to “chat” emboldened me to approach some of the other class mates to catch up, unfortunately I have not had much success yet. But I shall persist! It is likely however that I will eventually erase some of these people from my “Facebook” page due to lack of communication but for now they represent memories of an almost forgotten childhood and youth.

“Facebook” also helped to reconnect me with a friend who I have known now for more than half my life. Together we experienced and experimented with life, together we shared first boyfriends, first kisses, first discos, heartbreaks, laughs and tears. I was there with her as she recovered from a hip operation, we spend entire school holidays together and a fortune of our father’s incomes on phone calls that went on for hours. We saw every blockbuster 80’s movie together went on loads of double dates, hell we even dated best friends. I don’t think there is a song from that era that does not spark a memory of our escapades together. Music was ever present; it played such an important role in our lives, in our view of the world, our expectations of love and our sense of fashion. We would dance up and down the passage to Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” or bop self consciously to Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” at the local disco. I don’t think we have ever admitted to stomping about the bedroom arms linked shouting along to “Nelly the Elephant!” We had pillow fights to “The Cure” and discussed in-depth the social messages in the music of “Depeche Mode.” We spent many nights discussing, arguing, giggling and sharing secrets into the small hours of the morning. We went from teenager to young adults living comfortably in each other’s pockets. But then we grew up and our paths so intertwined and interconnected began to split apart and even though we shared those memorable times like our 21st birthdays, our weddings and the birth of her children we were eventually walking life in two different directions. Then, almost ten years, new experiences and new friends later I received a “friends request” and a message on my “Facebook” page saying: “I really hope it’s you Manth!” So now across the physical miles that divide us we have set about repairing a bond forged in the fire of our idyllic youth and rusted by disillusion, adulthood and reality.

History Retold

The year before I was born my paternal grandmother died. I grew up in the knowledge that I bare a resemblance to her with similar talents and mannerisms. I recall my Dad telling me once that he believed that Ouma and I would have had a good relationship. I believe my Dad is right! My Dad would respond that he is always right, and he is, most of the time! I have always felt a bond with my Ouma and loved her despite never meeting her. She is a constant presence and influence in my life and a part of who I am.

When our Butterfly was born it was immediately apparent to us that she bears a striking resemblance to her paternal grandmother who died the year before she was born. I was struck by this fact early on in my pregnancy and knew even then that she would resemble Alix. Again and again we see Butterfly doing things that reminds us of Alix. At six months Butterfly was crawling about her Grand-père’s house and came across a picture of Alix, she put her little hand on the picture and smiled. Practicality and sensibility dictate that it was a very cute coincident but deep down I know that our child recognised her Grand’Mere and was saying hello. There have been so many other little signs like a song called “Mamy Blue” which Alix would often hum and tap her foot to when she heard it. The Mauritian was feeling sentimental one cold dark winter afternoon and decided to play the song, our little Butterfly stopped what she was doing and stood very still in front of a speaker and listened to the entire song and when it was done asked for it again. Butterfly dances like crazy to The Beatles music, The Beatles was Alix’s favourite band! Whenever I catch the Butterfly helping herself to my jewellery she has taken the box that was once Alix’s and the hardest one to reach. I have watched her take out only the jewellery that was Alix’s and try and put it on. Logic screams at me that it’s all in my head because I want to believe it. The bond I have with my Ouma tells me otherwise. Butterfly has a habit of sucking on her lower lip when she is concentrating, something her Grand’Mere did often. Even the shape of Butterfly’s nails reminds me of my Mother-in-law who I adored. So often I find myself thinking just how Alix would laugh at the antics of the Butterfly, especially when she sneakingly helps herself to her Papa’s beer or Ummy’s glass of wine. In fact, I believe that our Butterfly has inherited her Grand ‘Mere’s taste of red wine.

We recently took our Little Butterfly for a haircut, we said farewell to her long flowing baby locks and hello to a more grown up looking sweetheart with a short but practical haircut. As she grows and develops the striking resemblance to her Grand’Mere fades gently into the individual features that make our Butterfly into who she is. But she will grow up knowing and loving her Grand’Mere just as I grew up to know and love my Ouma because like me, Butterfly is surrounded by people who are blessed and privileged to have been a part of their lives. Like me, my little Butterfly will look in a mirror and see her paternal grandmother smiling back at her and know beyond any logic that her Grand’Mere is with her guiding and loving her, just as my Ouma is here with me as I write this.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Fred Goes for a Spin

This morning the Mauritian, Little Butterfly and I woke up to cloudless skies and miraculous sunshine. I felt positive and energetic for the first time since the official beginning of spring. So with determination I made a decision to over work my washing machine and wash everything in sight, well ok not everything but almost. Sheets, duvet covers, blankets, pillow cases, pillows and duvets all found their way into the bowels of my washing machine and out onto washing line in the sunshine. Even Little Butterfly’s donut got a good old stomping in the bath, I had fun but the Butterfly was not so sure she liked the idea of bathing her donut. There was much pulling, tugging, grunting and groaning as I manoeuvred the wet heavy dripping donut outside into the sun to dry.

While stripping the butterfly’s bed her friendly, floppy, green frog, Frederick Le Frog, fell onto the floor looking rather forlorn, dull and smelling a little of a few too many nights closed to a bottle of milk. “Fewed” was in need of a good old fashioned bath!! Now the last time I tried to bath Fred I had to also deal with a rather angry little Butterfly who was not impressed that her “Fewed” was all wet and then to add insult to injury hung upside down on the line to dry. So to avoid any distress to the Butterfly and her mother I had to be crafty and sneaky about Fred’s much needed bathing. So I took a calculated risk and folding Fred inside a pillow I snuck him into the washing machine and crossing fingers he would survive turned the machine on.

I went about the business of housewife and continued my chores at hand while the washing machine did its thing and for a while I forgot about the risk I was taking with dear ole Fred. Then I heard it, the clack, clack, clacking of big green plastic frog’s eyes on the glass of the washing machine door. Fred it seemed had slipped from his hiding place inside the folds of the pillow, made his way to the front of the machine and was sending out a coded message to the Butterfly, letting her know exactly where he was. Oh dear, I sighed, in a minute now, I imagined, I was going to hear a blood curdling scream of “Ummy! My Fewog Fewed my Fewog Fewed!” accompanied by a temper tantrum of note! There was no disputing it, I was about to get myself into serious trouble! However, not only was I blessed with sunshine and blue skies, but I also had luck on my side. Butterfly was involved in the job of building a tower of building blocks and had no interest in the strange sounds coming from the washing machine so I was spared both judgement and punishment.

Aware now that the machine had come to the end of the washing cycle I removed the wet pillows and was relieved to see that Fred had survived the machine and was back to his bright green soft cuddly self. All that remained now was to get him outside on the line and in the sun to dry without being seen. Emboldened by my success I headed outside and as I was about to pin Fred up by his leg a little voice behind me said “Hello Ummy, what you do wing?”

Busted!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Little Pieces of Cloth

I sorted through my Butterfly’s clothes and put aside all those that no longer fit her. What a sad moment that was for me! Tears pricked my eyes and I sadly put to one side the little blue and pink tracksuits my very talented mum had sewed so lovingly for her. It brought back memories of the trek to find suitable fabric in order to make the garments. I remember how irresistibly cute my Butterfly looked in them and her new winter and summer pyjamas made for her all around the same period. They were fresh and new and far too big for her, but that made them all the more charming.

There is a baby grow that has written across it “We love you Sarah-Marie” a pink polka dot outfit with a rabbits tail at the back and a little teddy bear peering out a pocket on the front and a blue and red “tie dyed” t-shirt that Butterfly wore a lot. They came, along with Butterfly’s favourite blanket, from my brother and my delightful sister-in-law in America, how can I give these away to someone else or sell them. I am far too sentimental for that. There is also a beautiful pick dress with jacket and bonnet, a gift from my Irish aunt that Butterfly wore on her first Christmas and sadly to her Great Grandmother’s funeral, not forgetting a pair of pink floral bloomers from yet another aunt. How do I give away these gifts that meant so much to me, the gesture of love shown to me by these simple gifts went straight to my heart and are something I will treasure for life? There is the dress my very talented mum made for my Baptism that Butterfly never got to wear, and the bibs crocheted for her by my mum that were too pretty for her to wear. Each item has a memory attached to it and though they sit taking up room in my Kist and gathering dust I cannot bring myself to part from them. To hand them on to stranger feels to me like I am handing over my memories, an illogical sentiment that I seemed unable to get past.

Four months ago my little baby brother and my favourite “Eeyore” informed me that my extended family would soon be increased by one in late March next year. I now know that this new addition will be a niece and I couldn’t be more pleased. I opened my Kist today and from it I took all the little outfits that I could not part with, all the little blankets that even after many washes are still soft to the touch and all the little pairs of shoes that Butterfly grew out of so quickly. I could now hand them on. With the exception of the baby grow with her name on and the baptism dress, I will box up all the other little outfits and pass them on to my brand new niece. I can do it so easily because each outfit represents a memory of the Butterfly for my brother and “Eeyore” and I know they miss her. It will be a while before I will meet my niece and the Butterfly her cousin so these little pieces of cloth will in some way connect us all in a circle of memories.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Outside in the Sun

I have had a nostalgic week filled with wonders down memory lane while I sip on steaming coffee and gaze out the window at the pouring rain and watch my once colourful spring garden being torn to shreds by gale force winds. This morning’s sunrise has brought with it crisp clear blue skies and brilliant sunshine prompting a need to be outside wrapped up against the icy breeze just to feel the sunshine on my back with my laptop propped on Little Butterfly’s bright yellow table. As I look up my gaze falls on the dormant volcano that dominates the view from our back garden and I squint my eyes against the glare that reflects off the fresh layer of snow that coats the mountain. My Butterfly is wrapped in her duvet with her bottle of tea and her bowl of dry cornflakes watching a “Strawberry Shortcake” movie, the Mauritian is snoring quietly in our bed having a well deserved sleep in and I am, once again, feeling just a little sentimental.

This week I remembered that a friend and my Grandfather share a birthday. I have never remembered Maccy’s birthday until now and I wondered if it’s not a residual memory of Marnie mentioning in passing what the date signified to her. I remember so little of Maccy; my memories of him are made up of the memories of others. I realised also that I have no pictures of him only the memory of his smile and his laugh that seems imprinted in my mind and I wonder if others can remember the sound of his laughter.
I remembered the birthday of a lifelong friend thanks to the birthday reminders on “Facebook.” It’s amazing to think that the two of us and her sister have been friends since birth. Not given a choice we were often left to our own devices and each other’s company while our parents knocked back a few too many. We grew up in very different environments, went to different schools, have different friends, different careers, different philosophies and now live in different countries. But we have, through the years, chosen to remain friends and have shared and celebrated all our milestones. There have been many occasions when, having knocked back a few too many of our own, we have drunkenly but proudly proclaimed that we are literally lifelong friends! There are very few people who can say something like that and not be exaggerating and fewer still who are blessed like me to have not one, but two lifelong friends. One of who shared with me the trauma, drama and heartache that came with our choice to leave our home and begin a new life at the end of the world. “Facebook” has also put us back into contact with so many of the friends that the Mauritian and I have made and lost in the twenty years we have been together. Most of them are now scattered throughout the world and we are slowly catching up with each of them and the goings on in their lives. I enjoy the fact that we have such a variety of friends doing jobs like garden services, working in a brewery or even a member of the Royal Navy Submarine Corp. But in reconnecting with some we have lost others! It saddens me that there comes a time when you really do need to just let some friends go. That our lives have changed so much and we are heading in two different directions and can no longer remain friends, but when you have given all you can and received nothing back in return it is time to let go of the friendship before the good memories are tarnished. But what hurts the most is that moving countries has unavoidably severed ties with some friends we would dearly like to hear from.

Saturday brought with it our anniversary; eleven years of marriage past by in a flash, I wonder, where did the years go. We still so fondly remember the first awkward teenaged conversation we had over twenty years ago. Our first “date” that I ended up funding because the poor Mauritian had been pick- pocketed in the library. We often talk about the first impressions we gave each other’s parents and siblings and how we felt when first meeting them. We still laugh when we recall the first time the Mauritian joined my family for lunch and he politely refused a second bowl of food, then years later admitted he really wanted more but didn’t want to create a bad impression. Of course now if my very talented mother cooks something that appeals to the Mauritian he’ll unashamedly finish the lot. We can remember every moment of our wedding day with crystal clear clarity, it was truly a happy day for both of us and I hope for our families. So we spent our anniversary as we always do, the Mauritian cooking up a storm in our teeny tiny kitchen sipping on a glass of red and talking about the people and the times past. Outside the wind was howling mournfully through the trees, the rain whipped against the window panes begging to be let in and our Little Butterfly lay snug and warm in her bed listening to her favourite CD.

The weather has turned once again the clouds have gathered and obscured the sun. The Mauritian is awake and wanting coffee and food and my Butterfly has removed her clothes stuck her head through the fence and is yelling at the neighbours chickens. I must pack away my memories and my laptop and return once again to the present.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

The Memory Scent

With my Little Butterfly more and more inclined to entertain herself or have friends over for a visit I am no longer in as much demand. I find myself completing my daily chores in less time and though I relish the free time to do as I please there is always this nag in the back of my conscience that there are other chores that need attending to and only get bigger if left any longer. So I decided to be responsible and all grown up and despite the dreary wet weather begin a good old spring clean. So for this week I have been wiping mould and dust off windows and window sills, dusting pictures, clowns and knickknacks, disinfecting bath, basins and toilet, moving the heavy furniture and vacuuming in the places unseen and employing much elbow grease scrubbing from the walls and furniture the etchings of my rather artistic Little Butterfly. I have emptied cleaned and repacked shelves, draws and cupboards and accumulated a number of rubbish bags worth of junk to be dumped. I’m not sure how it is that I even managed to fill one rubbish bag because we’ve only been in our new home for just on six months and I brought no junk with me. But never the less there is again space provided for the next period of junk collecting.

Today I began the next phase of “Operation Spring Clean” in my “office.” Being the spare room it is generally the room where everything that does not have a home yet gets dumped. It is the place where I spend time at my computer writing my blogs and poems, talking to my friends and family scattered haphazardly around this ever shrinking world on “Skype,” “MSN,” “Facebook,” or email. It is where Pierre does his daily regimen of sit ups, leg ups, push up and any other type of ups he can think of. It is Butterfly’s playroom where she scattered her toys in the hopes of tripping me up. It’s a busy room and it’s a mess. Not knowing where to start I opted for my Kist, the lid a gaping hole spilling over with blankets, sheets, table cloths, towels, Butterfly’s old clothes and other things I have collected over the years that hold many precious and old memories for me. So with a sigh of determination and a Butterfly’s willing assistance I began the process of empting and repacking my most precious possession. It sent my mind travelling back in time as I was reminded of so many things. My Kist, passed down to me from the only Gran I had, is inlaid with camphor wood and as old as it is it still gives off the smell of camphor. It is a smell I associate with so many of my memories of Marnie. It is a smell I recall when I wear her eternity ring or the heart pendant I so adore. It is a smell that reminds me of her musical jewellery box she used to let me play with. The smell that transports me back to her flat in Pietermaritzburg and the little shop she owned with my Grandfather and of the rain rattling on the tin roof of her house on a sugar estate in Tongaat. When I smell the camphor wood I can hear her singing or laughing, I remember the stories she used to tell, how she loved her family and been surrounded by young people. But most of all I remember how loved she was, it was impossible not to love her with her wit, her sense of humour and the way she enjoyed living. So there I was tearfully packing the memories of my life back into my favourite memory when I decided to pack it in for the day and spend the rest of the day creating memories with my Little Butterfly.

As I sit here typing I am reminded of another smell that triggers memories for me, the smell of tobacco smoke. My Oupa smoked a pipe for many years and when I remember him I remember that smell like there is someone in the room smoking that same tobacco. I remember sitting on the floor at his feet while he spoke to the grownups and his hand absently played with my hair. I can hear him talking about the war, about his family and his faith. I can feel his beard scratch my face as he would kiss me goodbye or hello, the strength with which he gripped my hand the last time I saw him and I know how much he loved me and all his family.

How blessed I feel as I wipe tears from my eyes yet again, I have a treasure trove of memories packed safely and securely away especially for me. Memories triggered by the pungent smell of tobacco smoke or the fading scent of camphor wood of two of the most precious people in my life whose blood now runs through the veins of my Little Butterfly.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Search and Rescue

My very talented mum always had one cupboard in her kitchen that all children were allowed to open, the “Tupperware” cupboard, and it was always in a mess. I remenber my many cousins, my little baby brother, my nephew and even my Little Butterfly having a rumble in that cupboard. They would leave “Tupperware” scattered on the kitchen floor for all and sundry to kick or trip over till it was thrown back in higgledy piggledy, ready for the next tiny fingered invasion. I recall my mum struggling to find the matching lids for certain sets and then giving up the search and just using any lid that fit. To this day it is seldom that you find a bowl with its matching lid in use in her fridge. Something unique to my very talented mum!

Having witnessed the fun that was had in that cupboard I have adopted the same policy in my teeny tiny little kitchen in our humble abode at the end of the world. Little Butterfly is allowed to play with anything in that cupboard. I try desperately to keep it reasonably tidy but seem never to be able to keep up with little fingers. I, unlike my very talented mum, cannot abide using things that are mismatched and have on numerous occasions repacked my “Tupperware” cupboard enable me to find one matching lid.

Then I began to notice that things were going missing completely and I now had lids without bottoms and bottoms without lids. It was all very infuriating as I ensured that only full sets were packed when we embarked on our journey to our new life at the end of the world. So, having been woken by my muse in the small dark hours of the morning, when I was able to not only finally finish a poem that has laid unfinished for weeks, but also speak to my mum at home and my delightful sister-in-law in Los Angeles on that marvellous invention called Skype, I was left with more time on my hands than usual. Having finished all housewife like chores I embarked on a mission to seek out the hiding places of the missing lids and bottoms, and confront the culprit responsible for this mystery. I enlisted the help of a somewhat disinterested Butterfly and commenced with the search beginning, it seemed sensible, with tiding the cupboard. Having informed myself of the amount, colour and shape of lids and bottoms that had gone “AWOL” I then crawled about on all fours searching underneath all stationery furniture and appliances.

I was to be instantaneously successful and triumphantly recovered a lid from under the fridge and one of the Mauritian’s $1600 speakers. All this while been attacked by an overzealous Butterfly who was tremendously amused by her mother’s shenanigans. I went on to discover plates under Little Butterfly’s cot, cups in her toy box and jelly moulds in a pair of the Mauritian’s running shoes. I rescued two milk jugs, a bowl, its matching lid and one of Butterfly’s “sippy” cups from bath time toy duty and resurrected a set of measuring cups that had been buried in one of our flower beds with the aid of a set of measuring spoons used to dig their grave. Singing my victory song I headed back to base camp marching to the beat of the drums in my head and the giggles of my two year old where I lovingly washed my errant plastic ware and returned them to their rightful place in my “Tupperware” cupboard.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays

I woke up this morning to the sounds of rain, not an unusual occurrence here at the end of the world, but there seemed to be something different today. Unlike most rainy mornings this morning was not cold, windy and dull when all you want to do is stay under the covers reading a decent piece of literature denying the existence of the dreary outside world. There have been many winter days when I have not opened the curtains in an attempt to keep the dreariness on the outside. Today had a different feel to it, perhaps it was the fact that it was light outside and the air wasn't icy, but today was reminiscent of a rainy spring morning back home.

The Mauritian often tells me to stop referring to South Africa as home because I am only prolonging the feelings of home sickness that afflict me daily. I suppose in a way he is right, we chose to uproot ourselves and resettle at the end of the world. We were looking for a different way of life, a new way of doing things and, in some way, a new home. But how can I be expected to not call the only home I ever knew anything but home? I am a South African born and bred and proud of it! There is no better weather then Durban weather, even those debilitating midsummer days are missed during the arctic cold winters at the end of the world. There have been days here when it has rained so hard that I have understood where the term “sheets of rain” originated, but nothing is as breath taking as an African thunderstorm. That feeling on your skin as the breeze cools down, the burning sun is covered in sinister looking rain clouds and the sudden silence of the birds as the earth holds her breath. Then the clouds are split by lightening and the earth breaths again as the thunder rumbles through the air bringing the rain. I have spent many hours of my life watching these storms, marvelling in their beauty and tried unsuccessfully to capture them in a poem. Then as suddenly as it started it is over, the sun is restored to its former brightness and everyone goes back to the chores of day to day life. But there is a different smell in the air, everything has been washed clean and refreshed. After an African storm there is a feeling of renewal. It is invigorating!

Here at the end of the world when the day dawns grey and wet the day sets dreary and cold, everything smells mouldy, damp and old and no one has any desire to move. We have spent many winter nights wrapped in layers of clothing huddled under a mountain of blankets wondering what it is we are doing here and why we are putting ourselves through this. Then one morning dawns bright and warm with soft rain falling on our colourful spring garden, the curtains are flung open and there just beyond the shimmering white on Mt. Taranaki is a tiny blue patch of sky promising sun. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes I go from room to room opening windows, allowing the cool morning air into our home and the stale is chased air out. With a cup of coffee in hand I stand on our veranda and watch the sky change from dull grey to azure blue, watch the colours in the garden brighten as the flowers lift their heads towards the sun. There is a chorus of bird song greeting the day, the squawk of an Indian Mynar nesting in our garage roof and the buzz and flutter of bumble bees and butterflies. Then I noticed a smell, new and fresh, the smell of spring!

South Africa will always be my home. It is in my blood, a part of me of who I am. I will always miss her beauty and her ugliness. South Africa is the centre of my family and friends that have spread out across the world. It is the place we all eventually go back to, if only for a short period of time. It is where my memories begin. I will always call South Africa home because that is what it is. But this morning as I watched my little piece of earth come alive I realised that here was home too. There is a different type of beauty here unique to anywhere else and all I have to do is free up a space in my mind so my eyes can see what is there behind the curtains.

For the rest of my life I will miss my home, but for the rest of my life I will discover the new and unusual things unique to our little piece of the earth here at the end of the world.

Monday, 21 September 2009

My Friend the Word Fiend

I have a very dear friend who has a rather refreshing attitude towards life. If she were dead she would be, right now, turning in her grave at been called “dear.” She is cringing as she reads this wondering how sentimental I’m going to get and is hoping, I am sure, that I do not mention her name. So to avoid embarrassment to her I shall call her, Celeste!

Now as I have said, Celeste has a rather refreshing attitude to life. She is exceptionally intelligent and had she the patience would likely spend her time studying and teaching the beauty and nuances of the English language. However, for Celeste, this use of her time and intelligence is far too grown up and rather stuffy. Yet it is something she could do without much effort at all. I am not afraid of English and I rather enjoy using complicated and little used words, I find them to be very descriptive and often much more enjoyable to use then the common everyday words that everyone relies on. Celeste, however, opened a whole new world to me with her almost insurmountable understanding and use of English. Often times I have received text messages with the oddest words I have ever seen, most of which are unpronounceable to me and most times appear to be unusable in day to day living. Celeste however seems able to use any word she finds as she peruses her dictionary.

She is unafraid of her intelligence and thinks nothing of regaling people with stories of her encounters with those blessed with a less than average intelligence in one moment then popping a condom over her head and blowing it up through her nose. I have attended staff meetings where she has imparted her wisdom and intelligence to all around her showing them how to do things easier and quicker, then pull me into the middle of the staff room to head bang wickedly to Just Jinger or Nirvana. I have had deep soul searching conversations with her one moment then laughed hysterically with her as we whispered “Rhubarb, rhubarb” to each other while in others company. I know she is capable of being extremely rational when explaining to her three delightful sons what is the right way to behave, and equally capable of jumping about her kitchen at two in the morning in a slinky black dress on a pogo stick. She is ready and willing to share her knowledge with those who are willing to learn, but equally ready to cower you into submission with a well aimed volley of words, the meanings of which you have no clue except perhaps in the scathing g tone of her voice. I have sat reading the dictionary with her found the most useless words imaginable and used them confusing all around us.

Celeste has introduced me to some of the best pieces of English literature, has inspired me to expand my reading to include the likes of Moby Dick or Les Miserable’s even if it was just to say I have read some books that she hasn’t. She has taught me not to be afraid of my intelligence and to never lower my standards to appease those less intelligent then myself. She has showed me the value of surrounding myself with those more intelligent than me and happily allowed me to share her knowledge. Learning from Celeste has given me the confidence to be cliché and “stand up and be counted.” She encouraged me to write poetry by sharing hers, encouraged me to improve my knowledge by sharing hers, and encouraged me to learn by sharing what I know with others. I know I will never be anywhere near as intelligent as Celeste, but she has always made me feel every bit her equal. I have never felt inferior in her intellect but empowered nor have I been made to walk in her shadow but rather in my own spotlight.

I am grateful to her for her unconditional friendship. I thank God for her intellect. I enjoy sharing the stories that are made from the moments and memories we have shared. I am sorry that we live on opposite sides of the world and cannot spend more than a cyber moment in each other’s company each day. I miss the many glasses of wine we have yet to drink, but not the boxes of kinickinicks we have yet to smoke. I look forward to the hours of yet unspoken flapdoodle, dictionary reading and word swapping.

Lastly, I must here give way to the sentimental and say about Celeste, that, and I do not use this term lightly, I love her dearly. One day we shall find our names in the headlines even if it’s just for singing Fernando at Karaoke.