Sunday, 8 March 2015

Trusty and True

When the tears come I reach out to my mother.
No matter how far away she is, I have never doubted her, never felt alone, never felt like there was an obstacle that I could not face. She is the one to talk me down from the metaphorical ledge.
My mother is magnificent.

Since today is International Women's Day, I thought a bit about practically having been raised solely by impressive women, all with hardships of their own, and all with infinite capacities to love, to share and to support one another.

My Afrikaans grandmother is a very tough nut to crack. She is unyielding, unaffectionate and at times annoyingly unwilling to accept other worldviews beside her own. Then again, she is 86 now, and despite all her flaws she came back when others left. My ouma might fail when it comes to expressing love directly, and yet she tries, in her own way. She multitasks when reading books, she knows how to preserve any kind of fruit, and she can garden like no other. Although I have felt her to be disappointing in her persistence on old ways of thought, it must be crippling to be slipping constantly nearer to dementia. Perhaps when you can't remember if you have eaten it is comforting to remember your own childhood, your deceased husband, the better times of past memories relived in this unmemorable present. As much as her cracks have started showing ever clearer, she has been there, and her tiny, shrunken body crumbles even further when the time for departure arrives. And despite all her mistakes I have no other ouma.

When my ouma went home after a few months of staying with us, our cleaning lady Rosina stepped in. She was a lady in her late 50s/early 60s with patches of white skin that appeared in between the brown. Rosina always arrived dressed very smartly (after having taken the bus and taxi from Shoshanguve for what amounts to two hours if I remember correctly) and she came by twice a week. The highlight was coming home to her mashed potatoes and green beans. When I was still prepubescent she would meet me at the robot and we would walk home together. Rosina must have seen so much of the tiny intricacies and difficulties in our household, and yet I know nothing really of hers. I seem to remember a husband that was no longer present, and her sister's kids playing a role. When I was done with school she retired, and I have not seen her since. Strange (and worthy of closer investigation) how many white children have been raised (in part) by black (or coloured or Indian) women, and then how the children distanced themselves from their caretaker (their surrogate mother even) as soon as they would reach an age where racial division would appear to be socially imperative.

My sister is the fourth impressive woman, even though I think she does not trust her own capabilities at times. Over the years we have had epic fights and disagreements. We have lived separate lives while living in the same house. But she is also the one who drove me around before I had a licence, who let me borrow her ID before I was 18 to get into clubs, who has shared uncomfortable single beds with me whilst travelling, and who has offered advice I actually took. Whereas I will feel brazenly, openly (and often stupidly), my sister has a calmer, more rational demeanor that is hard to shake (although at times I would very much like to shake her until she actually tells me how she feels).

Besides these four admirable women there have been wonderful female friends whose influence I am very grateful for. They are all passionate, intelligent, embracing and I have a great respect for how each of them has faced /is facing the big, unplanned events that make life just a bit harder than it needs to be.

In that spirit, to all the women that have raised me and all the ones that keep enriching my life, I thank you for being phenomenal.

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,   
The stride of my step,   
The curl of my lips.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,   
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,   
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.   
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.   
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,   
And the flash of my teeth,   
The swing in my waist,   
And the joy in my feet.   
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered   
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,   
They say they still can’t see.   
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,   
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.   
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.   
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,   
The bend of my hair,   
the palm of my hand,   
The need for my care.   
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

No comments:

Post a Comment