Archive for August, 2008
Our garden has undergone the most amazing transformation in recent weeks. Ferncliffe and Oak Park are two suburbs that rest against the hill that forms the backdrop to the city of Pietermaritzburg. Anyone approaching from the southern side will see them a bit below the skyline, with World’s View on the left. Historically, many of the rocks from the Ferncliffe area were used in the construction of some of the city’s earliest buildings. Having lived in the original house of the area, now a conference centre, for a year or so as a teenager during the mid Seventies, finding a garden flat in the area was a double bonus. The area falls on the side of town that is noted for its vegetation and generally lush gardens. On top of that, the corner of the garden that surrounds the flat contained three or four huge rocks that are to me so symbolic of the history of the area and city itself.
In the last three weeks, the high bank that separated the road from the property has been removed, bringing us all onto the same gradient ; the rocks were mostly re-arranged but, interestingly, two of them including a tiny buttress could not be moved by the little CAT bulldozer gadget and so remain in their original positions.
Watching and participating in the development of the new-look garden is quite exciting and has caused me to divert noticeably from the purpose of this specific posting. The weekend that has just passed was earmarked for some seriously hard labour in the garden but the weather was unmercifully hot and lent itself to inside activities.
So reluctantly, well – with some reluctance – in fact, with no reluctance discernable to the observer, Kimberley and I watched more dvds than we have probably watched in the preceding months of this year. For a change we enjoyed all six that occupied the weekend. It’s so easy to be intrigued by the cover in the shop but find the content disappointing. Kimberley was away for the first half of the weekend but we managed to watch Definitely Maybe, The Other Boleyn Girl, PS I love you, Elizabethtown, and No Reservations together.
Elizabethtown is a longtime favourite of mine and, although this was the fourth time I’ve watched it, I still found small nuggets that I hadn’t noticed before and find the music as evocative as ever. The first time I saw it Kimberley was visiting her family in Gauteng and I went to the movies by myself. The audience was much larger than usual and as the plot developed I managed to contain myself for a while. The sight of a Spasmotica sports shoe continues to set me off on a spontaneous convolution of joy – I kept my sheer delight at its beautiful absurdity to myself in the cinema. But then Orlando Bloom’s character, Drew, built a superb suicide machine. As it developed and its purpose became apparent, my lungs filled to their capacity, my nostrils flared, eardrums bulged and eyes watered ; finally, not being able to hold it in any longer, sensibilities of my fellow audience or not, the well of laughter that had been building whelled up and cascaded joyfully around the auditorium. There must have been numerous others who felt the same way as that broke the tension and from there on the movie was made. If you haven’t seen it, I’m not going to describe the contraption – watch it for yourself and revel in its design.
The aspect of the movie that captures me, and it seems to have formed a pattern than ran through a number of the dvds we watched this weekend, is the paths people traverse in rebuilding their lives and rediscovering themselves after experiencing a major life change.
Each time I watch Elizabethtown it is easy to feel that I have joined Drew on his journey and appreciate the absurdities of his relatives and the situations in which he finds himself.
PS I love you has become my New Favourite Movie. Very few stories have the capacity to lead me to tears but this one did. I watched it by myself on Saturday evening while Kimberley was at the Mall with friends and then, convinced that she would enjoy it as much as me, I watched it again with her when she came back. We both cried the second time. The tragedy of losing a partner, particularly at a young age and in such senseless circumstances, is in itself extremely moving. Once again, watching Holly put her life back together and find herself made this a movie we both want to acquire for ourselves so we can watch it again and again. The beautiful Irish countryside just added to the multiple dimensions of the story.
And then there was The Other Boleyn Girl. This was Kimberley’s choice and we both learnt a lot, assuming the storyline is historically accurate. The reason it’s up for discussion here is that our response illustrates perfectly how my teenage daughter and I live symbiotically. I refrain from mentioning Daisy’s opinion of this relationship and our lack of sensibility on occasion, but we have seen the whites of her eyes on numerous occasions in recent days as she rolls them eloquently while looking at us over her shoulder.
Only one scene is to be highlighted here. We both watched aghast as the characters of Anne Boleyn and her sister connived their way through many situations and, by the time Anne’s death sentence was handed down sympathy from the Kimberley department was scant. Just so you appreciate the magnitude of the effect this movie had, I had been silent for some time at this point. We had been battling to hear some of the dialogue and the sub-titles were turned on. And so the storyline reached its grim climax. Anne, finally accepting that she was not to be spared at the last minute, removed her headgear, collar and necklace, handed them to her lady-in-waiting, and knelt down to be beheaded. The camera moved to an angled shot of the executioner as he raised his sword, a menacing figure against the skyline, the sword whined through the air and the shot moved quickly to the face of Anne’s sister Mary who stood frozen. Kimberley burst into tears, I was transfixed. And the sub-title said “[thud]”. I’m afraid that textual commentary turned my mood completely and we both landed up laughing once I’d explained my lack of sensibility to my tearful offspring.
All in all, the heatwave did the garden no favours but it did accomplish a different kind of bonding in the family relationship.
Kimberley Mae, as you pointed out a few hours ago, you are now 16 years and a bit. You’ve reached the milestone marking your progression to a young adult.
Although there was no shortage of advice while I carried you, no-one prepared me for, nor indeed even mentioned, the phenomenon that to to me now epitomises the gift of becoming a parent : of witnessing the discovery of the universe through new eyes, and the opportunity to remember it this time around. Since your birth I am aware of the same wonder in other first-time parents. You will only fully understand this when you become a parent yourself (you know, the red-haired triplets I’ve wished on you occasionally).
One of my most valued memories which still has the power to touch me, is of wakening early in the morning while you were still asleep next to me. You were a few months old by then. The sun rose behind the bedroom curtains, bringing the blue patchwork print to life. Maybe that was what woke you. I could feel you stir from sleep and it felt as if all else stopped while you opened your eyes and took in the visual display. There are no words that adequately describe what it was like to share the moment, the pause followed by an awestruck whispered “w-o-o-o-w”, the sheer wonder of discovery muted as if making a loud noise would shatter the imprint.
If I haven’t already told you, do you know how good it is to share our love of nature’s beauty, of animals, the willingness to understand and integrate our pets into our world, our satisfaction in finding ways to use the English language to express ourselves – and all things blue? Oh, and chocolate.
To mark today’s milestone, I’m moving some of your earlier free-thinking expressions from a battered anniversary calendar to the high tech environment of the blogosphere. It seems an apt reflection of the changing times over the last sixteen years.
– – – – –
“I’m having a sing”
[On spotting a horse in stirrups]
“the horse wearing slops”
[Wait until you start driving!]
“see that purple car? Please don’t bump it”
[Answering the telephone to Uncle Chris]
“Hello. That is you and this is me”
[Discussing the literary skills of our Corgi cross]
“Dougal can’t read because he’s got feet, not hands”
[He can’t sit on Daddy’s lap and listen to a story] “because he hasn’t got a skinny bum”
[On a wet day, about Amanda, our spaniel]
“Why is Tootie all rained up?”
[Found “teeth footprints” on your sucker]
“Last night I had tummy ache for two weeks”
“Let me turn your eyes around before you open them”
“I burst – into tears and blue murder”
[On overtaking me in the passage and calling your Dad to see the local hadedah community fly home for the night]
“Daddy, Daddy, dah’s barking!”
[A brief motivational speech to one of our dogs]
“Lizzie, if you do that the cat will fggggt you”
[Answering my unspoken question about why your feet were pulled up into the base of your car seat after I’d pointed out a breakdown (‘tow’) truck]
“Does it take toes?”
– – – – –
You continue to coin new words when circumstances defy your vocabulary. It makes me feel less guilty about not always correcting your creative use of the language when you were younger. Sugar was “shulug” for years ; water was “wart-oh”. You made my day recently when you rather indignantly remarked that your circle of friends informed you that the TV control is not called a “marote” – that was entirely Granny and Grandpa’s doing when you were only four, and the whole family is now confused. You know the Tuscan house we drove past everyday while you were in primary school? I still haven’t found the motivation to tell you the central tower part isn’t called a turrent.
You are unlikely to remember a particular moment in January this year. While you were visiting your Dad and family in Gauteng, I’d had the fun of revamping your bedroom in your chosen colours : bright pink, purple and lime green. You weren’t aware of the extent of the work that had gone into it but every bit of effort was rewarded when you walked in : your eyes widened, the world paused, and you whispered “w-o-o-o-w”.
Never lose the power of “Wow”, my girl