Losing a friend is a bit like losing a parent when they have been your friend for most of your life. And how are friendships sustained across the world… why are they sustained? What keeps the links and ties in place? They say that opposites attract – perhaps that is what sustained our friendship?
Me the wild one, she the good girl. The girl who applied herself to her studies, who obeyed the rules and had no time for the rebels. The successful student and sporty one as well. I so well remember her cleaving through the water with her powerful crawl, running tirelessly and passing and trapping skillfully on the hockey field and behaving as a deputy head girl should. She was aloof and often seemed tense and sad. An only child with a posh mom.
Somehow our school friendship blossomed at university. Again the student who had been overseas and learnt French and German and been trained in social skills in a finishing school sort of way did well in her courses, moved on to Secretarial college and a job with Nedbank. In the meantime I had qualified as a teacher by some miracle, and got a job and married the love of my life… taken the ‘exile’ route to build a pottery business in Swaziland. The Education authorities didn’t employ people like me, ANC and Communist sympathisers! liberals… so I lost my job in the school system… We stayed in touch and she married the love of her life who turned out to be really that… a long and happy marriage ensued. The girl who was so prudish in contrast to my 60’s attitudes became a sexy and sometimes raunchy wife. They had 6 daughters but pain and suffering were to come early to them when they lost their first-born child. The business in Witbank was close enough to Swaziland for us to keep in touch and we all worked hard to build our futures.
Hard working, intelligent, well-intentioned and financially well-supported the business in Witbank thrived and expanded to the US in new and innovative ways, which was where we met up again. We might have seen each other at other times I can’t remember exactly, my life was full of vicissitudes, I was married to a genius of unstable temperament and much remains a blur. But in Waynesboro I saw another person – a mother and housewife still pursuing her spiritual quest that had always been part of her persona, I can remember her devoutly attending mass although she was not Catholic, net veil clipped neatly over her sleek black hair. We attended Episcopal services when I stayed with the family – set in the beautiful summer woods nearby – all idyllic and safe and calm compared with the very turbulent South Africa of the late 1980’s. My friend cajoled her daughter to cut the grass on the ride-on mower, while she patrolled the house with a large black garbage bag collecting rubbish from all the bins throughout the house. Practical and hard-working again. Meals were produced three times a day. seemed like magic to me who ran a more chaotic household and had a husband who insisted on having domestic help. I quite liked it actually! the domestic help and her order and routine.
A wonderful host and kind friend. We linked up again at Kromme River more than once and enjoyed the quiet ambiance of her beautiful home near the beach. https://picasaweb.google.com/105183160149035139526/Holiday2010?authkey=Gv1sRgCPy87s2MgsSnew#5549646806791187394.
Thank you for the respite offered there. It was wonderful to meet up with the girls again after Waynesboro and to see how they had developed. And to see the girl in action again as host and parent. Conversation was often combative as we tried to sort out the problems of the new democracy and our children’s futures!! No one could have been more committed to justice and enabling children to grow into responsible adults. We hired bicycles on one occasion and roared through the forests in the pouring rain… such fun, so light-hearted and as usual me battling to keep up with her. Her energy, her strength and determined leadership swept us all along!
Somehow through it all we built affection and bonds that lasted through kids’ crises sometimes shared and sometimes mutually helped with in ‘cash and kind’. Listening ears are my specialty And now there is a big black hole where that warmth and humour and affection used to be. The jokes about catching a romantic moment in the boat on the Kromme, daren’t ask if it happened! but my shock at the subject coming up must have been palpable, especially as I was single at the time! As single as I ever was.
This woman was so torn between her responsibilities on both sides of the Atlantic. What to do to make the world a better place? I am one of many, I am sure who can testify that her life did make the world a better place. I thank God for her life and for her friendship and for her lovely family who are already each in their own way living their mother’s ideals.