|Posted by Patrick Kaye on May 18, 2012 at 11:45 AM|
There are times in our lives that we later recognize as being “A Turning point”. The first major one was Clifford coming into my life. Before I tell you about “Clifford” an insight to my formative environment will give you a better understanding of how things evolved in South Africa from the 1940’s
I was born in a rural area in South Africa in an era of white dominance. Where a “kaffir” (Black man) must know, and did know, his/her place. Blacks were expected to jump off the pavement if a white person was walking towards them. In those days even poor whites had servants. There were Masters & Madams, and then there was “the boy” and “the girl” Young white children could command “the black boy or girl” to do their bidding. They were referred to in a most respectful voice as the “Small Boss or Small Madam”.
There was a strange mentality with whites in those days. They allowed and expected blacks to care for their children, cook their food, clean the dishes, dig in the garden, polish, sweep, and wash love stained sheets. But most definitely would not let them use their toilets. They had to have their own stink hole as far as possible away from the house, called “the long drop”. (pit toilet) No such thing as a “flush toilet” for Africans. It was a most decrepit, leaking stinking place. Down a dark winding path, along which it was believed by the blacks, that “TOKOLOSHES” (Evil spirits) lurked at night.
My parent’s home was a two car garage with a small adjoining room and kitchen. A short walk outside the back door, was a flush toilet. (A wonderful luxury in a rural area.) Going to the toilet at night was a scary thing for me. It was dark and I was convinced that one night there would be “SOMETHING” hiding behind the door. It always hung, half open, and nor could it lock. What it might be behind there, I knew not. Fearing to breath I would creep very slowly and quietly up to the door and then very suddenly slam it open against the wall. Only if it hit the wall with a bang would I know that it was safe. But then one night it collided with something and rebounded and there ensued a most frightful noise. The likes of which I had never heard. So when the door did not slam as expected I fled. At speed!! Quicker than a horse I fled. The noise continued for some considerable time. All whites and blacks rushed from their beds in haste.
To avoid the danger of the spirit path, the wife of the garden “BOY” had taken a liberty of using the masters and madams crapper. (a flush toilet but outside the house) When all of a sudden while sitting quietly concentrating on her business, an evil spirit had caused the door to attack her. From there on panic ensued. Hence her screams of terror erupting in the night. The whites not understanding the language of the screaming woman were hectically confused. The blacks were aghast and their terror was evident.
My parents worked away all-day and I remember longing for sun set. My best time of day! My only concept of time was when my mother would come walking down the path that led to “The long road”. It was an ecstatic moment, when I could throw my arms around her waist, and to cling on with my legs around her legs. Stopping her from walking so she would be forced to pick me up and cuddle me to her ample bosom. I all the while saying over and over again, “I love you, I love you, I want to feel you all over me”. My father always stood behind. There was no greeting between us. As I grew bolder I ventured further and further up the path, to hurry “time”, and that ecstatic moment of, “the bliss of her and me”, in the “Here and Now”. Tangible, Real and Tactile. All was well again.
I had a very poor relationship with my father. I deeply feared him. He terrorized my dreams and life. One of the extreme experiences of terror during my early childhood (about the time of my first horse.) was when my parents had gone out one night and left me at home alone. I terrified by the drums in Alexandra township. And the other FEAR was the fact that I was convinced that somehow or other a lion could find its way into the house and eat me. The only thing that distracted me from my terror was to listen to the radio. (But I was forbidden to do this as I was supposed to "go to sleep"). Knowing that I wasn't allowed to listen to it, I had the volume turned down really low with my ear pressed against the speaker. It was then that I heard a tinkling sound…then silence…then the tinkling again...and again silence… The sound was coming from the entrance hall. I couldn't move! I consciously didn't breathe. I wanted to scream but dared not. Then out of the darkened hall I heard the tinkling getting nearer. I did not know what to expect, but the last thing I expected was to see my father. He walked into the light staring at me and clinking the keys intermittently. There was no flood of relief at seeing him there… The look in his eyes, the sound of those keys and then the silence, and the fact that he said nothing, absolutely nothing! It created such confusion in my mind that I started running around the room shouting: "Hit me dad, hit me dad. Please hit me dad!" A hiding was infinitely more attractive than his stare, the silence and tinkling keys.
The terror and fear was so great that thereafter I was no longer scared of being eaten by lions or the war drums. There was something much fearful to take its place: My father!
I was also a most sensitive child. I was filled with love. For my Mommy, my nanny, my goose and the other all black children. The bigger of which also cuddled me, in times of need. I was surrounded by the kindest of nature. The big farm dogs overwhelmed me with their licking kisses. The cows moved slowly and predictably. Their fresh warm udder milk, was delicious when squirted directly into my mouth, by the boy who milked them. , “ The boy” was a full grown man with children in a land far away. He was big and kind. While my parents worked, all was well when I was left with “Beswick”. (A Big, kind, Wonderful black man from Malawi.)
All day I played with his, and the other “servant children”. (No such thing as crèches or nursery school in those days.) Great discoveries were made and games played that were non violent and involved singing dancing and clapping. And skills like stalking & stone throwing. Hide and seek in and around the farm buildings. Such good times! But never at night! With night came fear and later dread. Of warnings to, “Never go along the “Long Road.” because there were bad people there”. I had no concept of what bad people were. But knew that at the end of the “Long Road.”, a bus could be caught. And also there was a thing there, called- “school”. I had no idea what it might be.
I roamed the farm as far as I dared, because all ways in my mind was the thought - “I am going to find MY horse”. Sometimes there were glimpses of the wild herd of wandered free in a huge unfenced area. I was warned not to go near them, but felt convinced that my “friend-horse” would wag its tail at me. Our bond was that we both knew, and had experienced, “Fear”. I so badly wanted that “feel of her”!. And from just centimetres away, that “eye contact”,. I named her Namwali. (meaning Little girl)