Monthly Archives: March 2013

Post 26. “I have NO idea.”

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I thought I would die of sadness when Lindy and her family left for the States. We were 15.  It was as if my life had come to an end.  We wrote tear-filled letters to each other for about two years.  Brenda was my first best friend and Lindy was my second.  I wasn’t sure how my faith would hold up without her.Mondays were especially difficult for me.  The girls came back to school after a weekend of partying.  They asked me what I had done and who I had slept with.  There were many discussions about virginity and the loss of it.  They just couldn’t understand why I had decided to wait until I got married.

My subjects were Biblical Studies, French, English, History, Biology and Afrikaans.  I kicked myself over and over for not taking Domestic Science and Typing instead of French and History.  I wanted to be in Lindy’s class.  Then she went and left.

So much had changed, but I couldn’t seem to stay out of trouble. There was still lots of messing around in class.  I was totally unprepared for my final exams and I did a lot of cramming and crying days before writing.  There was NO WAY I wanted to repeat a year of school.

Gymnastics

To add to my distractions I was a gymnast.   I could tie myself in knots.  Wilf said the circus was NOT an option so I worked hard and qualified for the National Gymnastics Championships instead.  I never could point my toes properly and skipped all my ballet classes so I didn’t win a medal.  I kept doing it anyway.  Just for fun.

I was always first to finish my paper.  I filled in whatever I could and then put my head on the desk and slept.  Some questions were answered with “I have NO idea.”

Everyone was convinced I would fail.  They expected me to be back the following year.

It was a miracle that I scraped through,  by the skin of my teeth. When I walked out of those gates for the last time, they were amazed.  There was a song on my lips.  It was deep and profound.  I sang it loud and I sang it proud:

No more school

No more stick

No more dirty arithmetic

If the teacher interferes,

Turn around and box her ears

If she wakes up in the night

Blow her up with dynamite.

With that, my school years ended.

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Post 25. Bev

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I was impressed with Dave for not fishing from my friendship pool and catching such a good fish.  Mowat Park Girls were having their matric dance and Bev Sumpton needed someone to go with her.  Dave was more than willing.  

We loved Bev.  She became part of our family and slept over most weekends.  It was fun to have another sister.   We tanned, swam, shopped and bathed together.  Sue, her and I would squeeze into our little bath and soak and talk for as long as we could.  We laughed so much at how Bev would wash her face with soap and sit and talk to us with mascara running down her cheeks.  

Mr and Mrs Sumpton were interesting.  Gloria was big and Clarry was small.  He wore a patch over his left eye and was always working in his garage.  When Gloria called, he dropped everything; immediately.  We went there to put our feet up, but Gloria wouldn’t let any of us sit down for long.  If there was food to make, we all had to help.  If there was a dirty cup it had to be washed, and dried. No laziness allowed.   She was definitely the boss. 

They were funny too.  We visited them on their small farm a few times.  They had a big black pig called Lesley, a lamb, a monkey and lots of dogs.  After our goodbyes we drove down the long drive and out onto the dusty road.  Wilf looked in his rear view mirror and told us all to turn around.  There was fat Lesley, the lamb and all the dogs chasing our car down the road.  We laughed all the way home.  They also had a parrot which followed them all around the house like a puppy. 

Bev could never stay awake in a movie.  Within the first five minutes she would be fast asleep.  They would go to the Drive-IN and sleep through the entire movie.  They were woken up by the security guard and found they were the only ones there. 

Dave was called up to do his army training and Bev was devastated.  We all were.  They wrote letters and she cried which made us cry. 

They survived the two years of separation.  Bev went on to work at the bank and Dave continued at the Daily News.  They fought, then broke up, then made up.  I was worried she wouldn’t come back but she always did.  They couldn’t stay apart for long.    

The thing I was happy with was that she was going to be my friend no matter what.  For a change, I had stolen a girlfriend from Dave.

Post 24. Rigby

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Our lives had changed in so many ways. Sue decided that enough was enough and walked out of school just before her matric year.  She got a job at Barclays Bank in town.  She was FREE.  Dave also left school and got a job at the Daily News as an apprentice printer.

Wilf and Val were doing the best they could with their teenage kids.  I’m sure they wished we would just go back and play in the drains.  There were boyfriends and girlfriends and a lot of comings and goings.  Dad didn’t like any of our boyfriends and he made that pretty obvious.

Sue started to come to church with me and things changed big time for her.    We decided we wanted to be baptised.  What a performance there was.  All the christening photos were brought out and we were informed that we had already been baptised.  Thank you very much.  They finally came round and reluctantly agreed that we had no idea what we were doing, all dressed up in our christening gowns.  We could barely see let alone believe.

Well, they came for our baptism. Wilf cried through the whole thing and it wasn’t long after that they were both born again.  Peter joined them and Dave was always somewhere nearby, not wanting to be left out.  We were a happy family once again.

Sue’s old flame, Rigby, was doing his compulsory 2 year army training.  They hadn’t seen each other since they were 16.  A common friend told Rigby that Sue had gone “all religious.”  He wrote to her to find out.  Lindy and I heard he was going to meet Sue, outside her bank, for lunch on Saturday.  He had a weekend pass.  We saw him there way ahead of time and we ran up to tell Sue that he was downstairs.  She told us to stop spying.  Well we didn’t stop.  We watched them from across the road. They walked into the Golden Egg Restaurant at 320 West Street.  It was so romantic.  He went back to finish his training and we didn’t see him for a while.

One day when we were having fun in the pool, Rigby walked up our drive-way in his army uniform.  He looked so handsome.  Dad was still cautious but mum welcomed him with open arms and a toasted avocado sandwich.  There was lots of talk.  I liked him.  He talked a lot about his baby sister Tiffany who he loved to bits and his big sister Vanessa who he didn’t see much.   Their mum died of cancer when Tiffany was three.  He told us about his stepmother and his step sisters.  It sounded like a Grimm’s fairytale to me.

He wanted to know all about our family.  There was lots of talk about our new found faith.  He wanted to know everything.  We happily gave him everything.   I mean everything.  I thought we wouldn’t see him again.  One rainy night on his way back to camp, he cried to God about his wasted life and got a new one.

Whoever would have thought that a chocolate crunchy could have caused all that?

(See- Dad was a D.J)

Post 23. Changes

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Papa and Mom- my grandparents on my mum's side.

Papa and Mom- my grandparents on my mum’s side.

Billy Graham was coming to town!  I had no idea who he was.  I guessed he was a great man because there was a great fuss.  Lindy’s mum had been asked to play the piano for the crusade. She was really excited.  Lindy was going to turn the pages for her so she would also be on the stage.

Somehow I managed to get my whole family there.  Dad literally dragged Sue into the car; almost kicking and screaming.

We arrived at the Billy Graham Crusade with thousands of others.  I was amazed that so many people had come and I wondered if any of my old Sunday school teachers were there.   Papa came with us under a lot of duress.  He was rolling his home made cigarettes and mumbling about a fly that had flown into his eye.  “Of all the thousands of people here, why did it choose my eye?”  There was a lot of complaining coming from Sue and Papa.

From way back in the stadium, Dave and I could see Lindy on the stage. We told Wilf and Val that we needed the toilet and made our way to her. We stood behind the stage messing around and talking to friends.  We didn’t hear a word Billy was saying. Before we knew it, thousands of people started coming towards the stage.  Dave and I were caught up in the crowd.  Two counsellors asked us if we wanted to become followers of Jesus.  We both nodded.  Dave closed his eyes and so did I.  It was a short prayer and I knew what it meant.  I wasn’t sure Dave did.  I was really nervous that he was going to add, “and God bless the Zulu boys.”  We gave the people our address and that was that.

We drove home with such tension in the car.  Dad and Mom couldn’t find us in the crowd and Sue and Papa were really playing up.  Over the next couple of days we found out that each one of us had gone forward at the end of Billy Graham’s preach.

After that night with Billy Graham, one of the first things that changed was my temper.  I was more patient.  Somehow I didn’t want to hurt people with my words anymore.  The fear of fire left me and I was secure, knowing that when I died, I would go to heaven.  I knew then how to answer Lindy. My only answer to God would be, “Because of Jesus.”

Wilf and Val were NOT happy.  Suddenly religion became the main topic for discussion.  During an argument I told them that they needed to be born again otherwise they wouldn’t go to heaven. For the first time in my life, Val slapped me across the face.  “How can you say that?  Don’t you know your father is the superintendent of the Sunday school?  If anyone deserves to go to heaven it would be us.”  I told her I didn’t say it, Jesus did.  From that night on there were to be no religious discussions in the house; especially not at the table.  There was more tension than ever.

Post 22. Decisions, decisions

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We never talked about what we believed.  There were no discussions of politics or religion.  What we did during the week had nothing to do with what we did on Sundays.   I was surprised at how much Lindy’s family talked about it.

One night, just before going to sleep, Lindy asked me, “Linda, if you died tonight and you stood before God and He asked you, ‘Why should I let you into heaven?’ what would you say?”  I had no problem answering.  We go to church.  We pray.  My dad is the superintendent of the Sunday school and my mom is a Sunday school teacher.  We are Christians.

She didn’t seem satisfied with my answers. She prodded me a bit more.  I came up with other reasons.  She still wasn’t happy.  She asked me to forget about my family.  She was talking about ME.

I had managed to get out of many tight spots.  My cuteness and sense of humour worked for me.  I suddenly realised that it wasn’t going to work this time.  We were talking about GOD; The God who Tommy had sung about. The one that I had prayed to every night for fear that, “If I should die before I wake…”

Things were starting to make sense; the Christmas story, Easter, the Sunday school songs and Bible stories came together like puzzle pieces. Because the people of the world were so full of sin, God sent His only son Jesus to die for them.  That was Christmas.  He lived a life without sin, but evil men didn’t like how good He was so they put Him on a cross.  That was Easter Friday.  Easter Monday He came alive again.

I believed all of that and I was proud of myself for working it all out.  Lindy still wasn’t happy.  She kept saying that she loved me and she wanted me to be in heaven with her.  So, what would I say to God?  None of my answers were going to be good enough.  I knew that I wasn’t good enough to get into heaven.  I needed some help.  Lindy told me I needed to be “born again”.

It was news to me that I was loved by God.  I knew that He loved the world, but I never thought that included me.  I found that amazing.  I didn’t need to clean myself up or try to be good enough.   I just had to see how bad I was, ask God to forgive me and give my whole life over to Jesus.  No-one in our church ever told me that.

It took me months of listening to lots of sermons at Lindy’s church.  I was scared of what my family would say if I told them I was “born again.”  That was just for the Pentecostals, not for the Methodists.  My friends were convinced I had gone crazy.

I kept going to the Friday night parties but they started to feel empty.  Even the one when a territorial fight broke out between the Woodlands boys and the Bluff boys.  Bottles were broken and there was a lot of blood. I was bored and just wanted to go home.

Post 21. Zulus and Indians

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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.

Post 20. The Pentecostals

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“They swing from the chandeliers and turn off the lights and chase chickens,” Dave told us.  Of course we believed him.  The Woodlands Full Gospel Church was just down the road. We would take a short cut past the cute Hendicott boy’s house, over a small wall, across the church parking and onto Brenda’s house.  We ran like someone was chasing us across that parking lot.  On a few occasions when things got really noisy, we threw stones on their roof to see what they would do. 

I was surprised Lindy went to THAT church.  A bit disappointed too.  She was such a nice girl.  We were given a school project to do together and she invited me to sleep over at her house.  It was love at first sight.  Her family loved me and I loved them.  From then on I slept over as often as I could.  She had the most amazing parents, Bill and Miranda. 

They were a singing family like us.   Bill was really funny.  He once told me that I was the bubbles in his soda water.  Coke more like it.  He drank a lot of Coke.  Miranda played the piano and there was always music in their house.  Bev was nice and Lindy was so much fun.  She loved swimming, diving and dancing (just not the party type) and she had lots of energy.  

The Stuthridges started to fill the emptiness in my life.   They talked a lot about what they believed, which my family never did.  It wasn’t long before they asked me to go to church with them.   

It was so noisy.  I sat and listened and watched for any signs of swinging or chasing.   There was a lot of clapping and loud singing and the women all had to cover their heads. Old “Brother Clancy” would speak in a strange language.  He always started with, “Corianda ba shandai!” I noticed that as soon as he started, everyone sat down.  He went on for 15 minutes calling down hell fire and brimstone on all who were listening.  There weren’t many.

There were some unusual people there.  David Overall talked to himself and touched his hair all the time and the loud, throaty singer Dicky Thomas seemed to think he was the main attraction.  Gavin worked in a chewing gum factory and he sneakily snuck boxes of gum to all the girls.  The pastor’s son Billy took a liking to me.  He would keep me a seat and get really upset if I didn’t sit in it.   He was special.  He walked around slapping his inner thigh really loudly, shouting “Billy Nanaaaaaas!”   There were also some lovely people who were very friendly and made me feel comfortable. 

With all that went on, I’m not sure why I kept going back.  I loved the Stuthridges but I wasn’t sure about their church.  I knew they weren’t perfect. That was obvious.  But, they had something my family didn’t have and I was starting to think I wanted it. 

I had lots of questions but I never thought to ask them how they got up to the chandeliers or what they did with the chickens when they caught them.