Don't Get Me Wrong
It’s been a busy month since my last scribbling, an exciting time it’s been too. On the day it rained I set off at the appointed hour, very early, to meet them at the airport. It was exciting. Rain. Soft, gentle, penetrating, misty rain. Enough to soak our scorched land. Not enough to break a drought.
I was early, traffic was slow I could do it at a good clip. The mountains surrounding me were wondrous, low clouds, saturated colours. Irresistible. A good photo opportunity. Besides I had a warning light, a door wasn’t closed properly. I stopped on the shoulder, checked the doors, and took my photograph. The old lady she wouldn’t start again. Uncanny. Upsetting and nerve wrecking. Long story short, I missed their plane landing. The news broadcasts were full of it, three accidents and multiple roadworks. We seem to lose our grip in the rain.
Just as I can smell the rain, I could smell they were back. The smell of freshly ground beans in the morning, their Issey Miyake and Au Savage, the briny smell of a wetsuit, wax on surfboards, musty beach towels and damp board shorts, the floral scent of laundry flapping on the breeze. The flow of air had changed in our house. Heaven. I’d walk up the stairs in the morning and spot the curve of a hip and a foot of toes sticking out from under the bedclothes. My boy was home. Dark curls on pillows as the little spoon slept in.
There was no time for jetlag or fatigue. The sun was shining, the swells, breaks, curls and on-shore-off-shore conditions were perfect. Three weeks of early mornings and latish nights. They’ve grown up too and take things slower. I was spoilt with meals out, walks in all too familiar places, revisits to long forgotten places and quiet times waiting for the perfect break.
We caught up, listened to one another’s tales, shared secrets (not really, in a large family there are no secrets) and I lapped it up hungrily, savouring each morsel knowing these are their stories to cherish. I saw the laughter return and the dark circles whispered away.
Our menu of things ticked included Muizenberg for a surf board, a revisit to Kommetjie and Bakoven to catch a 5 star wave, lunches and dinners at interesting places, body boarding in Onrus, watching a little gaggle of boys coming to play in the surf. I did a solo road trip to the Breede River, like a slice of moon it was golden thinking my own thoughts, driving at my own pace, stops and starts for photographs of desolate, brownish landscapes, like sheared sheep, still beautiful albeit naked.
Spending time with four friends reminiscing our trip to Paris and the Luberon valley brought back fond memories, with conversations ranging from the US elections, our take on Trump to preparing the perfect Soufflé. With scarves protecting our coiffures we took a speed boat out for early morning coffees, sundowners and pizzas at the local pizzeria, where locals and stray husbands on a boys’ weekend fishing bought us shooters with a dash of charm! Down stream Butch and his boys spent their weekend telling tales and bonding while the big one got away.
At home we prepared simple meals, watched a comedy or two, debated the state of our nation, got excited about reasonably priced properties, spent time in our P.J’s, got dressed up for dinners with friends, had breakfast at the Farmers’ Market and picnicked on the beach. We all helped deflate the tyres to drive along a lonely stretch of Plaat to our favourite cove, there lines were cast and black mussels and Oyster Catchers counted. We returned home a little burnt with sand in our bathers and our hands sticky from melting ice cream cones. During the week I even had time for my annual cooking class, my Christmas eve menu sorted.
The brief was: spend time with family, catch up with school friends, hit the high rollers on a surf board, relax and most importantly spend time with the Grandparents. This they did. I saw the tear when they realised Ouma and Oupa aren’t quite as young as they were last time, although fit as fiddles their steps have slowed, memories are a little more selective and for old times’ sake it’s memories of growing up, holidays in Stellenbosch, the old Pecan nut tree, bicycles and ice creams at Portofino’s that steal the limelight. Grandma’s unabashed honesty, is refreshing yet surprising. The obsequious mother I knew is no more!
All too soon our 19 days passed and it was time to weigh suitcases, strip beds, stow the surfboards and give the garden a final watering. Once again the old lady she would not start. This time she put her foot down and wouldn’t budge, forcing us to make her tow the line. They say after a few years one can look like one’s dog, in our house the Landcruiser knows instinctively what the mood is.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been doing this for decades now and it never gets easier. I relish the visits but dread the partings. This malady called “separation anxiety”. I wish they could stay, just an extra day. I cannot resist succumbing to the dark veil of depression. I return to a parched, dying garden, curtains drawn, furniture covered in a thick layer of dust, a regurgitating laundry basket and stacked crockery mocks me from the drying rack. Although I'm eternally grateful for all the opportunities my children have been afforded there is a part of me that resents the loss, not only to us, but, to this amazing country of ours, imagine what we might've achieved if all our citizens could remain here?
In this darkness I mourn two small boys who drowned in the lagoon, a friend who's been diagnosed with breast cancer, the suddenness is staggering and another feels the weight of caring for an aging parent, the loss of her career and an empty nest, she worries me; as her immeasurable sadness is palpable. Our mountain was ravished by a fire once again, having just recovered from last years burn the scorched earth there resembles a grey sand dune. So Christmas and a trumped up New Year looms.
"Ping"! goes my phone, they’ve landed safely and walked out into a winter covered in 5 foot of snow and a thermometer reading of -39֠C. On this, the sunny south side, jets are landing with thousands of Saffas returning home for the holidays. I breathe.. deeply. This too shall pass.