Category Archives: Holidays and celebrations

Some things are just for fun. Vacations, celebrations, being naked in the sun.

Marmeee’s Day

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The memories come like random pricks and stabs during the first year. First Washington summer without her. (I used to send her half-brags about our increasingly high temperatures, and she’d moan about being cold.) First South African spring without a picture of her hoya, its soft pink clashing with our garish autumn oranges and yellows. First snowfall – she so enjoyed the snow, the year they stayed with us. First Christmas. She missed her 83rd birthday, and my 59th, and their 60th wedding anniversary.

And, today, the first Mother’s Day, coinciding with the first anniversary of her death. It seemed like a cruel coincidence, but then I got to thinking about her, and about Mother’s Days with her, and other celebrations, and I couldn’t stay sad.

I’ve always loved eating in bed. I’m not at all sure she felt the same way – she was one to get up and grab hold of the day – but every Mother’s Day and birthday I insisted on giving her breakfast in bed, and it never crossed my mind that this wasn’t the best treat in the world. She wasn’t allowed out of bed until it arrived, typically several hours after her normal wake-up time. No, she had to relax, enjoy the lie-in, of course not make her own tea! What an idea! I guess she learned to listen for me stirring awake so that she could quickly hide the evidence of that essential first cup of the day, and jump back into bed before I tottered down the passage to check on her.

I don’t know what age I was when I started this tradition, but I do remember my favorite meal, which we quite often had for Sunday supper. It was easy to make, and so delicious that it was the obvious choice for any special occasion. For several years, every single Mother’s Day and birthday, I fixed it for her, and then I’d sit at the end of the bed, beaming with pride, and watch her eat every … single … mouthful. It never crossed my mind that (cold, mashed) sardines on (cold, leathery) toast might not be her favorite way to start the day.

After a few years I graduated to cooking eggs, and I rallied my younger siblings to help prepare the ultimate breakfast tray. We prepared every breakfast in the same way. First, we made and buttered the toast. (It was a while ago, but I think buttering it was the Stranger’s job.) Then, while the toast waited on a cold plate, I fried the eggs. Lastly I boiled water, heated the teapot, and made tea. We laid this all out on the tray and paraded to the bedroom, the Egg toddling in last of all with a flower in a vase.

She ate every cold, greasy mouthful of those breakfasts too, washing them down with gulps of mercifully hot tea.

P Bday 2

The flowers on the left are from me. You can tell by the pink carnation.

I grew old enough to have my own money and go shopping alone, and breakfast in bed gave way to bunches of pink carnations. I’m pretty sure she didn’t particularly like carnations but she got them anyway, and when the Girl Child was born, that’s what she sent me.

Those carnations arrived while I was still in the nursing home. She followed them a few days later, having flown from Johannesburg to Cape Town to help us get settled into the house baby Girl Child and I shared with three other girls and a total of six dogs. I learned later that she’d had to throw quite the tantrum to be allowed to come… The Old Buzzard wasn’t pleased to have grandfatherhood unceremoniously thrust upon him. It wasn’t the first time she’d set herself as a small, determined buffer between him and me, however, and she got her way. I, of course, was oblivious to the fuss, aware only of the tremendous comfort of her presence, reassuring me – in the face of all probability and in defiance of her private fears – that I’d be fine, that I’d be a good mother, that everything would be okay.

Every afternoon while she stayed with us in Muizenberg she announced that she needed some alone time, and was going for a walk. I would generously encourage her to take the dogs along for company. It was years before I fully comprehended her indifference to dogs. She never said a word in argument – just leashed up all six and bobbed in their wake down Ventnor Road and to Sunrise Beach, like a small, anxiously squeaking balloon.

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Sunrise Beach, Muizenberg

Oh Marmeee … you left such a rich trove of memories! I love to dig through them, fingering, admiring and sorting them the way I used to play with your big tin of buttons, lying on the carpet next to you while you sewed. You were sewing and I was lying on the carpet, a band of sunlight across my back, when I discovered that I could read without moving my lips. Another time, you sat sewing on a chair in my bedroom, while I was in bed with yellow jaundice, and you told me about sex. You were embarrassed, and I was appalled; I’d thought the girls at school were joking!

She sewed a lot. Was that necessity, or did she actually enjoy it? Dresses for me – those damn Butterick princess line dresses that I hated, but she said they were slimming. I wanted flared skirts, circular skirts, in gaudy parrot colors, and at last she gave in and made them for me, and never said they made me look fat. Later she made me caftans; they make me look like a ship in full sail, and I love them and wear them every hot summer day.

Her home felt like a sanctuary, even when money was short, and especially when the Old Buzzard was tearing it apart in order to put it together again. One year she made light shades, one out of papier-mâché and another out of string and flour paste. She did batik and macramé, she crocheted blankets and made candles. She talked to plants and they grew for her. She expressed a liking for owls and unintentionally acquired a collection.

She sang, not quite as well as her mother but better than I. For years she sang in a choir; as long as I knew her – until cancer stole her breath – she would break into song in supermarkets and in the car and while gardening or cooking and just because. Now I do it. I wonder if the Girl Child does.

She wanted to be an actress, but settled for secretary. This paid off for me in my final year of school, when I took part in an essay contest – 50 typed pages on “The Press – Something-or-other of the People”. As usual I’d procrastinated; three days before deadline I’d completed the first of four sections perfectly, and had nothing else but a collection of notes. The night before it was due, we stayed up all night in her office while I scrawled and dictated and she typed. Every hour or so I’d raid the kitchen for sugary snacks to keep us going. I’ve never read the essay, but it won me a book voucher that I spent on the collected works of TS Eliot, which I have read.

Years ago, as we were getting ready to run away together for a rare few days without the Old Buzzard, she commented how much she was looking forward to some alone time. I hastily assured her that I wouldn’t be getting in her hair – that she mustn’t hesitate to tell me if she needed me to disappear with the Girl Child for a couple hours. “Oh, I don’t mean you,” she scoffed. “Being with you is as good as being alone.” If you get why that’s the best compliment I’ve ever had … well, then, you’re our kind of people.

It’s nearly midnight. Mother’s Day is nearly over. The first year without her … nearly over. And this is what I’ve learned: She isn’t gone. She’s in me. I kill plants and I hate sewing and I’d sooner stick a fork in my eye than learn macramé, but a few minutes ago the Girl Child WhatsApped me a message that began, “Argh I forgot mother’s day! I’m a terrible child” – which is precisely the kind of message I sent to Marmeee any number of times. And I responded with “Hmph”, which is exactly how she would respond to me. And I know with no shadow of doubt that the Girl Child rolled her eyes and laughed, because that is what I would do.

When the perfect way the light drapes itself across the hills makes me catch my breath, when I warble in the supermarket, when I cackle at an absurdity that no one else finds funny, when I just can’t be bothered with makeup, when I’m depressed by my knees my calves my ankles, when I argue with the Hubbit about organic gardening, when my hair grows vertically upward, when I think about God, when I say “Oh FIDDLE-de-dee” or “Bugger it” or “Phooey”, when I see how my footprints in the sand point away from each other … there she is. There she is. She’s there.

Do you have special memories of your mother? I’d love you to share them.

 

Omigosh – I got my first award!

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Dang it, I feel so … so … appreciated! First 100 followers, and now this. This little blog has come of age just in time for Christmas! And yeah, I know that when I’m a real grownup I’ll just smile graciously and say, “Oh how nice!” – or maybe even have a sign up saying, “Thank you, but this is an Award-Free Blog”. But face it, I’m just not that much of a grown-up – or, come to think of it, that much of a snot.

So thank you Tim, aka Battlewagon (I have no idea why but would be fascinated to learn), at Flying Here In The Middle Of Somewhere, for nominating me a “Very Inspiring Blogger” and thereby simultaneously giving my ego a huge boost and providing the topic for this post! Go check out Tim’s blog, guys. He will inspire you in all sorts of unexpected and entertaining ways.

For instance, I am now inspired to tell you about my past award-winning experiences. Like the race I ran in about third grade. I came in FIRST! Yes indeed, I was right at the head of the pack! Okay, so the race I won was the one that started after the race I was actually running in, but what the hey – a win is a win, right?

Sure looks like a winner to me! (Pic from DPC)

Sure looks like a winner to me! (Pic from DPC)

And then there was the eisteddfod I sang in when I was about 12. Oh, wait, I didn’t actually win that. But I bet I would have if I hadn’t accidentally sung the choir piece instead of my solo! Well, half of it, anyway. I stopped with a sort of squawking noise when I noticed the dismayed expressions of my fellow choir members. You’d think eisteddfod judges would be used to overlooking the odd little squawk or two!

Back in those days, we didn't give microphones to kids performing on stage.

Back in those days, we didn’t give microphones to kids performing on stage. (Pic from DPC)

And of course there was the time I got voted onto the Student Representative Council at my university, when I was only a first year student. How’s that for huge political success? Well, yes, there were only five delegates running for five seats on the SRC … and after I got elected they changed the rules so that people had to get some minimum number of votes in order to be elected. But I would almost certainly have got more votes if the buttons of my blouse hadn’t all popped open while I was in the middle of a stirring speech to the largest of the men’s residences. Or … on consideration … maybe fewer votes. Ja, let’s not think too hard about that one. The point is, I was elected, and consequently, in an era when women’s residences were locked at 8PM every night except Saturday, when the curfew was 10PM, I – as a designated Highly Responsible Person – received a back door key.

But enough of past glories; it’s time to focus on the present. Here are the rules of the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.

1. Thank the person who nominated you by linking his/her blog and display the award logo.  – Done, sort of … For the life of me I can’t figure out how to get the image to stick to my widget area. Oh well! Here it is, just in case you don’t believe I actually did in fact manage to inspire someone.

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Proof that I’m inspiring! You saw it on the internet, so obviously it’s true!

2. Nominate 15 other blogs (more or less). Link their blogs and inform them about the nomination. –  See the list below. These are all blogs I enjoy and recommend.

3.  Mention three things that inspired you the most this week (you can talk about last week’s inspiration too). – Ja, well … I’m taking a different approach to that question. Because I can!

My nominations for the award, in no significant order, are:

1. Jamie the Very Worst Missionary, whose passion for living with integrity, and particularly with regard to her stand against slavery, has forced me to check many of my own values and choices.
2. The Maven of Mayhem, who at present focuses mainly on the challenges and joys of raising a transgender child. She has opened my eyes to a world I had never imagined.
3. The Green Study, which regularly forces me to rethink my own lifestyle choices and priorities, especially with regard to writing.
4. Verbal Dreaming, where Liz shares concise and always insightful thoughts about her writing process. I rarely read one of her posts without feeling challenged.
5. The Monster in your Closet, where Deborah’s discussions about racism – both as it appears on the national stage and within her own small multiracial family – have forced me to rethink many of my assumptions.
6. Notes from the UK, a reliably good read that has reawakened my desire to visit England, plus she’s a published (!!!) author who has just brought out a new book!
7. Raptitude is a live-life-better self-improvement self-awareness blog, a genre I normally avoid … except this one makes sense.
8. Hacker, Ninja, Hooker, Spy is guaranteed to inspire a laugh, plus when I realize how much I enjoy reading about Aussa’s crazy life I can believe others might want to read my own strange stories too.
9. I Am Begging My Mother Not To Read This Blog is funny and smart and always readable, and in between making me laugh Katherine quite often inspires me to think about things and wish, quite seriously, for a do-over so I can make the world – or at least myself – better.
10. Amayzing Graces offers a daily reminder of what it means to follow Christ in the small things of life.
11.  You’re Doing It Wrong is more good reading. Therese O’Neill bounces through life without, apparently, paying too much attention to accepted boundaries, and then she writes about what happens. It’s funny and quite often poignant.
12. Do Not Get Sick In The Sink Please inspires me to have sex in various interesting places and ways. (Note to self: Share with Himself.)
13. Mother Hen Diaries is warm, happy writing by a warm, happy woman, and reading her blog just makes me feel good. Plus it’s quite often funny. And she inspires me to take better care of my chickens.
14. One Cool Site is an invaluable resource for bloggers, with a vast collection of tips and suggestions. It’ll inspire you to do great things with your blog!
15. If all else fails…use a hammer makes me laugh, makes me kick my butt to get back to writing, and sometimes makes me homesick. And, yes, all that is inspiring!

And that is quite enough from me. I don’t have to list “three things that inspired me this week” because at least three of these bloggers posted something – and, as explained above, they all inspire me. That applies even to those who will ignore this award because they are hugely successful and don’t need my piddling endorsement. I’ve listed them because I want to share them with you, my loyal readers!

And, of course, there’s the friend I wrote about in my last post. She has inspired me to be a better person. You could read about her too, if you haven’t already done so.

Triple digits!

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Picture from Dollar Photo Club

Picture from Dollar Photo Club

Oh my word – it finally happened – I got my first century! Thank you all for your support. It feels wonderful to have people who consider my nonsense worth the time it takes to read – especially when you comment! Knowing you’re out there … well, it encourages me to keep pecking away at my writing – the thing I most love and need to do, yet the thing I am most likely to avoid any time I’m distracted by happy times, sad feelings, uncompleted chores, looming deadlines, and in short pretty much anything that seems easier than actually thinking about what I want to say, and then saying it as well as I can. Run-on sentences and all. (Yes, I know when I’m breaking the rules – I just don’t care.)

A special thank you to Caroline, for being my 100th follower. Swing by her blog and take a look, guys!

Holly Jolly Halloween

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Halloween was never a big deal for me, growing up in South Africa. Of course I knew about it, as a dedicated reader of both Ray Bradbury and Peanuts, but it wasn’t anything we celebrated. Then, around about the time the Girl Child hit her teens it became a Thing for older kids, who would go out all done up in blood spatters and ghoulishness (but still, of course, unnervingly sexy) and hang out at the local malls, and frankly that was a scary evening for parents. Disney princesses and plastic pumpkins full of treats didn’t feature; it was a dark celebration.

So anyway, I have now lived through 16 Smalltown USA Halloweens, and I feel ready to share a relevant personal experience, and since I didn’t have an actual Halloween experience worth sharing, at first I thought I’d write about a Traumatic Childhood Fancy Dress Memory.

First off, it’s important to stress that my parents are, and were, good people who didn’t torment me more than they absolutely had to. But … they were the kind of parents who thought that if your chubby, introverted, bespectacled kid was taking part in a church youth group fancy dress party, it made more sense to dress her up as a literary-minded garden pest (“Ha ha! You’ll be cute – you’ll see; you’ll make people laugh and everyone will think it’s a clever idea!”) than as, say, a princess or Little Bo Peep like the boring other girls. So they rolled me up in a luridly yellow bedspread, tied it on with string, and shoved a book in my hands.

Like this, but more dorky, and involving a fair amount of string.

Like this, but less tailored, more dorky, and involving a fair amount of string. And very, very yellow.

Each kid paraded in turn across the stage while everyone guessed who they were, and there were prizes but I have no idea how they were awarded. I didn’t get one, and I wasn’t paying that much attention because I was too busy Actively Ignoring the giggling princesses and sniggering boys. Suddenly it was my turn to cross the stage. Unfortunately, in the interests of verisimilitude, my parents had tied the string all the way round my body right down to my ankles. Parading was not an option. I hobbled to the stage, someone heaved me up onto it, and I rolled around and tried to breathe until the youth pastor hauled me to my feet. At that point the uppermost string started coming undone, and the costume threatened to collapse around my (string-secured) ankles. (I forgot to mention that my arms were tied inside the yellow bedspread, with only my hands sticking out to hold the book. Because, you know, worms don’t have arms. So holding myself together was a challenge that made any parading across the stage completely out of the question.) Mercifully someone in the audience shouted, “She’s a bookworm!” before I was even fully vertical, and the pastor rolled me to the edge of the stage and they heaved me back down and let me hobble off into the outer darkness.

So that’s my Halloween horror story (even though it didn’t technically happen at Halloween, as far as I know), and I thought it would be the best I could come up with for this post. But then this afternoon I was sitting in the Barnes & Noble coffee shop with a friend, and I got THIS post from Himself:

Supper tonite !!!

Supper tonite !!!

At first I thought one of the hens had kicked the bucket and he was being funny, but no, a cock pheasant had foolishly planted itself in a tree out back and stayed there while Himself scurried off to fetch a shotgun.

Here’s another picture:

Looks almost medieval!

Looks almost medieval!

Is it just me, or is it just a tad gruesome to have a dead bird lying next to the kitchen sink on Halloween? Whatever … we went out for Chinese instead, and tomorrow is the NaNo kick-off party, but I expect we’ll be doing fabulous things involving wine and a crockpot and my first wild pheasant on Sunday.

In the meantime, I couldn’t waste such a fabulous opportunity to dress up. THIS Halloween, I’m Minnehaha.

Fine feathers

Fine feathers

And now it’s your turn! Do you torture your children by using them to demonstrate your creative sense of humor? What kind of text messages do your loved ones usually send you? Do you have any good pheasant recipes? Talk to me!

World Naked Gardening Day

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Gardening in the buff! Yes, yes, YES! I have got to do this. I love getting naked in the outdoors, and yet I can’t remember when last I went skinny-dipping. Oh, how it would appall the Nasty Neighbor if I let him see me! (No one else really overlooks our property, unless they’re wandering around their lower pastures.) Thank you Fearless Cowboy for the heads up…:)  Roll on, first Saturday in May…:)