Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tomboys wearing dresses

This may be too-long a blog about a long-time-ago child’s life. One that reads a bit like a puzzle with pieces lost, a riddle with the answer hidden behind many layers and labyrinths in a world I would like to be fragrant from a happy rose-tree garden.

I was a tomboy who liked wearing dresses. A child at home in a garden of broad beans, pets and sunflowers with busy bees centered in their black seedy heads. My aim in this little arrangement was to see how many bees I could hit with my self-made bow and arrow. Other busy activities were baking mud-cakes or setting unbaked elongated pieces of “mud cake” on the maid’s granny flat doorstep to look like something that a dog had left behind. Setting traps with attractive birdseed for wild pigeons, keeping them prison once caught, trying to keep a baby veldt-mouse alive on cheddar cheese in a walking doll’s shoe.

The other side of this child was one who believed in fairies and angels and to this day I see them in gardens and cloud-angel-wings.

Hmm. I preferred comfortable dresses that did not clog and trip around the ankles and the one’s that had patterns of little flowers such as cornflowers with a specific blue color to it. Or ribbed dresses with material patterns of thousands of small blue & white square blocks. Red was okay, but blue was cool and matched my free spirit and to be vain, eyes.

My light blue cat-suit with little frills around the knobby knees and skinny sun-brown upper arms was the best thing ever.

I remember how aged 3, I got hold of mom’s scissors and try as I might, could not slash through the thick nylon hair of my two sister’s dolls. So I chopped my own hair, although I really can’t recall the exact moment the decision was made. I obviously did not get the desired effect with the dolls hair... I remember clearly however how mom scolded me but also laughed at me with dad as she finished off my new cropped hair style with a blade – which was obviously the last resort to making something of the mess I made. There was a silver bin for storing food, a radio and a predecessor of a long line of cats named “Sox” sleeping in a wicker basket in front of orange-brown patterned kitchen curtains.

Very 1970 and 1980’s, don’t you think?

I enjoyed doing my own thing - declined any help putting my shoes on the correct foot and knew just how to tie my own shoes or school tie precisely. Nobody dared suggesting how pigtails should really look with a clear middle-path and equal divided sections and where and how high exactly behind one’s ears. An indication of a solidly stubborn will at a tender young age? Maybe.

Life was idyllic and I made a habit of trying out new things of which some landed me in some really difficult or sodden hot water like the time when I decided pug Lizzie’s two-week old pup litter needed a foamy cold bath. It kept me really busy for a while. And my mom who discovered and relieved me momentarily of my hard work. She rescued the little pups from the claws of hyperthermia and pneumonia as she carefully nursed each one back to live full and happy dog days.

Dad made a swing for us which could send one whooping and with the wind howling in one’s ears. I loved the feeling of leaving the safety of the seat and judge just how far from the swing I could land. I was probably practicing for the day to arrive when I excelled in the sport of long-jump. Another time I disastrously misjudged the distance to the house as I dislodged a self-made “bomb” of the non-suicidal variety by chucking it straight through the sitting room window. It did not even detonate as it was found in its original shape as an empty glass coke bottle. Mom asked me to remove it while she picked up the shattered window glass – a look of desperation in her eyes and in her voice as she asked for the umpteenth time ‘which war in the name of the Almighty Father I’ve been fighting this time’.

This was during the time of the Angola War when thousands of South Africans were called up.

I can’t have been an easy child for my mom who tried her best to reign me in. Once she stood crying as she told my dad how her 'father would have turned in his grave' if he had known what I've been up to and behaved like. I stood there, quietly feeling guilty for causing a scene like that. But also looking up at her and feeling rather disgruntled and cross with her for crying and saying that my grandfather would disapprove of what me... I thought with relief that it was not a bad thing that dead people could not turn in their graves, or hear anything much.

My little brother and I loved-hated each other to bits and pieces. We raced bicycles and climbed trees, hanging upside down for eternity. There were a few death-defying moments such as when I warned the real-right stubborn toddler not to play under iron bars stacked up against a wall; put there by people who were supposed to know it was a wrong thing to do. When the iron bars collapsed over him, he got away with all but sitting in the middle of it’s framework, howling the roof off the house and one shallow bleeding wound to his hard head that needed stitching up.

On a simpering hot afternoon one December holiday on the farm, while we were supposed to be having a nap, I slipped through the window. I went on a venture of purposeful wanderings of discovery – a venture that was often repeated. Finding ferns growing under rocks, lizards and little birds that have fallen out of nests, looking out into the distant horizon thinking about things... One day on one of my many illegal outings, I suddenly saw a snakelike-evil-thing curled up in a hole. Not thinking any further I ran straight home to Dad to call and take him there to get a look at it. Only, the creature had vanished and I remembered, too late, that I had forgotten we were not allowed to walk so far alone, or be out of the house at that time of the day...

I love horses. One afternoon we drove past a vet on horseback who Dad knew. After a quick discussion, I got on the horse of a workman who accompanied him to The Dairy Farm. Hardly gripping the reigns, my horse kicked off towards home with a young twelve year old hanging onto its mane for dear life. The vet followed and riding through a deep riverbed in the dirt road, his skittish horse took fright. Horse going to the right and the rider to the left – but both of them uninjured. I got through the ditch and although this was all a bit scary and very fast, quite exhilarated! It was such a thrill feeling the air brush against my face, the power and above all, the freedom. I noticed the entrance to the Dairy Farm and looked at its sharp and wired pole fences. Been watching too many cowboy flieks of people loosing their limbs... Right before the horse hurried around the corner to the stables, I opted for kicking myself out of the saddle to “save my leg”... ‘Oom Hennie’ stood watching this procession of two riders, one disappearing and the other still going and a combi following in a trail of dust. My horse carried on rider-less while I got up quickly from the gravel, rubbing my back and behind nonchalant with a wide sheepish grin spread from ear to ear. It darn well hurt, and I had trouble sitting down for a few days, but not so much that I would not do it again. That was probably the onset of a few minor back problems later in my life...

There are so many bits and pieces to fit into the puzzle – swearing at the dog and getting a hiding, talking to strangers too often, smelling flowers whilst we played outside at night, swimming in the farm dam... Holiday evenings on the farm we would sit, ears scrubbed clean, around a family table with candle light, drinking real milk, eating sausages and eggs and listen to a Bible reading afterwards. Holding a "smoke-can from dry cow droppings" to help Dad take some honey out of the beehive, playing board games, watching my favorite animation stories on telly, getting away with not eating spinach, chatting to the grannies, making my own vegetable patch and seeing my first watermelon (nearly bitten in half by some hungry insect), making fudge and getting burned, school concerts, falling head-over-handles off my bike, buying real vienna hotdogs for next to nothing, birthdays and Christmas excitement, making new friends... Telling stories to a good friend as we waited for the bus after school, winning a race in athletics with the smell of grass, cigarette smoke and deep heat... Times shared with my best male buddy Regardt and that nerd Leslie and the girly Belinda girl. Naughty dog “Buks” finding the Easter silvery paper wrapped bunny on the mantelpiece in the drawing room – Dad had promised I could get it after Easter...

I wish one could pull that puzzle out of a draw sometimes, or more often...

1 comment:

Brother Tobias said...

All atmospheric memories; the heat and dust, and echoes of children's tears and laughter. Keep them coming!