Thursday, April 21, 2011

You are sixteen, going on seventeen...

My son just turned seventeen.
As always, for me, a birthday brings with it a bittersweetness, especially when it is one of your children, getting older, moving on.
And now, its strangely winter, a sad and sudden end to summer, and I close my eyes and think of England...

My bonny bairn was born in the borders between England and Scotland. The Scottish nurses hailed him as the future President of South Africa, seeing as he was born on the cusp of our new democracy. They tucked him into the car, sheilding him from the icy North Sea wind. A lazy wind they called it, "Why go round ya, when it can go right through ya.."

That was all after the panicked removal of me and my belly on a dark night, in an ambulance, through the border hills to a 'proper' hospital where he would be born by emergency c-section. We were accompanied by our Scottish nurse in the back of the swaying ambulance who got herself high on the 'gas and air' which she repeatedly offered to me and then enjoyed herself.
 For most of the journey her face was covered by the large black rubber mask - I was attended by her halo of golden curls and her beautific (read stoned) smiling presence. She later visited me in the maternity ward and presented me with a knitted pink jumper for the babe - an honour she foisted on all the babies she accompanied in the ambulance.

With hindsight I think that what I was going through was pretty much like what was happening in the run up to the vote. A mad rush to rescue a life on the brink of tragedy, with a crazy angelic being in control, with a home knitted jumper as a reward at the end for the creature that had been born - a being that she was a little confused about - what was it?

Ten days later we travelled to Glasgow to vote for our exciting new country. I was nursing a baby and a hacked and black laced up wound and the air was icy and grey. The voting hall had an air of a party where hardly any guests had turned up, but those who had made it were determined to have fun nevertheless. A couple of women yululated and some elderly folk punched the air with their fists and muttered 'Amandla' I think.

Our Manchurian friend kept us laughing by peering hopefully out the doors in expectation of more exuberant voters, but to no avail - only a trail of bleak grey Glaswegians huddled or tottered by, ablivious. We were left to sit upstairs in our apartment , coaxing life into our sooty coal fire and had to be content to watch the scenes of sun beating down on those long snaking columns of queues in our home country
 I nursed my baby and sipped soup and sobbed with the missing of it. The loneliness of it - us mothers know the new baby tears and fears. And I had it for both those new babies then, mine and the other mine (that longed for country of jubilation and joy) .
I have never stopped regretting not being here, and being there...

Still its now seventeen years of democracy and boyhood. Seventeen seems to be nearly manhood, but the British have the  best word - a lad.
 Lads can be loutish, funny, irresponsible, adorable, sexy, hunky, sweet, violent ,maddening, charismatic,scary  unforgettable,loud, thoughtful and relentlessly cheerful.
A lot like our democracy.


  1. Phew! Memories of a wonderful time, all waiting with great anticipation for this new 'baby'... an interesting 'adolescent' at present... wonder what adulthood will look like - our democracy that is?
    miss you xxx

  2. Congrats to you and him! I have such high hopes for your son and other "lads" growing up and gaining some wisdom ... becoming great men.
    As for our adolescent democracy - is a 'time out' or 'grounding' appropriate? [sigh]