It could be because I was thinking about my mother’s birthday. It could be that I am experimenting with the old-fashioned ingredients that Jane-Anne  Hobbs predicted would be foodie trends this year, when she gave her talk at the Food & Wine Blogger Indaba.

It could simply be the memories that flood in when I prepare the dishes from my childhood, like oxtail stew, with the beautiful scent of cloves filling the air. It could simply be the changing of the season that has made me scurrying  for old pieces of my writing; desperate to make sure I’ve documented them, saved them to bring out one day when the images in my mind are no longer crystal clear.

Orange ceramic bowl and green ceramic rice bowl from Art Of Hand, 305 Long Street, Cape Town. Made by Diana Ferreira.

I am always surprised anew by how most of my clearest memories are informed by food …

There were no children my age to play with; it was a brand new suburb; all red earth and building rubble. Both parties of most couples went out to work, walking together to catch busses. My mom and dad each had a car, which was quite unusual at the time. They misguidedly thought nursery school was a cruel business, an enclave for neglected children; only marginally less horrible than the orphanage they threatened to send me to if I didn’t eat my spinach.

There was, apart from the lovely, fat and funny Willemienah who cleaned and cooked; a nanny who’s sole purpose was to feed me, clean me and make sure that I didn’t engage in any activities that would lead to my needing stitches or the services of the Police Force. Her name was Martha and to this day I remember what it felt like when she wiped my face with a warm facecloth, sprinkled with 4711 cologne, after I cried because of a fall. I ate my meals with them, sitting on the concrete courtyard floor; tomato and onion gravy with stiff maize porridge. I’d have it for lunch any day, still. Only much later did it dawn that Sotho was not the only language on daytime radio.

I begged and pleaded for a brother and my parents kept telling me it was not the right time. I was six before I realised that I was lonely.

From time to time my paternal grandparents would come to take me to their farms, early on to Excelsior and later to Tweespruit. My Ganny Sue taught my to sew a neat stitch and my Gampy let me walk out with him after supper, ostensibly to make sure the cows were tucked in, but really to smoke his secret cigarettes. They allowed all the rules to be broken; I didn’t have to bath every day, especially not if I’d swum in the reservoir. We sometimes had stewed peaches and custard as our supper!

On returning from a long visit, I walked into our bathroom, where my mother was drying herself after a shower. She had become fat, something I hadn’t noticed during everyday contact and I told her so. My dad overheard and joined us in the bathroom, sitting on the edge of the tub and pulling me onto his lap. He told me that my mom was growing a surprise for me in her tummy and could I guess what it was? I said ‘a bike?’, but they laughed and said I’d have to wait and see.

Perhaps a fortnight or so later, I’d taken my skipping rope and gone up the road to visit with an old lady whom I’d befriended and who allowed me to pretend that we were grand ladies taking high tea on a cruise ship. Her kettle had just boiled when Martha puffed in and said I should come home at once. She hoiked me onto her back and trotted down the block.

My parents were sitting in the lounge, my mom holding a soft parcel. They beckoned me to join them and my mom opened the parcel so that I could see the scrunched up little person they were giving me. His name is Shawn and he is one of the best friends I have ever had; my little brother who grew to be bigger than me in every way conceivable.

I’m really quite fond of him, grumpy old codger. And so very proud.


67 Comments Add yours

  1. halfp1nt says:

    Wonderful memories, Cin.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Yes, Shorty, they are 🙂

  2. Miss Chris says:

    Ah I remember this and I love the memories of childhood – lonliness aside – we had such blessed memories of being young and carefree!!

    1. theonlycin says:

      I think we had it better than the kids of today, all things considered?

  3. linda says:

    Oh Cindy that is such a beautiful peek into your life.

  4. libraryscene says:

    a lovely piece of writing, I hope you post more! Do tell, were you a bit sad he wasn’t a bicycle? 😉

    1. theonlycin says:

      These are mostly reposts from back when nobody read my blog 🙂
      When my brother came along I forgot all about wanting a bike, for a while …

  5. What a beautiful read this was! Thank you for sharing such wonderful memories.
    🙂 Mandy

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks for reading, Mandy 🙂

  6. That’s a stunning story girl! I wish I felt that way about either one of my siblings. I always thought it was the gap that distanced us.

    1. theonlycin says:

      I don’t get to see nearly enough of him these days 😦

  7. I am covered from head to toe with lovely goosebumps Cindy … tinned peaches and custard goosebumps!!!! Thanks for holding our hands and walking us backwards into our childhoods and making us remember – faces and sounds and smells and all those wonderous childhood questions that we never dared ask! xxxx have a great day xxx

    1. theonlycin says:

      You have yourself a cracker of a day too, my friend! xxx

  8. That so made me wish for my brother back again. How I miss him at odd times and places. Thinking Phil would have like this………

    Those bowls are so lovely, they need to be used and appreciated.

    1. theonlycin says:

      The bowls are being used and adored 🙂

  9. leigh says:

    Poignant, precious.

  10. Baglady says:

    Beautiful pics, Cin. That food looks delish!

    1. theonlycin says:

      It was super scrumptious 🙂

  11. Madmom says:

    Lovely memories, Cindy.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks for the visit, Madmom 🙂

  12. colonialist says:

    You have to watch it, there, or you might get soppy! 🙂

    1. theonlycin says:

      Must be an age-thing; the eyes tend to brim with increasing frequency ;p

  13. Liane says:

    You have some lovely childhood memories. Oxtail is my favorite!! I have no clue how to make it, but I order it whenever it’s on the menu 🙂

    1. theonlycin says:

      The secret of oxtail is that it’s best neglected and left to do its own thing in the pot 🙂

      1. Liane says:

        Would you be willing to share your recipe. I’m willing to give it a shot; learn something new?

      2. theonlycin says:

        Yes, I will, just give me a bit of time and I’ll find it, think I’ve posted it before 🙂

  14. adeeyoyo says:

    I loved this before, and I still do, Cin! I agree our childhood’s were much nicer than those of today – alas, freedom has been lost.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Very sad, adee. xxx

  15. souldipper says:

    Thoroughly enjoyable peek into your childhood, Cindy. I was trying to remember the street in Cape Town that I shopped thoroughly two days in a row…it was Long Street. Thanks for the serendipitous help.

    1. theonlycin says:

      You’re most welcome, Amy, and I hope we get the chance to meander down Long Street together some day 🙂

  16. Tandy says:

    what a beautiful memory!

  17. nursemyra says:

    I so enjoyed reading this cindy

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Myra, I appreciate that 🙂

  18. Artswebshow says:

    mmmm, i like oxtail though it can get very piddly and one does wonder if it is actually worth the work

    1. theonlycin says:

      I love it and mine isn’t really that much work 🙂

  19. SuziCate says:

    This is the sweetest story ever, love it! Funny you guessed a bike!

    1. theonlycin says:

      Little minds work in mysterious ways 😉

  20. Tes says:

    This is the best part of reading your blog 🙂 You always shared beautiful memories 🙂

  21. Tilly Bud says:

    This is my favourite post yet of yours. Wonderfully warm and funny.

    I love 4711!

    1. theonlycin says:

      Me too, Tilly, I wonder if one can still get it?

  22. granny1947 says:

    Is this a repost? Feel like I have read it before…worth a second reading.though.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Yes, Granny, it’s an old post from when I first moved over here and had few readers.

  23. nrhatch says:

    Sounds like Shawn arrived in short order ~ you had tea while your mom had a baby.

    LOL about the bike in her belly. 😀

    Does Shawn live nearby to you, OB, and OS?

    1. theonlycin says:

      No, Nancy, he lives about 3 hours drive from us.

    2. nrhatch says:

      Nice. My brothers live much farther (older: 18-20 hour drive, younger: 36-40 hour drive). Three hours would seem quite “neighborly.” 🙂

  24. What a warm, sweet memory you shared! Thank you. You were blessed with a wonderful family. Blessings to you, Cindy…

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Carol, bless you too 🙂

  25. slpmartin says:

    What a delightful story to read this Tuesday morning over my first cup of coffee…added a real warmth to the day…thanks!

    1. theonlycin says:

      Delightful comments to read with my own morning coffee, thanks Charlie 🙂

  26. Beautiful. The warmth of that stunning bowl of cloves and the warmth of a tale of an arrival which banished loneliness forever. Thanks Cindy.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks for always reading, Kate 🙂

  27. Pure delight, Cindy – what a fabulous and beautifully written post. Made me feel all emotional.
    Your brother is blessed indeed to have a sister like you!
    Sunshine xx

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Sunshine 😀 xxx

  28. Yvette says:

    Great memories, a beautiful starting chapter in your lifes book of little treasures! x

    1. theonlycin says:

      And I am lucky to have many treasures, thanks Yvette 🙂

  29. bluebee says:

    I so enjoyed this lovely, nostalgic post, Cin – it’s comforting in a delicious home-cooked-meal kind of way!

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thank you, bluebee 🙂

  30. Nice story…, nice memories – so good of your folk to ‘give you’ the little parcel – no wonder your ‘quite fond of him’ 🙂 🙂 🙂

    1. theonlycin says:

      He’s a fine man 🙂

  31. Pseu says:

    I’m catching up, so haven’t read all the comments, Cindy, but I so enjoyed this piece I had to comment!

    I can’t remember a time without my botherer, as he is only 17 months younger than me! We spent pre-school time in South Africa. He he is a very special chap…

    My sister arrived when I was a bout 6 and a hlf, so I remember that very clearly, just as you remember your brother’s arrival.

    1. theonlycin says:

      lol @ botherer 😀

  32. Jamie Dedes says:

    I’m so glad you posted this, Cindy. Charming.

  33. SidevieW says:

    and a year later its still so appropriate

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