Tag Archives: memories

Post 100. Boring old fart

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At one stage, things got very intense.  Tony took out a few days to fast and pray about the way ahead.  He was desperate.  In the middle of the fast he clearly heard God say, “I want you to take your kids elephant riding.”  His first response was, “You’ve got to be joking.  With all that’s going on?  Things are serious.  There is a lot of work to do.”  When he realised God was serious, he started to make plans.

Chilla National Park was a two and a half hour drive down the mountain.  We set off the next day to find an elephant.  The girls were excited.  I was really sick with a chronic ear infection.  The last thing I felt like doing was rocking and rolling.

We arrived in Chilla and were told that the mother had just calved.  Both mum and baby had been taken to Lachhiwala Park.  That was half way back to Dehra Dun.  It was a beautiful drive through forests so we didn’t mind.   The baby had already been taught to raise its trunk to its forehead to say “Namaste.”  It was so cute.  It had been a while since the mother had been saddled up but she was more than willing.  She bent down and allowed us to pull on her tail to get ourselves up.  We set off into the teak jungle, rocking from side to side.  Soon we were screaming and ducking, trying to avoid massive spiders and their webs hanging between the trees.  My ears were so sore. I was feeling more motion sick by the minute but we had lots of fun.

When we got home Tony got a moment alone and asked God, “So, what was that all about?”  God’s answer was, “I want you to store up memories for your children.  Exciting stories they will pass on to their children and their children’s children. This is their inheritance.”

We had talked about our future and about our children’s future.  It was settled that our move to India was forever.  We were going to live as if it were a full stop.  If God wanted to turn that into a comma, we would move on.  If not, we were going to stay.  That meant our children too.  It was very unlikely that we were going to be able to leave them with much earthly inheritance. The future didn’t look bright as far as that was concerned.

So it was decided.  We were going to plan lots of trips and adventures.  The journey with our children was going to create a treasure chest of memories.   In all of life’s intensity we were going to have to take time out to have fun.  If we didn’t, all they would remember of us is that we lived busy lives.  Their memories would be few.  They would have no exciting stories to tell.

One of Tony’s favourite lines came from that elephant ride. “ Do you want to become a boring old fart and then die?”

I have a feeling that line may have originated with God who sits in heaven and laughs at all our intensity.

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Post 27. No pork, no bacon

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I had NO idea what to do next.  I spent my “well deserved”  holiday a bit concerned.  I wasn’t qualified to go to college.  I didn’t want to anyway.  There was no way I wanted to work at the bank.   I was starting to wonder if I would end up in a supermarket, just as my maths teacher had said.

At the same time, there were three things I felt strongly about:   I had a feeling I wouldn’t marry a South African.  I had a feeling I would travel.  I had a feeling I would marry a pastor.

While I dated South African guys, I didn’t meet one  I wanted to marry.  Over the years there were a few serious proposals which I happily turned down.  Some were pastor-types.  Now they were interesting. One took me out for dinner. Forget about “should you kiss on your first date?”  He proposed to me all the way home and kept going at the gate.  He talked about a how I could help him in his ministry.  What an asset I would be to him.  He was desperate.  I was desperate too.  I couldn’t wait to get out of the car.  He became pretty famous- for doing the wrong thing.

Another one was a full on, “no pork, no bacon” type.  We had met at joint youth camps over the years.   He was the most eligible pastor’s son and in much demand among the young girls.  I needed a partner for a banquet so I plucked up all the courage I could find to call him.  He courteously told me he was dating someone but something could be arranged.   He called the next day to say he was available.  After lots of interrogation as to how it happened, I had a date.

He had a fancy sports car and Val made sure he got lots of avocado sandwiches.  He kept coming back.  He didn’t like that I wore earrings or make-up. He tried to convince me that eating bacon was the cause of my bad eyesight.  There were lots of rules and regulations except for the ones that really mattered.  We argued about everything and we didn’t last long.

A lot of time was spent getting them to keep their hands to themselves.  They didn’t make it easy for me to stick to my guns.  It wasn’t my  fault I was “so irresistible.”

I knew what I wanted, and it wasn’t that.

In our youth group, we were encouraged to write down the qualities that we wanted in a husband.  My list was long. It was a perfect description of Jesus; except he played a guitar.

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 16. Someone is always watching.

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Mowat Park (also known as “The Maternity Ward”) was our local girl’s high school, and that was where I was headed with all my friends.   New Forest Boys High School was where the fathers were.  News reached us that Sue was about to be expelled for ongoing bad behaviour. Val decided it would be a good idea to take Sue out and put us both in another high school outside of our area.  It meant that I would have to leave my friends. I made sure Val knew I wasn’t thrilled.

I was bold, cheeky, small, daring, friendly, bossy and cute and I had all the swear words I needed to keep people in their place. I was 13 and ready to take on the world.

To get to Mitchell Girls High School on the Berea, we got a lift with the Rutherfords who lived at the entrance to the circle, next to Mr Menzies.  Tommy Rutherford was a plumber with a big paunch.  He had three daughters, Janice, Tralee and Karen and a lovely wife, Marcia.  They were all really funny and we practically lived in their house.

When I was much younger, I found a metal wedge in someone’s garden.  It was small and smooth and it had a nice sharp side.  I was sitting on the carpet next to their wooden coffee table and I tapped it with the wedge.  It made an amazing design in the wood and I just couldn’t stop. By the time I was caught, the entire table was covered in my pretty wedge design.  I was the only one who was proud of me.  I had no money so Wilf had to pay.  Wilf didn’t like to pay.

They had a beautiful fish tank in their lounge and one day I was helping Tommy to clean it.  When he left the room I put my hand into the tank and started splashing around. A drop of water went onto the hot fluorescent tube and it made a lovely hissing sound.  There was also a little puff of smoke.  I flicked the surface of the water towards the tube again and again and again.  Seconds later there was an explosion of glass into the fish tank.  Tommy flew in and caught me with my hand still in the tank and panic on my face.  There were a few deaths but I survived.

Soon after that Tommy taught me one of the most beautiful songs I had ever heard.

“Be careful little hands what you do

Be careful little hands what you do

There’s a Father up above

Looking down at you with love

So be careful little hands what you do”

He went on to sing of the feet, eyes, ears and the song went on and on. When he sung it I felt loved by somebody.  For the first time in my life, I was aware that someone was always watching me.

Post 13. Dancing Queen

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Brenda and I on the Riverboat Shuffle

Brenda and I on the Riverboat Shuffle

When I was 11,  I had some really good friends.  Our girl “gang” consisted of four shorties and two tall-ies. Brenda Blench, Bridget Bauristhene, Deidre McGregor and I were the shorties.  Colleen Sutton and Karin Garcin were the tall-ies. There were other friends, but we were tight. We fought each other and then fought for each other.  We all met in Class 1 at Woodlands Infants School.

Holidays were spent by the pool and in the sun.  We would cover ourselves with cooking oil and when we felt we weren’t brown enough, someone suggested that we lie on tin foil.   Someone (maybe it was that same someone) had the brilliant idea of cutting band-aids into the initials of our boyfriend/girlfriend. After a long day in the sun, the plaster would come off and there were the very white initials of the one we loved.  By the next weekend, if we didn’t love them anymore, we would just tan over it.

This was when David Attrill asked me to go out with him.  We “went out” for two and a half years.  He was cute, mischievous and full of energy.  I remember him coming down the hill on his bike to Brenda’s house one day after school, flapping his arms like a chicken and singing “Oh Mammy, Oh Mammy, Mammy Blue, oh Mammy Blue.”

Wilf organised “River Boat Shuffles” on the Durban harbour.  Two ferries were filled with jazz fans and a jazz band was set up on each one. We danced for hours and then met in the middle for a “Battle of the Bands”.  That was the first time I saw Wilf slightly tipsy.  He was in his element.

Parties were mainly for dancing, practising our kissing and having fun.  Brenda Blench and I were the “dancing queens”.  We created dances and then introduced them at the next party.  We would walk in a big group of girls and boys from Woodlands to Montclair, Yellowwood Park and wherever else there was a party.  Dave and I had issues and it really came to a head at the party held at the Murray’s house in Nagle Square.  He got fed up with me going out with his friends and I got fed up with him flirting with mine.  He started pushing me around and got me in a grip I couldn’t get out of.  I head butted him and gave him a bloody nose and that was the end of that.  The fight I mean. We still stole each other’s friends.

Brenda was my best friend. She was a red-head and short like me. Her parents were heavy drinkers and loved the horses.  Brenda told me her mom had lost 7 babies. Six of them were boys.  Something about her mother’s blood and boys.  Her sister Rosemary was much older and lived far away.  Every now and again she would come and rescue Brenda from the roughness of her life.  We spent a lot of time at her house because it was always flowing with soft drinks and nice food.  After a bad drinking bout,  her dad would shout “Brenda!” and she would go in and clean him up.  My heart hurt for her but she was so brave.  She had an uncle called Uncle Bill who lived with them.  He was sweet but had very bad eating habits.  One day Brenda and I were kicking each other under the table and giggling at the way he was messing and gobbling his food.  When we looked under the table, we realised that we had both been kicking Uncle Bill.  During the holidays we would listen to music and dance any time of the day.  Her mom taught us various card games in case we ever wanted to make more money than our careers would bring in.  I also learnt a lot about the horses.   It was during those days that I made a decision that alcohol was never going to be a part of my life. It cured me forever.