Good good people
I grew up on a small farm in the mountains of South Africa. We had cattle, and rust red clay soil and crabs in a stream which trickled through the bottom of the drive way. When I woke in the morning the air smelt fresh, like seeds and soggy earth. The nearest city, Pietermaritzberg, was 2 and a half long bumpy hours away, and I hated the drive.
All in all it was a happy childhood.
I named chickens. I wore gumboots. I rode ponies. I played monopoly against my ruthless brother, James, and mixed lurid pink icing in a plastic cup. Idyllic in many ways.
As a teenager this all changed. As with most transitions into adulthood my life became complicated, clumsy and uncomfortable. I moved schools and my new friends didn’t like hills with green grass- they liked shopping malls, black eyeliner and boys with a Driver’s Licence. I found myself lodged between two worlds, my home and family and the unforgiving world of high school.
I felt ashamed of my home; none of the girls would come to my house, I thought. When everyone asked me about my weekend I mumbled and looked away because I pitched against sneaking into clubs, cigarettes and bottles of Zambuca. We didn’t have DSTV (cable television) and my parents didn’t drink. We read books and went to bed at 9pm. My family went on walks with the dogs, and spoke about history, or seeing an owl on the garden gate post. My Mom thought twice before she bought ice cream and my Dad scanned the shop's shelves to find the bottle of Chutney 50 cents cheaper than its neighbour. In the insecure eyes of a teenager, I had nothing to offer.
I wanted a normal teenage life. I wanted friends, and even though it wasn’t anyone’s fault, I was angry, moody and sarcastic because I couldn’t have this. I grew resentful of our farm, and life there.
I’m ashamed to say it took a lot of life to loosen my clods of resentment. As I have become older, I learned appreciation. I learned perspective. I learned what my parents had given me was worth more than reality shows, swimming pools, new clothes or high school status. I had parents who cared for me, and that was what mattered the most.
Looking back, I remember every Monday morning, when I needed to be up at 4am to be driven to school, My Dad was up at 3am. He polished our shoes and put them, two buffed invitations, out on the dining room table. My Mom, endlessly patient and gentle, listened to every friendship squabble, bad workday, tough decision, embarrassing moment and silly thought in my head. My parents may not have owned lots of new things, but they loved God, they loved us and they worked hard.
We spend half our life unaware of the gifts we have. We take fore granted simplicity because we care about recognition, status or popularity. We want to be friends with the pretty popular girl with long hair and walk past the quiet one who waits for our attention. We go after the job title, the corner office, the new suit. We want the boy on stage with a guitar, the apartment in the trendy part of town and to be included on every invitation list. We chase; we run and we let life pull us in every direction when instead we could care for people and be thankful we are cared for.
“He has a profound respect for old age, especially when it is bottled.” Gene Fowler
Letting go of resentment, forgiving, respecting and appreciating your parents is hard. We expect the world of our parents. Most of us blame our parents for all the mistakes, could haves and missed outs in our childhoods. We let hurt blind us from their goodness and we justify our grudges. We forget; we also cause our parents pain. We have to forgive the seasons of hurt and pain.
As I've found myself meandering further down the lane of life I find the kind person of maturity joining me on my way. Maturity quietly whispers: show mercy and less judgement. "Show mercy and less judgement?" I ask. "Yes," she says. Nods, and looks away. She knows she does not need to explain more, what life will eventually show me.
A good 20 years have passed since I ran around in the mud, played boardgames by the fire and sat on my Mother's lap. 15 have passed since I became unruly and grew up. Now, as an adult (or something like that) I appreciate my childhood and the people who raised me. I care less about what the cool kids think, and I don’t want normal. Now I'm no longer a teenager who doesn't know what she thinks, and the funny thing is I miss weekends full of books, couches and crisp mountain air- life has come a full circle.