Only love.

Dear friends and other interesting creatures,

My genes, my love, are rubber bands and rope –
make yourself a structure you can live inside.
– Aimee Bender

Growing up, my entire existence revolved around the blessing, forgiveness, joy or occasional disappointment my grandparents may have felt about me. Oupa Mike and Ouma Chrissie were the genes, love, rubber and rope that held the family together.

I only realised after Oupa Mike’s death in December 2007, that we had lost not only lost a grandfather, a father, a friend and talented, funny and gifted storyteller, a giant – but our moral compass – our rock as a family.

THE THUNDER OF APRICA MAY 2011 073

In the moments growing up when I briefly allowed myself to think about the death of these people I treasure, I imagined it would be Ouma Chrissie that was the “true North”. In my heart, I knew she would be devasted should Oupa die before her, but I had never grasped the true meaning of a broken heart… and that it would be fatal.

She died in all sense but breathing, the day he did. 56 years of happy marriage to her best friend was enough to bring her to her knees, literally. While she was present physically for another eighteen months or so, she really wasn’t there at all. She carried him in her heart and I believe he carried her.

I miss my grandparents more than words could describe. No wordsmith could do better than I, for silence is also a word.

I have been missing my Ouma Chrissie especially the past few days, but then, I realise that I’ve never truly seen her as an entity alone. In my mind, they are joined and therefore my missing is of the sense of wonder I felt when I was with them. To them I was never loud, I was never too much, or too little – I was just right. Always.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realise that life is fragile. Here today, and a tombstone tomorrow. I’ve been visiting my parents more often, not because I fear their death, but because I fear not living with them while they are here.

I want to hear my Dad speak to my Mom. I smile at their conversations when they think they are alone, and the way their words seem to console, tenderly embracing each other, desperately aware of time moving forward. I want to fill my heart with more memories.

Life is not kind. Life is not patient. Life does not forgive all wrongs.

Only love.

I wish you enough,

Wenchy

The River 

The summers were sweltering. Walking towards a braai fire to greet you, I remember the extra warmth of the fire clearly. I remember your smile and the true happiness as we said hello.

You had clearly already started the Merry part of Christmas. I expected nothing less. You always were more of a bottle than a glass kind of guy. The Vaal river was running strong behind the trees and it soothed our souls. 

I hear the laughter coming from the kitchen. Hands clapping. My face exploding in a smile as I enter the house and I know I had been spotted. Hugs so pure and with such delight that it had the power to raise the dead. 

All was well in the world.

Even if contact was broken over long periods of time, I always knew you loved me, as I loved you. It was a rare connection. 

I think of you and the river, with a hole in my heart, a tear in my eye and a smile playing on my lips as I close my eyes. I’m a “monkey’s wedding”. Raining with sunshine.

Since you left this earth earlier this year, I’ve been more aware of you. Somehow you are closer. I’ve told nobody for the fear of sounding more absurd than usual. Maybe I needed the shoulder to lean on. Thank you for lingering.

Even though we both know you were not an angel, I felt safe knowing you are in my world. The landscape is forever changed.

I know now that the river had nothing to do with soothing our souls. It was the people that surrounded us with their love, acceptance and our sense of belonging. The laughter, catching fish and swimming with frogs is gone. Those hugs that could raise the dead, has died. 

Just as we were, in that moment, we were enough.
Stel x

PS. “Jy weet mos”. 

42 you said?

Dear friends, family and other interesting creatures,

Some bonds cannot be broken. Not even in death.

It may be 17 years since Tim died, but I had a very real sense of him yesterday. I could not understand why he lingered yesterday. Nothing out of the ordinary happened. Usually I am able to pin point an emotional from him, a smile, a look in his eye – yesterday I just felt him here.

He always visits, sitting on the right hand side of the bed, regardless of venue. Before he died, we had never even been in a bedroom together before.

Seeing Tim isn’t scary or creepy. It can be both comforting and heart breaking. Sometimes I smile, other times I feel renewed grief.

I am not big on “speaking to the dead”, or “crossing over”. I’m merely relating that somehow Tim keeps contact. Often followed up the next day or two in a quote or a song, an item that was of value only to us.

Have you ever experienced anything like this?

I wish you enough,
Wenchy

The Nocturnal Wenchy

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Dear Tim,

I’ve told you before. The thing with death is, I have no new pictures of you. So I had to improvise a little.

As I have been preparing for my Grahamstown festival trip next month, I could not help but think of you. Do you remember?

You were in school uniform. Matric blazer. I was sitting on the steps of the church on the square in Grahamstown. I went to a private school so no uniform. I remember I was wearing a very stretched out purple jersey and brown leather shoes I had bought at the festival.

(Remains the most expensive shoes I’ve ever owned. Haha! I would much rather buy books. I had no idea at the time how much purple was still to follow.)

The sun was setting.

You came and sat next to me. I had never seen you before. You sat, silently. I remember…

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For the good times

Dear friends and other interesting creatures,
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This reminded me of beautiful you,  Victoria . My youngest biological child.

The way you use to look at me with wonder when you were little.

I told you if they could one man on the moon, why couldn’t they put all of them there?  🙂 

You seemed to think I knew answers.

I love you chicken little.

I’m sorry for the bad times,  let’s raise a cup of tea to the good times. #theoriginalcast

I wish for you never to be afraid of depth.

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Momma xxx

Posted from the galaxy of Samsung from the second cloud on your left.

.. so lui die ou, ou sprokie my kind

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As die reën van stof en roet verby is
en die rook verdwyn
Sal daar in die sterrelose hemel
‘n neonboog verskyn

En kyk maar goed,
want as jy hom vind
vertel ek vir jou ‘n sprokie my kind,
van ‘n skatkis met ou kettings gebind
aan die neonboog se punt

Volg hom elke nag oor swart riviere
Oor kranse van beton,
as jy aanhou stap
tien duisend ure
sal jy dalk daar kom

Maar hier moet jy jou nimmer laat bind
want so lui die ou, ou sprokie my kind,
As jy geluk en vreugde wil vind
soek die neonboog se punt

Volg hom elke dag oor swart riviere
kyk nie eenmaal om
Dalk vind jy die land van blou saffiere
en dalk ‘n brokkie son

Sprokie vir ‘n stadskind – Koos du Plessis

Ek weet,  en jy weet en dis genoeg. –  Toy

Stel xxx

 

… love never ends, if you keep it alive.

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Dear friends and other interesting creatures,

14 December 1984. I always count until a second before 19h00 thinking…. I also had a Dad. After that, nothing.

At 19h05, I dry my face and resume life. I’ve done this ritual for as long as I remember.
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My life was forever changed from that moment. I was 11 years old. Oupa Mike was crying. I felt confused. Oupa Mike didn’t cry.

I remember just observing, not grasping the depth of what just happened. I do remember my Mammie’s desperate grief, the tears that made her physically ill, the hopelessness and the forever you were not going to come back for.

I remember how loudly you laughed, I do remember you playing the guitar and singing. I remember milkshake and biltong. I remember someone placed a guitar made from flowers on your grave. It reminded me of Elvis.

I remember you, but you voice is silent in my memories. I hate I can’t remember what you sound like.

Oupa Mike stepped in and became my Dad. Solid. Dependable. Protective. How very blessed I am! Then, Dad Alex took us all on his shoulders.
imageYou are the fallen leaf on my new tattoo, on the left. There are two falling to the ground in remembrance of Oupa Mike and Ouma Chrissie.

Ek onthou.
Stel.

Shut your eyes and see.

Dear friends and other interesting creatures, 

Every year,  I do my best to approach December as a passage of time, just another month. Some years I do better than others.

The anniversary of my father’s death is on the 14th, and my Oupa Mike on the 12th… Just before Christmas is Oupa Mike’s birthday.

I remember the eleven year old me running into the safety of Oupa Mike’s arms the night my father died.

I remember a 14 year old Kev holding me the morning Oupa Mike died. The unsure reassurance we offered each other.

December holds memories I don’t want to remember, but just can’t forget.

I have found Christmas more difficult since the kids moved out. At least when the kids were home,  I had a reason to go through the motions. They all have their own lives.  Own friends.  New traditions and memories to make. I never want to guilt them into visiting.

It leaves me yearning for a yesterday  when I would decorate the table, put gifts under the tree and we would pretend whatever I burnt,  undercooked or completely stuffed up was the best thing ever.  🙂 I usually would redeem myself with pudding at least!

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I know if we stay home it will be like any given Sunday.  I want to feel something, go somewhere, make my heart dance…. but going out is double the price for Christmas, and having the kids all together is near impossible. Besides,  wherever you go,  you take yourself with you.  🙂 

How do YOU hold a moonbeam in your hand and have yourself a merry little Christmas?

I wish you enough,
Wenchy

Posted from the galaxy of Samsung from the second cloud on your left.

A name, I call myself…

Dear friends and other interesting creature,

My parents shared they were desperately wanting a little girl when they were pregnant with me.  Which is awesomeness cause I never wanted to be a boy.

As I understand it, my almost 20 year old father went to register me and decided Christine, the name they had chosen, after my Ouma Chrissie is not for me. See, he clearly already understood me them.

My mom tells me that my father was very much like my son Liam James. Charming.  Good looking. Always busy with a budding business idea.

My father and the lady behind the counter decided Christel is a gorgeous name. My father thought my Oupa Mike also needed acknowledgement and added Michel. ( … a Beetles song I’ve had both sober and drunk men sing to me. #bless) Having dyslexia, my father did not go for the usual spelling of either name.

It was the age of the double barrel name, and when the lady behind the counter suggested it to my father, he could probably just hear how fanTy that truly is.
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Christel-Michel is one name. One initial.  Its not Christel.  It’s Christel-Michel. Force yourself. The people behind my father in line is owed at least that.

Wenchy is who I am or who I became as life happened.  If you love me and can’t imagine your life without me, then it’s Stel. I’m am Afrikaanse boeremeisie at heart and its Aunty Stel if you remotely younger than me and I am very old. 

I do love the name my parents gave me. I do love Wenchy because it holds very dear memories for me. Most of all I just love how you say my name as if it’s just been born.

I wish you enough,
Wenchy

In conversation with Liam James

Dear friends and other interesting creatures,

I’ve slowly been building up a series of interviews I have done with the kids in my life. Kinda get their perception of me…. So far I’ve published Kyle and Kyla ‘s answers to my many questions. Go check them out.

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Today’s is a little different. I found a post where I had interviewed my son Liam James when he was 12, and also now the answers he gave me at 19. I think you are going to laugh at this one. On the 12-year-old interview… I especially enjoyed his response to question 10 and number 18 is a comedian in the making! Don’t even mention his reply to question 21!!

LIAM JAMES (12)

Liam as a 12 year old

1. What is something mom always says to you? You can do better.
2. What makes mom happy? When she is with her kids, knowing she has enough money so the kids will have food on the table.
3. What makes mom sad? When we disappoint her, when she doesn’t get her way, when we talk to her ugly.
4. How does your mom make you laugh? She says those fanTy words… and these interviews!
5. What did your mom like to do as a child? She liked to read books, ride her bicycle and spend time with her uncle Chris.
6. How old is your mom? 35
7. How tall is your mom? Like 5.1 cm?? I don’t know. Whatever the right height thingie is.
8. What is her favorite thing to watch on TV? Grey’s Anatomy. Idols.
9. What does your mom do when you’re not around? She spends time with @SirNoid and tries to have fun.
10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for? Acting. She is such a drama queen.

Liam James

11. What is your mom really good at? She is really really good at singing, acting and cooking.
12. What is your mom not very good at? She is not very good at maths and getting to places on time and that’s about it.
13. What does your mom do for her job? Does accounting and manages people’s monies.
14. What is your mom’s favorite food? Souskluitjies.
15. What makes you proud of your mom? She has been there for me and is always looking after me.
16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be? I think Donald Duck.
17. What do you and your mom do together? We shop.
18. How are you and your mom the same? We take medicine, we both very emotional and we both not very good in the head.
19. How are you and your mom different? I think we are different because I’m a dude and she is a dudette and I don’t care about my weight and she does…. And I love to eat allot and allot.
20. How do you know your mom loves you? Because she goes out of her way to do things for me, except for the one time when she went to Gold Reef City without me. I know you love me because you care for me and always try to make things better.
21. What does your mom like most about your dad (the x-person)?This may take a while… give me a few hours or some days… Sorry I can’t think of anything.
22. Where is your mom’s favorite place to go? Cape Town (without us). Is this interview over?


My Lee has a truly beautiful, sensitive and giving heart who loves to go to the gym and eat cheese. Cheese is a big deal in his life. He always tells me he eats Strawberry Pops when he misses me (May I just mention, I have not had any since I started banting a year ago).  It is only Liam James and Ouma Chrissie that I know always puts on body lotion whenever they come in contact with water. He is big on hydration and installed a water drinking challenge app on my phone to make sure I drink enough water.

He understands me very well (my weaknesses and strengths) and while he can come across abrupt at times he is actually a very thoughtful person. He likes to visit with friends but like me, also needs solitude. He prefers living “in the countrybecause he says “not even the birds sound sincere in the city”. Ha ha ha! I loved that comment.

We do laugh and talk enthusiastically (meaning loudly!) when we are together. Lee adapts to a situation with ease. He is able to walk up, introduce himself and off you go. He may hook up with the cleaner and the CEO in one evening. No problem. He speaks to anyone and treats people equally. He does not judge. He has a very low threshold for people who they think are better than another because of their financial status. The boy also did not come with tact. His words are out before his brain has any chance of filtering that information... remind you of anyone?

He is the one who will take off his shoes and give it to another, with no second thought. I will never forget that he asked for a Bar One as a Christmas gift one year, … and another time he just wanted packets of jelly for his birthday. (We are not alike in this department.) Lee is a dreamer. Lovable, never boring and quick-witted. He is also as naughty as hell can handle, and creates mayhem with ease!

Liam James is really easy on the eye, and has a certain charm about him… he calls me MOTHER btw. Nutter. Who does that? 🙂

My blue-eyed wonder whom I love very, very, very much….. My one and only shot at any of my kids having I LOVE MOM tattooed on them! 🙂  Love you my darling boy. Wishing all your big dreams come true, that your life works out the way you would like and not in the corner you have been pushed. Remember, push back.  (Things Maureen says… inside joke…)

LIAM JAMES (19)

Liam 19 6

1. Is there something I say to you often? I love you

2. What makes me happy? Purple giraffes and seeing your kids in one place.

3. What makes me sad? Feeling helpless and when you cannot help your kids.

4. How do I make you laugh? You just be yourself around me.

5. What do you think I was like at your age? Fun, exciting – not a trouble maker.

6. How old am I? 14

7. How tall am I? 5ft 5

8. What is my favourite thing to do? Besides the obvious spending time with your family… Reading.

9. What do you think I do when you are not here? I think you work.

10. If I was famous, what would I be famous for? Social Media Empire.

11. What am I really good at? You are good at making people feel loved.

12.  What is I very bad at? Hmm very tough question aha making pancakes!

13. What do I do at work? Make other people famous.

14. What is my favourite food? I think salmon and eggs and cream cheese.

15. What makes you proud of me? You will to survive and adapt in any situation.

16. If I was a character on TV or Movies , who would I  be? Judy Garland.

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17. What do you and I do together that you enjoy? Talking I think.

18. In which way are you and I the same? We have sympathy for poor people.

19. What do you and I disagree about? Lol everything!

20. How do you know that I love you? You keep me out of jail.

21. What do I like about @SirNoid? I actually don’t know … he is really awesome and makes you happy.

22. Where do I love to go? Cape Town and Drakensberg.

23. Is there a song that reminds you of me? Jolene –  Dolly Parton

24. Where is my favourite place to go on holiday?  Uvongo, use to be don’t know if it still is. 

25. If you introduce me to your friends,  what do you call me?  This is my mom Wenchy or Aunty Stel.

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I wish you enough,

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The day I said YES to myself!

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Dear friends and other interesting creatures,

It was the scariest and bravest thing I ever did…. I left.

I was 24 years old with 2 small boys and thought to myself,  “I don’t care if we are alone forever, but we won’t be here…. and I’ll never be afraid of Friday again.”

Happy Friday darlings!

I wish you enough,
Wenchy