July 31, 2012 in Uncategorized
Talia: why don’t we just drink rain water instead of from the tap.
Me: Good idea. But what about where there isn’t enough rain water?
Talia: they can drink wine!
July 25, 2012 in Uncategorized
My dad passed away suddenly on the 6th July. I haven’t written about it much as I’m still trying to actually come to terms with it. Guess that by writing it down it makes it all the more real. He was ill (in November he had “a degree of heart failure” already) but we didn’t expect him to die so soon. Expect? Expect I suppose is a strange thought. He was a heavy smoker. He had emphysema. He had heart disease. Hopeful would have been a better word I guess than expect. I’m relieved he didn’t suffer.
I wrote and said the Eulogy for him. I guess it was my way of saying goodbye. I wasn’t there when he died. My mom was, and tried to do CPR on him. For that matter, so did my dad’s gardner. Even the paramedics tried – and after about 30minutes after my mom thought he was dead they got a pulse; before rushing him off to the hospital where he “died” for a second time. My sister was there when they rushed him to the hospital. So they both got to say goodbyes. Technically last time I saw him in November, I said goodbye – I didn’t think I would see him again, but it’s just not the same I think.
Saying the Eulogy was one of the hardest things I have done. It wasn’t a big “audience”, only about 40 people. Still it was more people than I thought would be there. I got through it ok, until the point where I was reading other people’s contributions. My dad’s best friend gave me something to add. They had been best friend’s since the 60’s. Best men at each others weddings. I grew up with their son, saw him so often he became my “brother”. It was at that point when I sobbed.
Papa was the second of three children. He was born in Berlin, raised in Hamburg and moved to Africa in his early 20’s. After spending some time in Zambia, he finally settled in South Africa where he met my mom in 1969. When her nursing contract came to an end and she left to go back to England, he wrote many letters and sent flowers persuading her to return. My cousin once told me that there would be no way that she would have been able to resist those blue eyes and blonde hair. They were married in November 1972.
My dad started his career as a welder, and progressed through to a Project Engineer. He was hardworking and committed, but his first love was always working with his hands and his beloved welding machine.
His job required him to travel a lot, he always brought something home for us, to show he had been thinking of us. My sister always got her hippos. I got my stones. It couldn’t have been easy getting blocks of shiny chrome through airport security.
My dad fostered in us our love of animals. If he wasn’t bringing home tortoises, or inviting birds into the house, he was collecting snakes from the garden and popping them into old jars to take to the reptile park. There were fish, there were dogs. And thanks to Papa, I can happily collect earthworms from the garden or gheckos from the house to play with now. Although the earthworms in those days found their way into glass coffee jars, and then onto the hooks at the end of Papa’s fishing rod.
Papa the fisherman, black cap on head, perched at the edge of Haartesbeesport dam, a beer never far from his hand, keeping a watchful eye on my brother and myself paddling around the dam in the canoe he fixed up.
My dad was a teacher. He taught me how to play chess, letting me win at first and then gracefully accepting defeat when I was older. He taught hubby how to weld. Ending his lessons with sayings such as “So easy it is”. He taught us how to garden – rock gardens and veggies. He’d bring me fresh radishes from the garden when I was studying.
Our dancing style comes from him teaching us to dance by letting us stand on his feet, listening to guitar music, mixed with some Russian and German Beer garden songs. He taught us about pain – if we bumped our heads, he would tell us “where nothing is, nothing can hurt”. And any other sores, he would promptly apply Germolene to it. In fact when it came to injuries for birds, Papa had an interesting solution. When his budgie accidently jumped into a frying pan, he fed it vodka to resuscitate it. Coco subsequently had a sip of vodka every now and again after that. In fact, talking about teaching, he taught Coco how to gamble with dice as well.
He had a unique sense of humour, often telling dirty jokes, or putting things on his head. I suppose, in this case, another of Papa’s sayings is apt – the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
My dad was a wonderful story teller. I would sit on his lap at the dining room table, and he’d go through the photo albums telling me stories about this person or that. Stories of his family and his childhood. And how he was rescued when he was a kid and had crept out of a window onto a ledge and couldn’t get down. Or of his playing chess with his uncle. He told stories of his times when he was a keen boxer, and those times when in Africa he had to shake spiders, snakes or scorpions out of his boots.
My dad came to my own rescue numerous times, although there were times I really don’t think I needed rescuing. Of course, there were the times he’d have to get the ladder and get me out of a tree. But there was also the time he decided to rescue me from the tatty jeaned, mo-hawked young man who later became my husband. Although we were never quite sure how serious he was when he raised the air rifle, making hubby dart behind a bush. He fondly called hubby the absent minded professor, when he had gotten over the shock.
Papa was always very supportive of our endeavours. Whether it was my sisters rhythmic gym or my dancing. He was quite happy to travel to different places to watch us perform. He took on the role of father figure to hubby when we moved to Cape Town and really needed to be told we were doing the right thing.
At home, he could always be found in his workshop, a dog at his feet, making something, welding something. Things for the house, like the gates, or things for us kids, like Rosemary Red. Rosemary Red was a go cart, designed to fit small people like us, but it didn’t stop Papa having a turn in it too. He made things for my dolls, boards for my dancing medals. He fixed things, mended things, created things. He couldn’t cook though. Unless it was German sausages or kartofflepoffers and thin sliced chips with mayonnaise.
Thinking of German Sausages always reminds me of Christmas Eve. He always made special times very magical. Christmas always had a real Christmas tree, with the real candles on the tree. The tinkling of the bell to tell us Santa had arrived. And obviously the German sausages for supper.
My dad loved his 3 grandkids. The eldest had him wrapped around her little finger – he always encouraging her to raid his bedside table for change, taking her out for ribs and allowing her to row a non-sea worthy canoe around the swimming pool. Papa was always nagging me to email more photos of the little ones in Cape Town. They all loved their Oupa.
He had a very generous nature, always lending a helping hand or the correct tools to friends or stopping to help strangers in need. His workshop was open to all, and it made him very happy for people to be in there. My husband, was in there often and later on his friend from across the street too. He loved his outings off to the pub. And his pensioners lunch too, with his old colleagues from work.
My dad was a great man. He was generous, hardworking, and flirtatious and had a unique sense of humour. We will miss you Papa.
July 22, 2012 in Uncategorized
Playdate étiquette had always had me baffled. From the moment we started playdates, there were so many unknowns, who’s house, do you bring a yummy treat (what if the other mother didn’t believe in giving her kids chocolate?) or would that double the treats (as the hosting mother had provided yummy treats), what the hell do you talk about, what if your kids fought, what if your kid wee’d behind her curtains? And then there’s the playdate from hell, when its so uncomfortable and all you want to do is run for the hills. And at the end of it the mother says “next time just drop your kid off…”. Ouch.
I like to think myself a seasoned playdate mom now – after almost 5 years, I’m getting good at the small talk (with new moms), or the ability not to stress when my kid’s misbehave (other kids have done worse things in my house by now. It takes a while to fish all of a kid’s poo out of a pool).
But now we’re into birthday party etiquette. And I find myself lost in my insecurities and confusion again. Up until now, all parties we have attended, parents are usually invited (or just plain expected to be there). It might be because my group of friends, are also the parents of Talia’s friends (convenient, ne?). But it’s changing with school friend parties. Take for instance the birthday party Talia attended on Friday afternoon. Not knowing what to expect from the mom (to whom I have barely spoken to before), I didn’t know whether or not to drop and run for freedom for two hours or to go along and sit and have tea with the other moms while the girls ran riot in her house.
The mother invited me in and I accepted. She’d set up all the tea things for the moms and the girls were getting to bake their own cupcakes. I was the only mom who stayed. I offered to help with the girls and their cupcakes, but after feeling a bit in the way and cramping her style, I made my excuses and dashed for the hills. Where were all the other moms?
The party on saturday was different. This was Talia’s best friend from her old school. The mom had said that I could bring Squidgy as another family was bringing their two year old but I was also welcome to just drop off if I liked. So off we go as a family (hubby included) to the party. The mom had invited 4 girls and had set up a blanket on the floor with party packs and chips and balloons. But the two 2 years olds (who had kind of been invited, even though they are only the siblings) hadn’t been catered for (not easy explaining to a two year old why big sister gets a balloon and she doesn’t. Thankfully Talia shares really nicely with Squidgy). And then time for the cake. We always use the cake as a sign of the appropriate time to stay at a party – it’s rude to leave before the cake. Afterwards, you stay as long as the invite says (or in most cases the wine keeps flowing and the hostess eventually switches to fruit juice). But at 5pm, the cake had still not appeared. No cake, no happy birthday song, no games. Now the parents had been nicely catered for, the wine flowed, the parents chatted, but by 5pm I made our excuses (cake or no cake) and left before my kids’ wheels came off.
So two 5 year old birthday parties on one weekend and two incredibly different styles. But how on earth are you supposed to know which parent is opting for which style? Is it dependent on the day of the week the party is on (Friday afternoons dictate a no-parents stay type style), is it the culture of the families (Talia’s best friend is German from Namibia so maybe they don’t do the cake / candles / song thing there). Are you specifically supposed to ask the parents whether it is a drop off party (isn’t that rude)? And what about present value? Whats the norm with siblings? On the other side – How long in advance do you send out party invites? Do you invite the whole class? Are they at an age yet when they understand why they weren’t invited to a party and someone else was? EEEEEEEEEKKKKK!
Where on earth is the birthday party etiquette guidelines book?
So Talia’s party is coming up in two weeks time. I have invited her friends (boys included even though she keeps telling me she doesn’t like boys), I have invited her whole class (Teacher said she was very grateful for that), and I have specifically put on the invite that parents are welcome to stay for snacks and drinks. I am planning games and treats. And will plan extras for siblings that come along.
And just incase I make the same mistake as last year, this year I will make sure I have more than two bottles of champagne
July 20, 2012 in Uncategorized