14 December 2007, Friday
Venue: Looking out over the impossibly blue summer sky above the scorched, pale grass of the field outside my window. (Just woke from a four hour nap I’ve been fantasising about for two weeks now.)
Soundtrack: “Welcome to the Jungle” from ‘Appetite for Destruction’ by Guns ‘n Roses (one of the many CDs Craig left here till he returns in January.) My favourite? Linkin Park. Also really getting into Metallica!
Beverage: a glass of Pinotage from the bottle I opened last night and left overnight in the fridge – ironically, which tastes a zillion times better chilled – most probably because it ranges more towards ‘plonk’ than ‘nectar’ on the wine scale!
Every single day there is an incredible wealth of things to write about – ordinary, everyday things but somehow when written about, my heart finds the sacred in… But today I have managed to find time to write. And energy. (But why would one need energy to write? Surely you’re sitting still – a completely sedentary activity? But no, writing requires an immense energy to remember details and minutiae about scent, emotion, colour, sound… It feels almost physical, this remembering. And then there’s the transmuting into words – a process akin to giving birth?!) Which reminds me – the other night a friend showed me her daughter’s 4D scans while she was still in utero – and then the dvd of the birth – by Caesarean section! (Hmmm…. This could be another long story – but because I need to start clearing some space in my cupboards etc for Craig’s moving-in, I better keep this short and sweet: it really amazes me how since I was a tiny little girl I’ve wanted to be a mommy and a wife! More than being an artist or a writer, more than a dynamically successful career or fame and adoration, my heart has always beat to the tune of ‘mommy, mommy, mommy’. So many of my male AND female friends have been utterly perplexed and appalled at such a ‘domesticated’ and, I suppose, deeply simple desire. At hearing me confess this as my life’s sole desire, men have run for their dear lives rather in the direction of less broody bimbos! Two days ago at work, 5 year old Storm wrapped her arms around me and rubbed my belly and blaringly announced to a room of twenty or so mothers : “Lisa, are you pregnant?” Eish!! My first reaction was that my need to go on something akin to a diet was confirmed! One mom said that means I’m already pregnant or going to have a baby very soon - an old wive’s tale?! It is true though, this sixth sense, this intuition that young children possess – I have seen how they can sense a pregnancy either before you’ve told them, or even before YOU’VE discovered it yourself! Hmmm….)
But let me tell you about today. Driving to work, I surveyed – with mild disgust - my car floor covered in sea sand, an empty can of Coke Lite rolling backwards and forwards and wondered what the little orphans I needed to pick up later in Atlantis would think of this adult mess! All through my 9am class, my mind tossed and kneaded this idea of ‘orphan’ and ‘orphanage’ around, trying to understand exactly what it was I would be encountering later in the morning. Flooded by flashes from Oliver Twist and dirty, dark, cold Dickensian waifs, I just had no idea what to expect!
Straight after class, three of us – the Gymboree bus and two cars, filled up at the petrol station before heading out on the blisteringly hot R27 to Atlantis. Seeing the big packet of popcorn on the car seat next to me, I had visions of frantic scrambling and whining and crying little children not sharing it. (My colleague bought it for me the day before, but there it still lay on the passenger sear unopened.) Perhaps against my better judgement, I decided it WOULD be worth just letting them eat it on the way back. Driving past Melkbos, the arid and sandy backdrop dried up into almost nothing and then we turned right off the R27 to Atlantis. Far from a watery, undersea kingdom, Atlantis is a dessicated, almost forgotten West Coast town but still, I was struck by the peaceful, orderly cleanness of it. Indicators ticking, we stopped our cars in a row outside the electric-fenced grey brick property of Ebenezer Village while someone opened the gate for us. A neat but exuberant man in dark shirt and pants welcomed us in, indicating where we could park. His firm handshake matched his gentle strength and beaming smile as he introduced himself as Ronald. (I was later to find out he is also called ‘Daddy’ and ‘Pastor’!) Letting us in through the front door , we entered a cheery, organised hall where little children smiled shyly at us or watched quietly from the outskirts. Ronald walked us matter-of-factly through the orphanage. And though that is exactly what it ‘is’ in legal / factual terminology, it is one big ‘home’ – all one level – his own livingroom’s glass sliding doors opening out onto the courtyard like any daddy would open his lounge doors onto his back patio and garden for his children to wander in and out of. There was no sense of him being a ‘warden’ or ‘in charge’ – but truly he is a father above all! The little ones all call him ‘Daddy’ – except for the day-mothers and volunteers who, with affectionate regard call him ‘Pastor’! He walked us through the various age-groups’ living areas – and I was almost overwhelmed by the thoughtful homeliness of each and every room – whether it was the pretty bedrooms or cheerful and clean bathrooms. Painted in happy pastels, the walls are adorned with Whinny the Pooh or dolphins – the bedding clean and colourful and no sad scent of neglect. Granted, I could NEVER grasp what it must be like to live this life or experience its thoughts or feelings, but the sheer atmosphere of love and hope was almost too much to bear. My previous volunteer experiences a few years ago at a boys’ homeless shelter did not prepare me for this home so overflowing with care and REAL love! The youngest little one is a month old – perfectly formed and healthy and smelling like only babies can : the sweet, warm smell of just-baked biscuits. Holding each of these little people in my arms was like cradling a precious miracle – NOT a tragedy. Here in my arms, soft and clean and warm and looking into my eyes was a little person with exquisite potential! And it is nothing more than Pastor Ronald and his wife’s active and practical love that has enabled this life to be. I felt no self-centred pity or guilt, but only an excitement to add to this love in whichever way I can!!!!
Shortly after walking into the courtyard garden manned by a proud black Labrador, my friend Candy picked up a little girl in pink who’d wordlessly requested to be taken up into her arms. Awhile later, Pastor Ronald said something to this little girl, calling her ‘Destiny’. Almost visibly, Candy recoiled in a kind of shock, shooting rapid questions about where she was from – ‘Is she from the beach?’ and a deep, visceral realisation engulfed Candy as she realised that THIS was the same little girl she’d first encountered with the mother outside Primi Piatti in Blouberg more than a year ago and had compassionately and regularly aided with food and clothes over the span of a year! An entire winter of wondering what had ever happened to them after they’d disappeared from the area, Candy – reeling, could hardly grasp little Destiny’s warm and smiling presence in her arms. Destiny had recognised her! Destiny… (Candy is taking her into her own home over the holidays)
Only able to safely fit four little ones into my green Ford Fiesta, they somehow chose me – and twenty minutes later, I was singing Old Macdonald down the R27 with four happy, healthy and awesomely considerate little children – spilling more popcorn than they ate – but sharing like I never shared with my own sisters! They waved at the cars and cyclists we passed along the way, and touched my arm with such precious affection as if they’d known me forever… We laughed and chatted and screeched with delight all the way until finally we parked outside Gymboree where suddenly their mood turned hushed and a little bit reticent : they had no idea what to expect. Clambering out the car, soft, warm little hands reaching for mine, we walked into the front door where the sedate, air-conditioned quiet was blasted away by ‘WOW’ excitement I’ve seen very seldom in my 29 years! Trying to organise name tags for more than 30 cloud-nine children was a happy chore and soon they flooded the play area with such powerful exuberance unmatched by any other group of children I’d seen before! Bettina, the trainer in charge, checked her hunch with me that a less structured play environment was what was needed – and so, after almost an hour of riotously joyplay, it was a very special moment to have witnessed all thirty six children and a handful of volunteer teachers sing great big lungfuls of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’, captured inside our giant parachute!
Pastor Ronald observed all of this from the outskirts with a quiet sort of pride. And he’s agreed to me spending one day a week at the home playing and laughing and doing art with the little ones as of next year! I’m SO excited and so, so inspired! Truly, what a haven of caring love and excellent support – Ebenezer Village!