I know a wonderful family in Pietermaritzburg. They are a powerhouse mother and father team, and have raised their three boys to be respectful, honourable, strong and gentle, family men of note, all of them with a quirky sense of humour but more importantly to all these attributes, is their blatant and fierce adoration and protection of their mother. They would kill for her.
As South Africa will have it, these friends have seen not just one boy uproot and leave African soils, but all three have gradually left and they now have sons and their respective families in the United Kingdom, the USA and Australia.
My story kicks in, in the middle and muddle of saying farewell to their second son (I stand to be corrected) and Christmas was looming . Of course she was still in a total state of shock at the enormous hole that this gut wrenching separation leaves, as only those who have experienced it know, you can no longer “just pop in,” and Skype, Whatsapp and Facebook were not at all what they are today. Anyhow, she was now busying herself preparing for Christmas. In between all this activity, and extremely high temperatures that hit Pietermaritzburg in mid December she was having the added attack of horrendous flushes and tears were simultaneously difficult to hold back. Well let me tell you, she marched on like the tigress she is. Decorations were up, baking was done, nuts were bought, Christmas crackers, you name it. We are talking about a retired teacher, sublime housewife and mother of three. Lists were and are made and ticked off systematically. She was in control. All her gifts were long bought, and if not already distributed, were waiting under the beautifully decorated tree.
She had noticed that there was no obvious gift from her Love under the tree, but unperturbed she knew he would never fail her. In fact, her gorgeous child even enquired if he would like help, to which he muttered, “absolutely not!” Well the final few days progressed towards D day, and she noticed that every time Love returned from the shops, (and there had been a few trips) there seemed to be a little desperation, or uncharacteristic stress. Well she put it down to his own form of grieving and supported him through his difficult time, being as kind as gentle as she could.
A gift had now appeared under the tree (she noticed). Wrapped perfectly. All was set.
Well let’s forward this story to Christmas present opening time. The three remaining family members have had emotional chats to the boys overseas, but being positive they are saying “Cheers”, chinking their champagne glasses, wet eyed, but grateful and happy. As they are walking towards the tree, father is ahead, her son grasps her elbow desperately and says with stricken eyes, “Mom, Dad asked me to help him wrap his present, he REALLY battled this year.” She nodded and clucked, “Don’t worry my boy, it can’t be that bad.” His slumped shoulders went unnoticed on her as she bustled ahead, determined to be positive and happy.
Well photos were taken and gifts distributed from all the family and friends, and as is their little foible she waited to open her present from her Love till last. Finally she picked up her smallish, beautifully wrapped boxed gift and opened it beaming. She has been aware of the effort after all. Well blow me down, paper off, she turns the box over to view the contents. A beautiful hand held fan. He bought her a fan. A hand held fan.
A look of horror and indignation flashed across her face like lightning. “Love……..do you have the slip for this gift?” “Yes, I do” (he’s nodding his head now, perhaps realising that this was not a winner, not his best effort ever). “Well my love, when the shops reopen on the 27 December TAKE IT BACK.”
He did – we all still dine out on this story.