Lots and Lots of Sugar: A Memoir of South Africa
circumstances. Relive the rage and the joy that has res ulted from their own actions. They will weep at the
irreversible and smile at the bold and proud moments of things past.
• • •
The initial characters — a small family:
The father, a handsome, strong and resolute individual with enormous drive and determination, tempered by a
gentleness and a playfulness. A man with a deep sensitivity to those less fortunate and to the racial inequities in
his country, and born out of personal experience, a belief that there is a way to breach the gap. A man, most of
all, passionate about his family, sparing nothing in his endeavor to give them the very best and in this one quest,
losing them. His name—Frederick Johannes De Villiers. They called him Fred.
The mother, a pretty woman, tremendously talented, excelling in her c reative endeavors. A woman seemingly
happy but secretly weighed down by painful choices. Choices of being either with her husband and torn from
her children or the reverse. Trying both alternatives, she pressed on doggedly in an attempt to make either one
or the other work. Courageously, she gave it all she had. Sadly, „all she had' was not enough. Her name—Freda
Next, there were the daughters:
The older, Rene, was staid and sober-minded, studious and serious and always in charge. Self-sufficient from a
young age, she seemed to know exactly where she was going and had little patience with those who vacillated
or showed signs of not having direction. Her's was a life of scintillating goals and achievements which ended
And then there was Maria. Taking after her father in many ways, she was adventuresome and filled with
impishness and witticism. She dared to try the uncharted and not always the wise. Maria, with traits of
whimsicality, was the consummate dreamer who often times acted upon her fantasies in daring pursuits. She
was enormously tender hearted with an extraordinarily deep capacity to love. As is often the case with those
who love so much, she experienced her full share of disappointment and broken dreams.
Finally, there was Nanny Dora Makumba, poised and eloquent, … a pivotal part of this family. She had been
there to see Maria and Rene take their first steps and to hear their first incoherent utterances. She loved the girls
and they adored her. With patience and care she honed their manners to perfection and fine-tuned what became
the essence of the girls' decorum and pure speech patterns. She was deeply religious and never missed an
opportunity to pass on to the girls her sacred beliefs, always warning:
“Of all the sins of the spoken word, there is none worse than taking the Lord's name in vain!”
Nanny Dora was in possession of a wisdom that seemed to come out of an old-world culture from way back in
her ancestry. When Maria, … for reasons no one could explain, … experienced lapses into slang at times and
her parents seemed at their wits' end, Nanny Dora said calmly and quietly:
“Leave her,—let her alone. Don't draw attention to it by fussing so! She's an imaginative child. She's got spirit!
She's intrigued by words … the good and the bad. One day she'll stop using the bad and she'll be oh so
eloquent with the good! Leave her alone.”
And of course, as it turned out, she was right. Time and again over the years, Nanny Dora came up with sage
advice that was the answer to Fred and Freda's dilemmas.
This is a story about this family, but it is mainly about Maria.
It was a warm African night in February 1940 and the second world war was raging. On this night, Maria was
not aware of the war. In a world where the vicious fury of battle had begun to rain down upon millions, filling