Clowning About - From Your Besotted Gram'ma
This is a back-to-front letter. Your Mom has celebrated her birthday, we've pampered our Dads, you've turned one and I've got a few more grey hairs. The mountains are covered in snow but the sun still shines warmly on our backs. Landmarks flash past as the year speeds up, typically all we do is go with the flow, seldom stopping to enjoy the ride. Let's get you on a time machine, imagine your letter delivered by hand, the content will be a little outdated. It's taken a long time to write.
Mothers’ day has come and gone in our neck of the Mopani woods and it’s been 2 months since you left our shores. Although much has changed since then, our longing to see you hasn’t diminished at all. Instead of a jug of iced tea and mint on the kitchen table I have bright yellow Tulips to cheer me up.
Yesterday morning I awoke to your smiles, a whiff of you lingered in my imagination. If I hadn’t known better I would’ve sworn you were still in our warm bed with your podgy little arms around my neck giving slobbery kisses on my nose. My clavicle still tingled as if you'd just grabbed and rolled it, as you do before you go off to sleep. Turns out the arm was quite hairy and it was Grandpa. Like you, he too was like a bull in a china shop and couldn’t wait to get the water on the boil for our morning coffee before heading off to work! On Friday Grandpa said he must rush home so that he can see your antics on FaceTime, a highlight he can't miss.
This year I spent Mothers’ Day in Hwange a large game reserve in Zimbabwe. We spent the day following a large pride of 11 lions. Once again we were reminded of the strong bond between a mother and her cubs as we watched how protective she was and how much they depended on her and the pride for their well-being, development, hunting and survival skills. This was your Moms second Mother's Day, and I’m sure you made it memorable. No gift could possibly be greater than your birth. I'm also lucky to have my Mother around, she's 84 and it gives me hope that I'll be around to see you grow up and who knows I might see your children one day. We have good genes!
This morning we packed away your camping cot, I couldn’t resist burying my face into your blanky and taking huge gulps just to smell you one more time. Then I folded the linens and packed your cuddly blanket away. In the folds I carefully placed some lavender flowers. For old times’ sake I listened to the deep doo-doo of the wooden Dodo we played with when you bathed in the basin! I gave it a good blast and wept. You see I love you so much I could actually stalk you, bite you and gobble you up. I'm besotted and under your spell.
When the aircraft touched down at Cape Town International Airport your Mom poured you into my arms. You smiled and felt quite at home. whether it was the Customs Official or a porter, you charmed them all, they were drawn to you like moths to a flame, and I was pleased you took it all in your stride. You see, poor South Africa often gets really bad press, and many people are quite terrified. But, I could breathe easy and know your first impression was good.
It’s been a while since your Mum and Dad visited and I was holding thumbs hoping nothing bad happens. A few years ago we were quite shocked and horrified when a pedestrian came flying over the roof of a car right in front of us. Fortunately it all happened so fast, almost dreamlike, we, including our Canadian visitor, were speechless. Sometimes I think I might’ve imagined it. How does one explain that?
Content, is the word which best describes you. You’re friendly, charming and bright as a button. Sunshine. Golden child. We all think you grew an extra few inches and gained a good pound or two. I say it’s Africa, that indescribable feeling of well-being you get here. In the 70’s we said it’s all sunshine, braaivleis (barbeque), rugby and Chevrolet. That’s Africa for you.
You loved our daily forays to the beach along with all the other Grandparents and their precious cargoes. First you’d nap in your stroller while I had a coffee at the kiosk, but once we got down to the beach and I got you undressed you were free to explore and stretch your muscles. Like a crab you’d head off into the lagoon, how you loved the water, you’d slurp it up, have it up your nose and down your throat. You’d gasp for breath as the cool salty water stung your eyes and shocked your senses. In no time your fair skin became a nutty, copper colour, your hair shone like golden threads.
What fun you had smashing your very first birthday cake. I remember my children shyly putting their fingers, fists and forearms into their cakes too, but, then it wasn’t as expected as it is today! As with most children the fancy toys or cake didn’t keep your attention as the broomstick did, we were fascinated watching you get frustrated as you bulldozed your way through the sand broomstick in tow. No amount of coaxing would get you to release it, it was meant to be a post for the colourful tickertape!
I have a beautiful photograph of Great Grandpa Tim, your uncle (unfortunately not your namesake), your dad and you, the fourth generation Timothy. I know it’s not always parents’ wish to give their children inherited names, but when I saw the tears of joy and pride in your Great grandparents eyes I was filled with gratitude. Your name makes you kin, gives you a birth right, identifies you and gives you a shared heritage. Those bonds are like strands of Kevlar. I hope you’ll be a man of integrity and intellect like your forebears. Quiet, dignified and proud.
Grandpa Butch thinks you’re a peach and we cherish the three weeks we had getting to know you, to observe you and to enjoy you. We did, each moment was glorious and a blessing. We say you’re terrific! You’re no cry-baby, wimp or fool. He admires your determination and guts, character traits that "will serve you well in life" he says.
I believe you’re in a playgroup, learning, playing and getting to know your peers. I’m sure it’s not easy saying goodbye to your Mom and Dad in the mornings as they set off to work, believe me, it’s harder still for them. If I could give you some advice, it would be this. Enjoy each day, your attitude is like a coin, you flip it easily, so choose heads up! You’re lucky you’ll have the privilege of a very good education, here millions of children lack a good education, although they’re keen as mustard, yearning to open their minds to all the possibilities of knowledge, being able to read and write, they’re denied what so many of us take for granted. You’re one of the lucky ones.
On Sunday it was Father’s Day, your dad is a changed man since you’ve arrived, he smiles more. I believe his eyes have turned a softer, gentler blue. Learning to love unconditionally is reflected in his behaviour, mood and actions. I bet every decision he makes is with you and your Mom in mind. All their plans have consequences which would weigh heavily, scrutinised consideration will be made as it affects your life. He couldn’t be a prouder Dad. His life is fulfilled. Now he’d be quite happy to fish for a Galjoen, go deer stalking in the woods. He is a gentle soul with the ability to see one’s frailty and have compassion for it. As a little boy he was busy and very feisty, but also, uncomplicated and his intentions were always clear as glass, he wore his heart on his sleeve! He was passionate in everything he did!
Your mother will always be the woman you measure all girls by. The yardstick. I don’t know how anyone will match up even closely. She’s simply wonderful. She’s kind, generous and passionate about the two men in her life. She is beautiful, graceful, genteel and has the voice of an angel.
I will always remember the picnic basket she packed, got me out of bed at 3h00 to drive for miles until we had a clear view of the star shower. (At my age the only time someone would take you for a drive at 3h00 in the morning would be to bury you, after foul play). It was just the two of us, we sat on a blanket, drank coffee from a flask, nibbled scrumptious sandwiches and watched the heavens display. That is a testament of her generosity. We couldn’t have asked for a better wife or mother for our son and grandson. She’s a peacemaker, homemaker and carer. She’ll make sure your front door is always open to your friends and family. I trust implicitly that she will unite our family.
Parenthood comes without instructions, we all wing it, sometimes we make mistakes, often we’re flummoxed but, mostly, we do it out of an indescribable love and a good measure of instinct. Occasionally it's plain scary so don't be too hard on them, they're only human! We wish her a happy birthday, may she be richly blessed and we thank her for blessing our lives beyond measure. We cherish the times we’ve spent with her and wish that her year will be abundantly filled with grace, peace, love and good health.
Never forget you’re our Prince charming, you’ve changed our lives immeasurably and we wouldn’t want it any other way. When I think of your little family so far away I imagine a star shower falling from the sky enriching all our lives. Never stop laughing your belly laugh, it’s infectious. Remember “children are a living message we send but will never see”!
Here are the top 10 things I like about your family.
1. they love you and they love and respect each other
2. you're down to earth
3. what you see is what you get, there are no hidden agendas
4. content. You have the ability to make the most of your situation
5. you're not social climbers and you're proud of what your friends and family have achieved
6. you're so funny and laugh a LOT
7. your parents forgive easily and let the past be and they’ve become better, kinder and more compassionate since loving each other
8. you proudly support your beliefs (e.g. the All Blacks) regardless of peer pressure
9. you'll work hard and play hard.
10. They don’t judge and they Karaoki... I say no more.
But, most importantly, you're adored, rest assured your parents, uncles and aunts will protect you, teach you, guide you, nurture you but, they’ll allow you to develop into the person you’re meant to be and not who they’d prefer you to be. Nor will they live their ambitions through you. They’ll allow you to bump your head, make mistakes, bruise your ego, break your heart and learn to stand up on your two shaky legs so that you can enjoy the adventure which is life. With three sets of doting Grandparents you're one lucky chap. I think the photograph of your dad throwing you up into the air is a perfect metaphor, he'll let you go, but, you can trust he'll always be there arms outstretched to catch you.
I've worked on these photographs for weeks and I see that every picture tells your story. Just remember, you’re always welcome to pack your bags and scoot over to ours if anyone hassles you too much.
From your doting