SINGLE AND LOVING IT!
Author: Marietjie Brits (Jewell)
Dedicated to the most amazing parents any child could ask for
Jan Brits & Gertrude Brits
It’s that time of the year again, winter! How many times did I not remind myself not to be single this time of year? And do I heed my own words, no! I strived to be labelled ‘single’ with such vigour I forgot what season it was. It crept up on me as autumn creeps up
on winter. Cool, calm and with such determination as my dog with its sorrowful looks during dinner!
But it did not quite start out this way, as I do recall…..
The sun was shining and I was lapping up the sun at the Lower South Coast. Oh what a glorious holiday. Just what the doctor ordered. Glorious and much need rest, wonderful fresh air and lots of tender loving care for myself.
My boys Steward age 25, Brian age 20, Collin age 16 and my sisters son who I call my other kid, Bernard age 21, are splashing in the surf, and then it’s off to the lagoon while I stretch like a lazy tabby cat on windowsill. I take in my surroundings. I notice all the moms and dads chatting happily. I observe the tight family units scattered all over the beach. I smile a little inside, as I am happy for them and happy that I am single. Who wants the restraints of a husband, boyfriend or fiancé? Not me, I am extremely proud to be a single mom and function on all four cylinders.
The sun is setting and my kids start their rounding up of towels, flip flops, hats, surf boards and bags. We gather all of our beach gear and head for the car. All dusted off of the beach sand and off we go. It’s time consuming to get back to my sisters flat. The traffic is heavy but the kids start chatting and going over the whole day’s events, laughing as they share the day with each other. How wonderful it is to be young.
Finally we made it back. We make turns in the outdoor shower to get rid of the last sea sand before we all storm the kitchen and raid anything left unattended. Well swimming and all that fresh air does get the appetite a good old jump-start before dinner. Chips, cookies, coke, and coffee for me. Yes, sad but true, I got the hang of coffee many years ago; yes I am addicted to the stuff. My sister always jokes - when I die one day and they cut open a vein, the java will flow in abundance!
The kids head off to their rooms and I sit and chat to my mom and sister on the veranda. We sit on the veranda just watching the sun descend on our perfect day at the beach. My sister and mom are having a glass of wine, and with my coffee cup raised we toast our womanhood and the ability to survive without men. And here we sit in contented quietness - one widower and two divorcees. Our lives as we know it is complete, well for today anyway.
The kids are still asleep, we three ladies of leisure get up and as per usual I head straight for the kitchen, my fix for the morning – coffee. We sit in the lounge trying to look half alive. My mom is the only one looking like there is any life on her planet. The good Lord has blessed us with another sunshine day. Trust me, this time of the year, December, at the Lower South Coast you have to take a picture of the sun at times to remember what it looks like. It is usually rainy and very humid!
Now what are we going to do today, the boys were up most of the night playing PC games so they are only going to surface round about noon! Shall we head for the shops and try getting the last Christmas gifts or just stroll around town. We opt for the beach. Driving in this traffic is just utter madness for us today. Tomorrow is another day. We still have a few days left, what is the rush!
We pack our beach bag with towels, sun block, lots of water and our umbrella. Luckily we just have to cross the road, walk a few hundred meters and we are on St. Mike’s beach.
Chatting now and making sure we have all we need to go bake in the lovely sun we seem to be awake and fully comprehensive to tackle the new day. We lock up and off we go.
So much for that idea, only have one road to cross, yeah right. Half of Gauteng, the Freestate and Mpumalanga are on their way to the main shopping centre in Shelly Beach. You would swear there are no shops in their cities. Such a lovely day and they are all heading for the shops!
We stand next to the road trying to get a gap to dash across the road. The cars are bumper to bumper. My mother makes a comment that they are such idiots, how can they not give us a gap to get across. As she is going off how rude they are, a car slows down and flashes his headlights at us. It’s a bunch of really good-looking guys in the car, but quite young and what can I say but just ‘yummy’ We make for the middle of the road and another car sees our dilemma and slows down so we can make the further dash to the other side. I grab my mom’s arm and do the last sprint to safety.
Once across the hectic road, my sister and I burst out in laughter. ‘Did you see those guys, boy they were good looking” I said with utter glee. “You see, I told you we have still got it,” replies my very vein sister. We laugh at ourselves as our ego’s soar higher than the clear blue skies above.
With this newfound confidence we hold our heads up high and march onto the beach like the new seasons Baywatch girls. We still have it and we are flaunting it!
The beach is packed and alive with people. We head for a spot close to the two safety swimming flags. To control the swimming masses, the life guards put up two flags and the public must keep within the flags to make sure all is safe and no drowning.
We put out our towels and up goes the umbrella and we seat ourselves down and keep the pose of Hollywood stars.
There are all sorts on the beach. The grandpa’s and grandmas’ are either reading the morning paper or setting out the day’s supply of food for the grand kids. The moms and dads with the little toddlers are playing in the shallow waters of the sea, splashing around or trying to get their 1 and 2 year old to brave the water, no luck. The sea looks much bigger and more frightening to them up close and personal! Then you get the ten year olds to fourteen year olds. They have got their boggy boards and trying to get any wave coming their way, while the others are ducking and diving into the waves screeching with pure delight. Then the next age group are the ‘know-it-all’ teenagers. The boys are all flexing their muscles and looking very brave and strong while the girls act as if the water is this terrible human eating monster, screeching every time a wave heads for them. They are strutting their stuff up and down the beach hoping to catch the eye of the flexing boys. Now we head on to the older teenagers. The sixteen and eighteen year old. The girls are all tanning and trying to be more stunning and gorgeous than the next group, flicking the hair back and rubbing on more tanning lotion. The boys or shall I say the young lions of the beach are roughing it up with a game of beach rugby or cricket. They are the only ones without a care in the world. Life is theirs to take and they are trying to make a big dent in it today. Tackling each other, laughing and really just enjoying the day. If a girl wants them they can come get him, no running after the girls today. Today is the ‘Lions’ day – six foot tall and bullet proof!
And here we are, somewhere in this mad crowd, on the beach is us three babes. Where do we fit in? Who knows? Not in one of the groups above. We are single moms, all three of us. My mom, responding to the name -Gertrude, is in her early 60’s, young at heart, full of life and old enough to be called granny. My sister, Gertrude, in her early 40’s, still young at heart, full of life, and not at all old. And myself just hit 40 two weeks ago. I am not old and if you dare call me that, I will kill. Extremely young at heart, will fight old age tooth and nail, will not go down gracefully but kicking and screaming! I am one of those really gullible people that you just have to say it will fade away any sign of wrinkles and I will buy it! I hate getting old and never will, and this fact humours my family till no end and at my expense. But my sister and I are very lucky in the sense that we inherited my mother’s skin tone or whatever you call it. She has hardly got a wrinkle to show for raising 4 kids. Gertrude and I are the same, I have some frown lines and she only as a few crow’s feet. Bless my mother and her genes.
It’s hot and time for a dip in the sea. I convince the other two Baywatch babes to join me. We march of very confidential-like into the water. It’s absolutely lovely, my mom and Gertrude catch their breaths saying its cold. And that is my gap, turn around and splash them wet. We screech with laughter and my mom laughs as she curses me in the same breath. She does not wonder off to deep and us girl’s head for the waves. We see a big wave heading our wave. I scream to Gertrude to catch the wave and we body surf it out. As the wave approaches us menacing we start swimming for all we wroth. We are going to make a statement here today – “We still have it! We used to be good at this; we will show the rest of the youngsters in the water and the onlookers how it is done! The wave catches up with us and roars to the beach. Well the Baywatch babes got a ride of the day. The wave was bigger and stronger than the both of us. It picked us up, tossed us in the air and then very rudely dunked us into the water below. We got tumble like my old washing machine at home. We finally made an appearance, washed out like beached whales. Covered in sea sand and seaweed. We took a look at each other and burst out laughing, that hysterical laugh, feeling very grateful that we are alive and that we did this together. Well it’s not applicable to cry in public, no matter how big our humiliation was.
Well my mother thought this was just as funny. By the time we got back to our towels my mother had plonked herself on her towel and was rolling with laughter. I sat down and tried as best I could to get rid of the seaweed and sand. I just gave my mother a look of ‘where is the sympathy’ and at her next outburst of laughter, lit a smoke and laid back trying to get my head to stop spinning. And that was the end of our body surfing Baywatch babe episode for the day.
Just doing nothing all day long was my idea of a wonderful day. I sat watching the families on the beach. And somewhere inside me a little voice was saying – ‘that could have been you’ but I quickly wiped away that voice in my head with all the trouble that goes with a relationship. Well the little voice got me thinking. I started looking around now to see if I could see someone good looking or at least sort of good looking and my age. Well to my utter horror I saw that most were either married, staring down the eyes of some young dolly that is half their age or they were just too old looking for me. I was looking for someone that still had life in them, not being ‘40 and acting 60’. You see, I said earlier that I am young at heart. I meant that. I still go swimming with the boys. Jumping down the waterfall at Uvongo beach with them. Staying up most of the night playing pc games and playing beach rugby with them. I intend to stay young as long as possible; there is no word as old in my bones. Like I said, I will go down kicking and screaming. Most men my age are old. They are sitting under their umbrellas reading the newspaper or snoozing. If the boys were here, I would be either running around with them or in the surf trying not to drown myself. Or we would be in the lagoon on a little inflatable boat trying to see who can hold on the longest as someone tries to overturn the boat. So what am I suppose to do with a 40 something old man that likes to snooze and read a newspaper on the beach. I don’t think so! And try and find men a bit younger, then they are still thinking of a family or trying to get rid of the family they have. This all seems hopeless. I have already got my kids, still young enough to have fun but can’t find anyone to share that with. So the only conclusion is… I am still happy to be single.
It’s already lunchtime and us girls are getting hungry and decide to head back home. The clouds are approaching and the wind has picked up. We decide to call it a day, packed up and headed back to Gertrude and my mom’s flat. Luckily the main road is not that busy and we manage to get across without waiting too long. Although I think silently Gertrude and myself were hoping for allot of traffic! We looked at each other simultaneously and we understood each other’s grins!
Let me first explain the flats to you, where everyone knows everyone. The flats are built above the butchery come bakery come winery. Past that is the laundry and barber. And just outside is a second hand bookshop and estate agent. Now in the butchery is the bakery, some guy from Belgium who knows how to bake breads and naturally sweet things or shall I call them great temptations. We cannot walk past the butchery with all its finery inside. It is just sacrilege. And anyway we are on holiday; we do as we please, well so we think. We head straight for the bakery section and choose some very fine looking rolls and some bread. Boy its smells good. Now there is this table of sins, it has all sorts of old and second and probably 4th hand magazines and books. You can take whatever tickles your fancy and at the till point, there is the ‘honesty box’ you just have to put in a donation and the books are yours. So with a good few rolls and breads and magazines to keep us occupied all afternoon we head up the stairs and into the flat.
We make ourselves some divine salad rolls, I make the coffee and we stuff our faces with no shame whatsoever. The boys have just joined the land of the living and preparing to go fishing. Great, this is turning out to be a wonderful day. Peace and quiet as they leave the flat. My mom and sister head for the bedroom and I sprawl myself out on the couch. And in trying to read and catch whatever they have to say on the telly, I drift off to the land of nod where I am Queen, the idle rich, and have the body that came from the Gods.
I stir out of my lovely wonderful dream world to the scrumptious aromas of garlic and fried onions. I was more tired than I thought and slept 3 solid hours! The fresh clean air at the coast was doing wonders to my sleep. You see I am a terrible sleeper, just don’t seem to get the hang of it! So, to drift off for 3 hours in broad daylight was a blessing from above and well appreciated. Gertrude is busy with dinner and my tummy rumbles. Not only did the clean beautiful coastal air affect my sleep, but it sure has turned on my appetite. But my strong beliefs, that, whatever you eat on holiday, is non-fattening and good for the soul. My mom is pouring a glass of wine for herself and Gertrude and I decide to indulge myself and join in for the alcoholic round! Hey I am allowed to splurge, I am on holiday!
And as per tradition, we haul out the dices for a few rounds of Yum. It’s basically five dices you roll and it’s nearly like playing poker, but of course just with dices. Competition runs strongly in our blood. My mom just enjoys the game and Gertrude and I compete heavily under the table! We get it from our late father. If it was monopoly, or gin rummy or golf, we had to win!! Strange how you think you are so different from your brothers or sisters, or even your own parents. But if you had to sit down and write down a few of their traits or likes and dislikes, you will be amazed at how very similar you are to them. And when you catch yourself, the first thing you say when someone asks you if that is your sister or brother what do you reply, ‘Yes she or he is, but we are so different!’ go figure and you wonder why your kids seem a bit screwed up at times. All this confusion, it’s bound to drive someone bonkers! Back to the game and my mother has beaten the pants off the both of us. See, you need all the concentration when you are up against the family. We decline gracefully with excuses that we must finish dinner. Always works in our house!
Dinner was good as always, and we have cleared the table and the kitchen is back to spotless. Now it’s party time. My kids have gone over to some friends to ‘lan’ on the computers and I am in the mood for ‘Party’. Now let me inform you a bit here. I am not quite the party animal that is Gertrude’s department. I am more of a movies, beach and nature kind-of-gal. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a good party every now and then. How does my mother put it, ‘Let the hair down’ so we opt to go down to the local pub. Not too far from where Gertrude and mother lives.
We get all dollied up and off we set in our red Ferrari (my mother’s Citi Golf). We get there and the place looks very lively. It’s an’ Irish Pub Night’ at the local Tavern. Just what we needed. We walk in with the music playing all the good old Irish tunes and most of the bar is singing happily with. We find some seats at the bar and order ourselves a drink each. My sister gets the giggles as I battle to get my behind on the bar stool. I am not short, just vertically challenged! So with a hop skip and jump I am on the bar stool. It’s so nice to be out with Gertrude, she knows how to have a good time and I am here to learn all her methods. We sit and chit chat and observing all the people in the tavern. What a happy crowd. Some are having dinner, some are attempting the dance floor, small but sufficient. And the rest are singing and laughing. Why can’t every day be like this? No one is complaining about their crappy jobs, all the debt, sick relatives or how unjust life can be. Everyone is relaxed and enjoying the moment. That is how we are supposed to live. Don’t stress about the next day, just enjoy the one you are in.
Just then the door of the tavern burst open with the oddest looking chaps. Quite loud and in very good spirits. They are younger than my sister and myself. The one chap is tall and as skinny as a bean pole. The other chap is much shorter and a bit stocky. They head straight for the bar an order some draught with this very broad Irish accent. Gertrude and I both look at each other and smile. On my mother’s side her family came from Ireland. And here we are, in an Irish pub and who walks in… two paddies from ol’ homeland Ireland. These two paddies’s just about greeted the whole pub personally. They came up to us an introduce themselves. Told us to make some space for them and we got to chatting. Now trying to understand a broad accent is one thing, if the person speaks a bit slower, you can more or less figure out what they are saying. But if you are half inebriated and loud and talking fast, well they lost us on the 4th word! And with that I can say the same for the poor bartender and the rest of its customers! But did that hinder the conversation. No way, we kept on smiling and laughing as they did and we had our say to them and vice versa, and till today I still wonder what we actually spoke about. The only thing we managed to figure out was that they were missionaries from Ireland who volunteer to teach in the lesser African schools. The taller chap had this funny little black hat on. He started playing a game with all who sat at the bar. As the music starts he places the hat on top of the first person at the bar, he then puts the hat on the second person at the beat of the music. When a chorus starts or the song end, you have to take a swig of your drink. Plus we all had to sing heartily along. After a few rounds and everyone buying everyone a round of drinks, my cheeks were blood red and it had nothing to do with the weather. I was quite tidily with my sister close on my heels. Now our problem here was that these two Irish gentlemen wanted a place to sleep for the night. Now just imagine the expression on my mom and my children’s faces, if Gertrude and I waltzed into the flat with two drunken strangers. My children would never talk to me again. As for my mother, she would give us one of those “Drop dead in your tracks” look. So it was time for a plan. When they proceeded to ask us again for about the fifteenth time if they could go home with us, we replied, “no problem, me casa su casa” now just to get the timing right. We watched them with hawk eyes. The minute they decided to go to the men’s room, we grab our bags and tried as best to get the hell out of there without attracting too much attention. Now, that alone, 7 was a bit of a mission. We both had the giggles and could not quite walk straight. We both tried simultaneously, to go through the door and got stuck, and in our very ‘happy’ mood, packed up again in fits of laughter! With allot of pushing and shoving we managed to get ourselves out the tavern. We ran or shall I say stumble along and around the corner. We had to sober up so that we could drive home. The centre, which is where we shall go. There is a very quaint coffee bar there, and that is what we need right now. The only problem was that on the way to the coffee bar is a huge flight of stairs we are going to have to manage. Now I must add that I was in a better state than my sister. So we hooked arm in arm and took a big breath and started the decline on the stairs. A couple, who was, by the looks of it, very much in love, passed us on their way up. We got this really dirty conceited look from the two of them, shaking their heads with a ‘tut-tut’. Well you can just imagine what that did to us. We looked at each other and the laughter roared out of us. We laughed so much, just thinking what we look like. These two 40 something woman, hanging onto each other as if we were trying to cross on a fifty foot high hanging bridge! We had to seat ourselves down to calm our outburst. Another 10 minutes later we attempted the last set of steps down. With a sigh of relief we walked the last distance that would take us to some heavenly sobering up coffee.
As we approached the coffee bar we could already smell the wonderful aromas brewing in the coffee pots. We straightened ourselves up and tried to look as sober as a drunken person can look!
We ordered a huge pot of coffee and drank as much as we possibly could. The cookies they gave with the coffee went down just as well. After an hour and a half we were quite sober and ready for our journey home.
Thank goodness I am on holiday, I had chance to sleep off the wear and tear of last night. My mom was up early and Gertrude and I only emerged from our rooms at nine o clock. My mom, our angel, had a cup of java ready for us. How I do love my mother! We sat down and started to tell my mom the night’s events. She laughed with us and said in a manner of fact that at least we only do this ‘sort of thing’ once a year. Now don’t get me wrong, my mother is a very fun loving person. I can still see that mischievous twinkle in her.
I remember when I was about fourteen years of age; I had fallout with my mom. You know how you get at that age, you know it all and the whole world is against you and they just don’t get it! I called up my Aunty Tess, my mom’s sister, and asked if I could come spend the weekend with her as my mother hates me. She agreed and asked my mom to drop me off. My aunt stayed in a 3 story apartment. The moment my mom stopped, I said goodbye, very half heartedly I must add, and ran up the 3 flights of stairs as fast as I my short legs could carry me. I burst into her apartment and immediately told her how cruel and heartless my mother is. I was very much a free spirited child and like to express my freedom to my poor parent’s utter horror and sometimes disbelief. My mom had chastised me over one of these ‘free spirited’ expressions I had. After I had completely cried out all my pitiful tears she told me some stories I carry gleefully in my heart till today and happily share it with my boys. My dear mother who I thought to be so innocent and a real old goodie- two-shoe’s was indeed not.
You see my granny, on my mother’s side, was a very loving woman but very strict. She ran the whole family up until she became very old. She lived to a good old age of 101! So I was under the impression that my mother and her 6 brothers and sisters where little angels. Granny had two sets of twins, my mom being one of them. No wonder she was so strict, I would have gone off my rocker if I had so many kids! Well my darling Aunt Tess told me that she and granny were walking in the street doing a bit of shopping. The next minute a boy comes flying past on a motor bike. Granny looks in utter disgust and declares, ‘Is that not Gertrude on the back of that motorcycle?’ Aunty Tess shakes her head very convincingly at granny and says with a very straight face, ‘No mother, Gertrude is in the library’ till today my mom has the exhaust pipe burn on her right calf muscles! Then there was the story of how they used to travel by train to school and back. As far as I can remember the story, granny accompanied all her kids to school. The train trip was long and tiring. Granny got up to get a bit of fresh air and opened the window. She poked her head out a little to her utter disbelief. In the compartment next to granny, who had her head stuck out the window, puffing away at a cigarette, my mother.
My darling Aunty Tess told me wonderful stories of my mother. By the time my cousin got up to make us some tea, I was rolling around with laughter and had a completely different view of my mother. She had my undying respect, understanding and love. All this time I thought she never understood me, but in fact, now I know who I take after. Buy the time she came to collect me the Sunday afternoon; I had forgiven my mother all the ‘wrong’ she ever imposed on my life. I gave her the biggest hug she had ever had from me. And just to make sure she understood me, I gave her a look of ‘comradary’ the things we think of as kids!
With all these memories running around my head, I felt much better for our escapades of last night. The head was clearing and the day just seemed brighter. I looked over at my mom lovingly. She is such a wonderful woman. Loving, caring and always got a wise crack. All of you reading my words right now, if you still have a mom, call her and tell her how much you love her and appreciate her. Remember you only live once, make it count!
Today is the day! Christmas is just around the corner and we have to get to town to do the last of our shopping. We need to buy the food on the list for Christmas lunch as well. We have this thing. Every year someone in the family gets to choose how and where they want to have Christmas day. This year it’s mine- all mine!! I have decided to have Christmas lunch across the road from my sisters flat. Its two steps away from the beach. It has a canopy of trees that can shade us from the hot December sun. I love being outdoors, so I thought it would be a great idea for all to spend it outdoors. Those who want to go swimming- it’s about 10 paces and you are on the beach. For those who want to just relax, like myself, you just need to plonk your behind down on a blanket. The menu will be cold meats, salads, bread rolls etc. Finger lunch. This way nobody has to slave away at the cooking pots. And anyway, it’s way too hot for a cooked meal.
We get ready and head for the Shelly Centre mall. We want to get to Pick & Pay Grocery Market. The kids opted for the beach. Wish I was rather going with them than to the mall. I just know what is waiting for us there.
It has taken 20minutes to find parking, so you can just imagine how busy the centre is. The only thing that is inviting about the mall is that it has a great air cooling system. The minute you step out of the elevator the cool fresh welcoming air of the air conditioning hits you right in the face, glorious. We three ladies pause for a minute. Crawling along the parking lots on an extremely hot and humid day is not my idea of fun. When we have finally cooled down a bit, letting our red tomato faces turn back to its normal human being condition and colour we proceed through the great mass of mall shoppers. It is crowded to capacity. But right now I don’t care; I am still enjoying the cool effects of the air conditioner. At least the mobs of shoppers are all in a great mood. Christmas carols are playing around the mall. Beautiful decorated trees, Santa’s are walking around handing out candy to the little ones and there are a dozen or so teenagers who have volunteered to wrap all the bought gifts with a donation for the less fortunate ones. Don’t you just love the buzz that goes with Christmas! Just a pity everyone is not as forgiving and giving all year round. We head for Pick & Pay and start loading the trolley with food and desserts. My boys will be 80 years old and still want to know what sweets and desserts we have purchased!
Double checking our list to make sure we have everything we head for the tills. The queue is long but at least all are open and running full steam ahead. My mom starts laughing at my sister and myself. We are a bit on the tired side and have gone a bit green around the gills. Last night is taking its toll on us again. Luckily we are through the till at record speed for December! If I don’t sit down right now I will surely buckle. We head for the nearest coffee bar / restaurant and to our utter amazement we get a table. Must be our lucky day. My sister orders a glass of juice while my mom and I order coffee as per usual. We catch our breath and comment on the rest of the people in the restaurant. Seeing all the people eating makes our tummies rumble. We decide to indulge in the most awesome cheesecake you have ever tasted! Nothing like cheesecake to get the soul back on an even keel.
The mall shows no indication of less traffic streaming in. The shops are jam packed and so are all the coffee bars and restaurants. Today is just a happy day! Even most of the children are well behaved. Here and there you hear a child crying but other than that it is just a happy and cheerful mood. I do love Christmas so much; I think I am going to make it my favourite time of the year!
We are all done and settle the bill and weave our way back to the upstairs parking area. We stand a wait awhile for the elevator. I see a bit of melancholy in my mother’s eyes as she watches an elderly couple whispering softly to each other. And I wonder if she is thinking of my late father. It’s always harder over Christmas. When you have lost loved ones you just miss them more. It’s been a couple of years now but it still hurts.
My dearest, darling sister, Elize had leukaemia. We were all shocked when she was diagnosed at the age of 25. She was always extremely health. She lost the battle after 4 years. The family was devastated. Elize was special. She understood me the best of all my family. She made my life; she was my beginning and end. I looked up to her and could tell her all my life’s woes and she just knew what to say. She was such a plain Jane. Hardly wore any make-up, dressed plain, she was just a real down to earth girl. And there was no nonsense with her. No maybes either, it was yes or no. It hit our whole family very hard.
My dad had a bad heart for many years. A very strong man that had a very big heart. On the exterior he was hard as a rock, but those who knew him well knew he was a real old softy in the inside. My dad just had to give us the ‘eye’ (a really mean look where he pulled up his one eyebrow and glared at us) and all the kids would run. My dad only spoke once! He took it very hard that my sister, his daughter had passed away. It was as if life just hit him one very hard solid blow that he was not going to get up from. Five weeks after we had laid my sister to rest we were back at the same cemetery saying goodbye to my strong dad. How my mother actually coupe with all of this I really don’t know. I would have gone off my rocker. We all suffered our own pain deeply that left huge scares that we still carry around today. All I know now is that my mom had lost the most, and to suffer such a loss is just unthinkable! I used to pray for her as every being in her body was evidence of the pain she had to endure. And she pulled through, my wonderfully brave mother, my all and my everything. And the love that she has for Gertrude my brother Jan and myself is so easily seen in just the way she looks at us or speaks of us, what a lucky girl I am to have such a person in my life that I call mom. She has just got to be a very strong woman of both character and nature to be able to come out of that ordeal and still be normal.
I step a bit closer to my mom as we enter the lift and give her a tight squeeze. She blinks and the old familiar smile returns. I respect and look up to my mom so much.
We head for the car and pack all our shopping in. Boy its mid afternoon and its hot as hell outside!!! Straight home we all sing out in harmony. Gertrude parks the car and we carry the bags in. The boys meet us halfway and help carry or shall I say scavenge through the bags to see what goodies we have bought.
While Gertrude and my mom unpack the bags I make lunch for the boys. We decide to go for a swim in the pool in the complex. While the boys are chomping away at their lunch us girls get into our swimsuits. By the time we have towels for all the boys are already heading out the door to the pool.
It is not a very big pool but good enough to take a lap in and cool off. We have a great time with the kids in the pool. Splashing and dunking each other. The boys liked to watch the wrestling on television. So the minute we are in the pool all the wrestling moves get tried out, yes even with Gertrude and myself. Every few minutes it’s either her turn or mine to get slam dunked. We get picked up, turned and plonked back in the water. You get to go head over heels at their delight, I might add, not quite ours! We surrender and head off to where my mom is lazing on the pool steps. What a lovely afternoon it has turned out to be. No worries, no stress, enjoy ourselves with our kids in the pool. The sun is shining above. No husbands to shunt us around. I look at my sister and she smiles knowingly at me, it’s good to be single.
That night we gals are on the enclosed veranda and wrapping the last of the gifts. It’s virtually impossible to wrap gifts with the boys there. They may all be past the ages of 16 years but that has not slowed down the curiosity of what they are getting for Christmas! They find any and every excuse to go to the kitchen, hoping to get a glimpse of what we are rapping. Boys will be boys!
We opt for take ways for dinner. Today has been a long tiring day and not one of us is in the mood to cook. We consult the kids on what we should order although we know what the answer will be, Pizza. “Pizza” comes a threesome below from the bedroom. How lovely, the food is only a phone call away. Don’t you just love how the world has evolved? I can remember when I got married, there was no such thing as take away delivered to your house! If you wanted it you had to go fetch it. You could not even phone in advance for them to prepare the food for you so that you could just pop in, pay and collect. Not a chance, you had to get dressed, ride to them and place an order and waiting with the rest of the customers.
A lovely bath would be great right now. The boys are staying in tonight for the first time this holiday. I think they are all a bit tired and need a stay in. They have invited me to watch a movie with them on Bernard’s computer. I hope into a lovely steaming hot bubble bath laced with bath oil. Now this is my favourite time of all. The bath. I always said to my boys that if an estate agent wanted to sell me a house, they just need to find me a house with a glorious bathroom. Being a single mom you don’t get much time for yourself, except the bathroom. There I can be alone with my thoughts, and doing it in a lovely hot bath filled with bubbles and salts and oils with a few candles lit, is just heaven. From small my kids knew that when mom enters the sacred room (bathroom) she will not be disturbed at any cost. The only time you may think of knocking on heaven’s door is under the following circumstance: - the house is burning down; someone is dying or badly injured, nothing else! Every mom needs some TLC, and this is mine.
My mom interrupts my thought with a call that the pizza is here and its getting cold. I finish my bath and get dressed in a cool top and baggies and my feet stay bare. I hate shoes. I head off to the kitchen and help myself to some awesome pizza and head off to the boys room where they are awaiting my presence. We decide on a movie and dig into the pizza. Between Bernard, Brian, Collin, Steward and myself it’s who eats the fastest gets the most. We are not shy when it comes to pizza. I don’t really eat much most of the time, but when there is pizza on the menu, I pig out. I just love the stuff! I look round to all the boys, they make me so proud. And they still find it great for their mom to hang out with them. The movie is funny and every now and then we pack up laughing. Eventually my sister pops her head in to check what we are enjoying so much. We invite her to join us but she is off to bed. She and my mom have got new books from the library a few days earlier and tonight is night to dig into them. Gertrude brings us each of glass of cool drink and leaves us to our movie night.
I stir myself awake as I have got a pain in my neck. I think half way through the second movie we all fell asleep. The house is quiet except for the computer that is still on and playing over and over the theme song to the movie. The boys are all in deep sleep and I manage to worm myself off the bed. Boy am I stiff. I fell asleep half propped up on a continental pillow and my neck is protesting this little fact. I switch off the computer and head to the kitchen. Have a glass of water and go sit on the veranda. Its 2.35 in the morning all is quiet except for a few night birds and the hypnotic sounds of the ocean. Every time I sit and listen to the sea, with the waves lapping at the shore I get this very hollow feeling of longing in the pit of my stomach. I miss staying at the coast. I moved away 4 years ago as the work at the coast was very scares and did not pay well. I moved to Witbank in the chance of finding a job that I enjoyed and paid well. I was luckily that I found a job within 2 weeks of moving to Witbank. I have sort of settled in Witbank but it’s just not my home. Since I can remember when, I wanted to live at the coast. And the first chance I got after I was divorced I packed us up and headed to the coast. We lived there for nearly 10years and loved every minute of it. But the coast was not to kind where the concerns of work and salary went. I finally had to give up the struggle and find a town that I could get a descent salary.
It was heart breaking to move. Steward did not move with us as he was finished with school and got himself a job and he and his girlfriend Helenca are living together. So it was not easy leaving Steward at the coast and also leaving a peaceful sort of life behind to pursue a better paying job so that I could get my head above water for a change. I did not receive any maintenance from the boy’s father, which just added to my financial status.
Sitting here alone in the dark, hearing the waves just made me long for the coast so much. Just there and then I made a promise to myself. Once Collin had finished schooling and I got a job opportunity here at the coast, that paid well, I would move back. I must just be patient that’s all! Now I must get some sleep before the day is completely upon me.
I awake to the soft sounds of rain; I smile as I love the rain. As a kid I always use to think its God’s way of trying to wash the world clean. I love to take walks in the rain. Most people run indoors when it rains, I run outside. I will stand outside and lift my face up to the crying clouds at let the rain drops fall on my face. It lifts up my soul and gives me a rejuvenating kick.
So today will be an indoor day for all. After breakfast with all of us for a change this holiday, we decide to put up the Christmas tree and decorate the apartment. The boys offer to do the dishes for us, while we hunt for the Christmas decorations. Gertrude has a habit of putting all the Christmas decorations packed nicely and safe for the next year, in a good strong box. The problem is, as the year progresses, the box of decorations and the box that the tree is packed in, always manages to find a corner of the highest cupboard and hide there, hoping not to be seen. With a chair and a good balancing act, we manage to get the hidden box’s down. It is usual my job to decorate the flat as I am deemed to be the artistic one in the family. We normally all help to put in our two bits worth on how the tree should be decorated. Brian and Bernard see to the lights that they are all functioning. We have learned the hard way with the lights. We string them up in just the 100% perfect look on the tree just to find out they don’t work. Then off they go and we all sit in a long row checking each and every single globe. Collin and my mom are packing out all the balls and bells and Gertrude is trying her best to untangle all the shinny tinsel. Now this is where the fun begins.
You see, we are all convinced that Gertrude was a crow in her previous life. Anything that is shiny she goes for it like a mad crow on a scavenge. She always drapes the tinsel over herself and starts to waltz around the place looking like a decoration box exploded above her and left her tangled up in the stuff. Then she puts on her best ‘Hollywood diva’ voice and strikes a pose for us. Steward normally runs for the camera while we are all in stitches at her antics. Steward loves taking photographs and I must admit that he is really becoming very good at it. He joins in by hanging to bells on his ears and grabs Gertrude in a very dramatic way and spins her around the room to the sounds of ‘jingle bell rock’ that’s playing on the telly. We finally have the lights in working order and we start straightening out the branches of our fake ‘evergreen pine’ Christmas tree.
The whole block that Gertrude stays in is full of good cheer. Every now and then you have one of the neighbours popping in their heads to see how our decorations are coming along. All around the building you can hear all sorts of Christmas carols and bursts of laughter. Children running up and down the corridors playing games and students singing out their own version of carols all on their own notes and false as ever!
We are exhausted from all the decorations and trying to get Gertrude to leave the decorations either on the window sills and tree. I think if you rap her up a box of tinsel and shinny goodies for a Christmas gift she would have loads of fun. We shove her into the kitchen to get us some snacks and refreshments as we try and finish up and get the apartment tidied up. Gertrude is really great in the kitchen. In no time at all she had a plate full of finger snacks and some wonderful ice cold juice. How I do love her culinary skills. We all sit down at the neatest available chair and dig down on the food. The boys are in a really good mood and asked if they can now please leave and go see all their friends. We agree as this sounds like a great time for peace and quiet and a lovely afternoon snooze. Did I tell you how great the December holidays are?
The boys finish off the last of the crumbs on the plates and in one swift movement they all leave. Only when they were outside the apartment did we get a goodbye and see you later, as if we might just ask them to do something else. We gals gather all the dirty plates. My mom offers to wash them but I said to leave them and I would wash up once we have all had a nap. As per usual, Gertrude and my mom head for the rooms and I hit the couch in the lounge and stretch out like a real old couch potato. I think I managed to see about 5 minutes of what was on the telly and fell into a fitful sleep.
It always amazes me when it’s time to unwrap all the Christmas gifts. My boys are all in their teens and nearly hitting adult hood. But how they change to 8 year olds once they are handed their gifts. Just to sit and watch them open their gifts is to me an utter delight. One may try and guess the gift with a gentle shake or a sniff; the other will rip off the gift wrap as if their life depended on whatever is the box. And in the same breath I will add that my mom and sister fall helplessly into the same category! And the expression on the faces of my dear and darling family is priceless. Steward actually commented the one year that we should wrap them all up again and starts all over! My eldest son that proclaims he is now an adult!
It is just so sad that so much love and appreciation can only be shared with so many world wide – only once a year!
When all the excitement of the Christmas gifts and Christmas lunch is all over the new excitement sets in - New Year! All you hear is where everyone is going to be and where to meet. At the South Coast, on Margate’s beach they hold a huge beach party. With music that revives the dead and deaf, laser shows and stage entertainment from young to old.
Everybody usually starts arriving at about 16h00 on the beach. You find yourself a spot and get settled in for a long evening. There are groups of young adults, university students from all over South Africa, and then the groups of families. And here and there, there of groups of ‘me’. A single parent with a bunch of bags and a kid or two. The single parents aren’t that lucky. You see, we are just the watch dogs of the spot that we chose on the beach. Our kids will invite their friends to join our spot. Then all their bags, cell phones, food and drinks will be dumped with you and you have to protect it with your life! Unfortunately this is the perfect evening for the thieves to do their stuff. As soon as your attention is on something other than your belongings they calmly walk up to your spot, grab a bag and make a dash for it. And with all the people on the beach, which amounts to about 30 000 people, the thieves just have to go a few meters and he is lost in the crowd. So now not only are you mom but you know have been promote, or shall I say demoted to ‘watch dog’.
The kids go gallivanting all over the beach. Stopping off at all the other friends spot on the beach and you are left to watch the bags! An evening I always dreamed of.
But I make myself comfortable, get out a bottle of spin (vodka drink) and sit back and observe the people. I try and spot any other soul sitting alone and pretending to have a blast, nope just me, myself and I. I sit forward to try and find my bag that has my smokes and cell etc. In that very moment, one of those charming thieves I was telling you about grabs one of our bags. Stupid for him and lucky for me- instead of running away behind me, the fool runs in front of me. Feeling the sudden draft on my bag, I quickly jump to the conclusion that he has snatched a bag! I jump to my feet in one smooth movement and go into kill mode. I chase after him. All that went through my mind is the loss that one of the kids will have, due to this idiot that I am now pursuing.
I run for all I am worth and keep him in my sight. Luckily for me he is running near the water’s edge so the sand is not so soft and I can keep up, otherwise I would have collapsed by now and surely suffer from a heart attack. Now is the moment, I get myself ready and dive. While I am air born and coming down on my thief I only then see, how big this bloke is. Boy was I surprised! If God had equipped me with a set of air brakes, now would be the time to use it!!! He is about 3 times my size, what was I thinking!! Well no turning back now! I come down on the bag which he has slung over his shoulder. Luck for me, the force of my very un-lady-like pounce, brings him off balance and he tumbles. All I do his tighten my grip on the bag as I knew he would regain quickly and dart off again. I think he got such a fright that I actually managed to not just run after him, but catch up with him as well, that he just got up and ran and left the bag.
I just lay in my landing position, quite amazed that I managed to ‘bring him down’. I slowly sat up and pulled the bag into my lag. “Wow again” I thought. I got up and dusted all the sand off myself and started back to where our spot was. I sat down and took a long drink from my Spin. And then I started laughing at myself, I was very impressed and felt like the ‘watch dog’ status has now been earned. To my utter amazement a gentleman or shall we refer to him as a yellow belly ass, walks up to me and asks me ever so politely, “I see you got your bag back, I saw the guy grab your bag, I am glad for you that you managed to get it back” I mean what the hell! Here I am, short, small and supposedly helpless female on the beach on my own, guarding all the belongings of just about the whole neighbourhood kids and this ass, see’s me getting robbed and he does not even attempt to assist me!!! I get up slowly, turn to face him. Now I must clench my fists tightly next to my side as I have this sudden urge to punch his lights out. I take a deep breath trying to keep my cool and reply “Yes thank you, you spineless jellyfish” with the most horrifying smile I think he has ever seen. At this sight he quickly retreats to his spot where his companion is awaiting his return, and observing our conversation she just blushes at me as if to say, ‘Yeah I know, I live with him’
But I must admit I was very impressed with myself. I was so pumped up that I could have taken on the whole beach at that point. I light a smoke and sit back and bask in my own glory of being a super hero mom.
Finally midnight has arrived and the cheer goes up in waves over the crowds. Everyone hugging and kissing and sending round bottles of campaign and wishing all a happy New Year. I pop my bottle of bubbly and take a sip and shout out my happy new year to all who cares to listen. I lean back on the bags and stare up into the sky. The fireworks have started. I am still a kid at heart when it comes to fireworks. It is spectacular! Now the ‘ooohs and aaahs’ runs like wild fire over the beach. The kids are delighted and the smaller kids tend to scream every time a big bang is heard from someone shooting off their own fireworks. I get lost in all the bright shining lights and say a prayer to God to make this a good year for us all and thank him for the one I had, easy and hard, sad and happy, I am thankful I get another year to try make my millions, fall in love or be swept off my feet!
One for one the kids start gathering again at out spot. They are exhausted, hungry, thirst and ready to go home. They all had a great time as the cheeks are glowing and they are all trying to tell me exactly what happened to them, during the evening- all at the same time. I just nod and laugh and we pretend I can hear all of the stories.