Fear wasn’t a stranger to me. I feared many things. My biggest fear was the Zulus. I thought one day they would come into our circle with their spears and shields and that would be the end of us all.
There were some black people around but they were different. They worked for us. They lived in the kaiyas (small rooms) in the back of our gardens. We called the ladies “girls” no matter how old they were. The men were “boys.” Many of them were “John.” Some had funny names like “Hyacinth” or “Garden Boy.”
When I was really small, Margaret was our first “girl.” She was older than Val. She wore a uniform with a matching apron. She had her very own aluminium cup and plate which she drank and ate from. We never asked what she wanted for lunch. She always got 2 thick slices of white bread with mixed fruit jam and she had coffee with two big teaspoons of sugar.
They were so quiet and un-demanding. Their families weren’t allowed to live with them. Angela came after Margaret left. Her son Lucas used to come for the holidays and we loved him to bits. We loved his curly hair and white teeth. He was one of David’s best friends. We never really understood why he couldn’t come to school with us. He always had to go back to the village. Angela missed him and she missed her husband.
Amos our gardener was David’s weed smoking buddy. He loved to tease Kim, our little fox terrier. One day she had enough and bit him. Amos waited for the right moment to get her back. Dad was looking out of the window one day and saw Amos creeping up behind her. She was doing her doggy-doos and the last thing she was expecting was a kick in her bum.
Maids and gardeners were part of our lives and we saw them as friends. Dave played soccer with the gardeners in the park after work. He was the only white boy. They got pretty rowdy. One of the neighbours called the police to report them for disturbing the peace and for playing soccer in a “white” park. The police van arrived and the “boys” were piled in. They didn’t touch Dave. We dropped our bicycles and ran to call dad. He marched across and told them to take Dave, since he had also disturbed the peace. They got the point and the gardeners were let off.
It was different with the ones we didn’t know. We were scared of them. There was always the feeling that they weren’t happy with us. They lived their own lives and we had no idea how they lived them. They had their own toilets and buses. We never saw them at the movies or concerts. That’s just how it was.
Indians were different. Maybe because they looked like us, except for their colour. The only Indian who came into the circle was “The Sammy”. He used to drive around in his open van full of vegetables. He was friendly until he caught David and I stealing handfuls of French beans and peas from the van. He warned us over and over again but we kept doing it. One day there was a knock at our front door and it was a policeman. David and I hid under the bed on the front veranda and listened with terror to the conversation between my mum and the policeman.
Policeman: The Sammy has reported that your children have been stealing his vegetables.
Mum: Are you sure they were MY children?
Policeman: Yes, David and Linda.
Mum (who saw us hiding under the bed): Well, what do you want to do with them?
Policeman: (Wink, wink) Well if they are caught again we will have to arrest them and put them in jail.
Mum: Ok that will be fine with me. Thank you, officer.
Our eyes were huge and we were white with fear. Mum dragged us both out from under the bed and we got the hiding of our lives. That was the last time we did that.
Life for us white kids was good. We never asked how or where our helpers lived. We had no idea what their “village” was like and there was a quiet belief that somehow we were helping each other. I was ok with that.