Tag Archive | parenthood


Three random reflections on the concepts of time and gratitude … But first, because those in the know advise that nobody reads a blog without photographs, here is a picture of my cat:

Reflections on the lost years

I am a recovering alcoholic. It did not happen overnight, but the progression from ‘normal’ consumption into active alcoholism was swift. It happened at the worst possible time for my child; just at the onset of adolescence. She coped by cutting me out of her life and I floated about the house like a wraith; an awful spectre to make her usher her friends quickly past my bedroom door. She is a girl of strong, strong character; she didn’t allow me to accompany her father when he took her to her first day of high school. She didn’t turn to me when she started her period. I learned second-hand of her first love and her first heartbreak. I wrote to her all the time; letters in vino veritas, letters from rehab, letters at each milestone: her birthday, Christmas, Mothers’ Day, the day my divorce from her father finally happened, and countless days of no particular significance. During my years in recovery, she began – with caution and an ill-disguised mistrust – to meet with me. Slowly, slowly, we drew close again until the most miraculous thing happened and she asked to come and live with me. And so it is with us now; we have a life together again. And it’s sweeter and stronger for the things we lost in those unhappy years. And so it happened that I began to believe in God. I know that I will be in recovery for the rest of my life and that I am only granted a daily reprieve. I understand that it will take much time before my daughter stops watching what I unpack after a trip to the grocery store; I understand and I accept it, with infinite gratitude.

Reflections on the short-lived romance

When I was 50-and-three-quarters-years-old; an age that, in my youth, I had regarded as middle-age; my brother died and I found romance with his best friend. It was, in hindsight, the whiplash of shared grief that we misconstrued as passion. It lasted three months and I was as dizzy as a teenager throughout. I’d not been kissed (the mwah-mwah air kisses from my gay brigade at social events aside) by a man for over a decade. A big, strong and sensitive man; he held me together and has remained a source of support and will be my friend for the rest of my life. And he made me feel desirable; for that I am grateful beyond words. Perhaps, one day, romance will sneak up on me again; for now it is enough to know that I am worthy of love. And I will, always, buy myself flowers …

And, if you’re still reading, here is an old picture I took of some potted roses on my balcony:

survived the hailstorm_edited

Reflections on being deemed too old and too pale

Shortly before we came back to work after the Christmas break, my boss took me to lunch and gently, as is her way, told me that it was time for me to ‘move on’. I’d come to work for her as her personal assistant at the beginning of 2014, when she moved her psychology practice to her home. It was a time when I was brittle in the aftermath of my divorce and we both agreed that it would be a temporary arrangement. She feels that it is now time for me to move back into ‘the real world’ and find a job which will utilise my experience and renew my sense of self now that I am so much stronger. I flew into an immediate panic and made an appointment with a personnel consultant who brutally informed me that I was on the wrong side of 50 and later sent me an article giving me news of the Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Amendment Bill, which eliminates all white people including the disabled. (Read more about it here if you don’t believe me.) I fell into a stunned funk, from which I am just emerging. I will not accept this as the death knell for my future. I have too much to offer. For now I am safe where I am, working for someone who has become a stalwart friend, irrespective of where my future journey may lead. And, for the part she has played in my journey over the past year, I have boundless gratitude.

If you’ve read this far, thank you; here is a picture of some poached pears I cooked ever so long ago:



I thought I’d better post something before WordPress deletes my blog due to inactivity, and to let my friends know that I am alive and well.

Sometimes we only see how life balances out when we look back on it. It’s been six months since I lost my brother and – within a fortnight of his death – six months since I got my daughter back.  And so my grief was tempered by having this whirlwind of joy move permanently into my everyday life and turn my silent apartment into a home.

She’s a force of nature, this beautiful child of mine; funny, smart and with a will of steel. It’s a daily blessing to see her happy, healthy and simply soaring in her new school.

My gratitude knows no bounds, truly.

chel 2

And now that I have a life again, I am cooking and baking again and – hopefully – will be back to blogging regularly again.


Friday night and I was missing her, so I sent my daughter a BBM to tell her so. I asked what she was doing and she replied “Watching a movie with Dad and xxx.” A viper slithered across my heart. She has a knickname for this new woman already? While my kettle boiled for a soothing cup of tea I reflected and came to the conclusion that having a pet name for she-who-will-become-the-stepmother can only mean that my child is fond of her and this must mean that the woman can’t be a demon. I must be grateful for that. I guess.
“Step Mom, you entered our family at my father’s side with wisdom and patience. Though of your flesh I was not conceived, you cared and filled an empty need.” – Author unknown.

Empty need … oh bugger off; you can never  take my place as her mother!

I’m trying to create a refuge her for my girl, in case things get hairy over there. We went together to choose her wall colour and curtains. Unfortunately, she drew the short end of the stick – the view from her room was obscured by curtains when I viewed that flat prior to purchasing it and I didn’t see this appalling vista:

the ugly room challenge 2_edited

the ugly room challenge 1_edited

It was a great challenge to transform the ugliest room in the place into a tranquil space. My clever girl chose silver brocade for the windows – she’s a chip off the old block, it seems: if you’re given an ugly lily just gild it!

silver brocade_edited

This is just  a corner of the room; it’s three times the size. Her dad still needs to bring over her armchair and desk for another corner and she needs to bring over her posters and personal knicknacks to make it truly her own.

chelseas room corner

Many ugly lilies have come to the front as I go about redecorating the apartment. The previous owner has shown himself to be a cad and bounder of the first order. New flaws reveal themselves daily and money drains out as I get people in to fix things; a litany of dodgy plumbing leaks not being the least alarming. I am told that I have legal recourse for things like this:

spare bathroom tap_edited

Your scoundrel also did such charming things like removing every lightbulb from every ceiling fitting in the flat and replacing the gas bottle for my stove hob with an empty one.

I’m striving to be stoic and roll with the punches and to match calamity with serenity. I’ve come close to conceding defeat a couple of times, but at such times I’ve found chocolate to have the necessary palliative properties…


bedroom boxes16 days to go before I move. I am surrounded by boxes that I began packing so long ago that I have quite forgotten what is in them. When I unpack it will be like a feast of rediscovery of all my precious things. In my mind I obsessively fantasize about my new flat and mentally arrange my furniture.
Today is my daughter’s 15th birthday and I am beyond grateful to God that yesterday, when she returned to boarding school for the new term and came to say goodbye to me, I told her I love her and she replied that she loves me too. My heart was fit to burst.

dining room boxes
Today is also the 1 year anniversary of the day I left my rehab facility. It has been a long and bumpy ride, but my whole being sings with gratitude for my sobriety and my new-found sense of serenity – this in the midst of many things that, before, would have sent me into a fug of misery and self-pity.

lounge boxes
The current tenants are threatening to refuse to move out of the flat. I have handed this dilemma over to the lawyers and trust that they will resolve the issue with the seller. I remain positive that the keys to my new home will be handed to me on the first of August and that my life will then begin an exciting new chapter.
Ally seems to be aware that a significant change is afoot; she is staying close to me all the time – sleeping snugly against my shoulder at night and winding herself around my feet during the day. At other times she sits on top of a wardrobe and watches my every move.

ally on top of the wardrobe
I worry that the removal men will not be gentle with some of my things – especially my pot plants –  but plan to beg and plead with them and to bribe them with handsome tips.

I am happy today and that is more than enough.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
Melody Beattie

things work out

And thank you to all of you, my dear friends, for always being there for me. I love you.


You can’t find a hair-net in Johannesburg for love or money, all the stores are sold out. It’s the start-up weekend of the 2011 Ballet Eisteddfod, which will continue into mid-October, and mothers everywhere are sitting in halls across the country, doing hair into buns, sewing ribbons and skirt hems and waiting for hours while their daughters rehearse. Bank accounts have been cleaned out by the purchases of new satin shoes, costumes and entry fees. Competition is rife, but so is camaraderie; these girls are a tribe apart.
Although there is a nervous energy in the air, the dancers are confident; they know that they have been selected out of their respective ballet schools because their teachers deem them worthy.

The fathers, of course, are nowhere to be seen; they are glued to their television screens to watch our national rugby team do battle today in New Zealand. Nervous energy is much stronger among these dads …
This is my contribution to Side View’s weekend theme.




On August 4 in 1983 Dave Winfield, a N.Y. Yankee outfielder accidentally killed a seagull with an errant throw in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays. He was arrested, charged with cruelty to animals and had to post a $500 bond. The charges were dropped the following day. (foodreference.com)

Shame, poor seagull. I wonder if they are edible? In fact, I often wonder how the first poultry eaters knew which birds would go nicely in the oven with a couple of potatoes for roasting. I can’t find any other history, but here I found that “The practice of raising chickens for food is ancient, with the first domestication of poultry thought to have occurred in southernAsiaover 4,000 years ago. The popularity of eating chickens has fluctuated throughout history; at times, chicken has been thought of as a luxury item, while at other times, it has fallen into disregard and obscurity.

During the early history of theUnited States, the settlers brought chickens with them fromEurope. While at first, chickens were raised by individual families for their own consumption, as the developing towns expanded and flock sizes increased, surplus chickens were sold or bartered for groceries. While the development of modern refrigeration methods and more rapid transportation in the late 19th century increased poultry production, it was not until after World War II that developments in raising poultry increased, making chickens more available, and more popular, throughout the country. ”


Moving right along. My daughter had a sore throat last week and – fearful that it would develop into something like the flu I suffered recently – I made her stay in bed. Towards midday, she said she wanted Spur chicken wings. I refused, she nagged. I will not go to a Spur, even under threat of death, so I compromised and bought a bottle of their sauce at the supermarket.


She was none the wiser. Motherhood requires a good deal of subterfuge at times …

This picture is for Paula, because she likes butterflies, I thought of her last night when I drank it and because it goes particularly well with chicken wings.

46, 47, 48 …

I had to ask Old Spouse how old I am. It’s a bit distressing to find I’ve spent all of this year thinking I am only 46, when I am – in fact – 47. The reason I wanted to know is because it would have been my parents’ 48th wedding anniversary today. Yes, I know … I was a January baby. Don’t bother doing the math. It wasn’t exactly a shotgun marriage; they had planned it, but had to speed things up a bit.
In my memories they’re always young and slightly apart from us, the children. Oh, they were present for us, good parents, but I think of them as an insular unit. There were us, and there was them.
She’d not had a boyfriend before him; he’d had one girlfriend and had her name roughly tattooed on his wrist. This tattoo made my mom cross, for years and years, and she bought my dad a big watch to cover it.
It’s hopeless … I will be retrospective today. I may as well wallow in it …
1. I am eleven years old. I walk home from the bus stop to find my Nan sitting in the lounge with my mom. This is unusual for a week-day. My mom tells me “Oupa died this morning” and I laugh hysterically, or so I think, and then I am sitting on the floor crying and can’t stop.
2. Uncle Arch has visited and given us those sweets that look like large apricots. I am eight, my brother is four. I gobble my sweets and he hoards his. Later I cannot resist temptation and take a bite of one of his; he sees me and stabs me on the side of my face with a toy screwdriver. I still have the scar.
3. My bath is being run. I pick up my mother’s petticoat from the stool in the bathroom and wear it like a boob-tube dress and pose in front of the mirror, pretending I am Twiggy.
4. Standard Four (Grade 6): Anneline Kriel has brought home the Miss World title and will be making a parade through Bloemfontein one night. It is a school night, so we aren’t going. We have our baths and supper, and then my mom says ‘Get in the car’ and off we go, in our pyjamas. The next day at school, popular Paula Nunes asks everyone ‘Did you see baby-Cindy in her pyjamas last night?’ and everyone laughs for days.
5. Also Standard Four: My mom tells us to stay inside and not come out under any circumstances. Then she sits on the stoep, smoking and waiting until my dad gets home from work, she walks to his car. We hear the strangest sound, a groaning; like a severely wounded animal. She has told him that his best friend has died in a parachute malfunction. It is the first time I hear a grown man cry.
6. Uncle Billy and my dad are laughing in the kitchen and I go to see what it’s all about. My dad says ‘close your eyes and open your mouth’ and I taste the most heavenly thing in the world. I open my eyes and he pulls a red monster from a pot on the stove. ‘Want some more?’ and I scream in terror. My first encounter with crayfish.
7. My mom is helping me with my homework at the kitchen table. A neighbour bursts in through the door with my baby sister (four years old) in her arms; bleeding, broken little body. Two boys were racing on their bicycles and one lost control and ramped onto the sidewalk where she was playing and dragged her along under his bike for a few meters. Those nights that she slept at the hospital were the first time my mother was away from me for such a long period of time.
8. It is a Sunday night in summer, I must be six or younger because my sister isn’t in the picture yet. It is hot and my mom says we are allowed to eat rubbish food and break the rules. We have waffles with ice cream and hundreds-and-thousands sprinkles, and Cream Soda. We eat outside and then lie on the lawn. My dad lies propped on one elbow and leans over to kiss my mom. I get embarrassed and start doing cartwheels to get them to stop.
9. We’re fourteen, my friend Zelda and I. It is a Friday afternoon and we’re getting ready for a party that night. I’m lying on the floor of her bedroom, reading James Mitchener’s The Drifters. I roll onto my side to reach for a glass of Coke and I burn my arm on the curling iron which has been turned on in readiness for us to try and replicate Purdy’s hairstyle. Another scar.
10. It is my sixteenth birthday, and my father’s 37th. It is a very important day; since I was born on his 21st, my dad has vowed that he will take me ‘wining and dining’ when I turn 16. We are going to the President Hotel and I have a white Broderie Anglaise dress, made for me after a photograph of Barbara Barnard in an Errol Arendz creation in Fair Lady magazine. I feel like a princess.