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?”


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.