“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
― Jorge Luis Borges
Life is an open book.
We each have our individual stories that we play out in our own different ways. We have plans, ambitions and desires but life takes over. I look at the chapters of my life thirty years ago. In them, Gaynor was an ambitious actress and there was no stopping her. Then ‘Life’ intervened. As a result, a still ambitious Gaynor, but a Gaynor of a different kind is writing this today.
Nowadays people don’t keep photo albums. They have their photographs stored on their iPads, iPhones or computers. Mums is of the generation before social media took over. As a result she has shelves full of photograph albums. How I adore sitting in her lounge and leafing through the memories. Her and Dad’s memories. And the memories of us four children.
Pictures of her as a spindly schoolgirl with hair in two long plaits; Dad in his rugby gear; his eyes and hers colliding deliciously with one another; Mums in her nurses outfit; the two of them on their wedding day. Then we four children entered the fray. Patch with his cricket bat in hand; Liz doing an art project; Megs looking unbearably cute in the bath, me wearing my first long skirt….
All chapters which we have written day by day, month by month, year by year. All stored in our own Book of Life.
I turn a page of the photo album and all of a sudden I have entered the Farm Chapter.
My Dad studied agriculture at university but never had the money to go farming. Then a family friend bought a hop farm in George and asked Dad to manage it. Dad felt as if all his dreams had come true. He left Johannesburg that week and moved down to the farm. Mums duly sold the house, upped sticks and joined him two months later. My memories of the farm before my fall are hazy but the photographs serve to jog memories to the surface.
Dad’s Chapter on the farm was possibly the most enjoyable part of his Book. For the first time, he was doing what he loved. As well as hops, Dad farmed sheep and cows. A well known sight was Dad in his bakkie together with the 5 dogs touring the ‘highways and byways’ of our farm. Mums had been a ‘townie’ all her life. A year after being on the farm, you would never have guessed it. Visiting the farm, I opened the oven warming drawer to find two baby lambs looking up at me sleepily.
“It’s lovely and warm and the sound it makes soothes them,” said Mums a little defensively.
I watched in amazement as my mother fed thirteen hanslammetjies and four calves with big bottles of milk. All evidence that the ‘townie’ had vanished. Her Chapter on the farm showed a person who entered into the spirit of things with a determined, laughing gusto.
I gazed at a photograph of Dad looking at his cows and suddenly a memory bounced into my mind with clarity and strength. I remembered going for a walk with our three Maltese poodles, Jordache, Smiley and Pee Wee. It was a gorgeous, sunny day in September and I was singing a song to mark the occasion.
Try to remember the kind of September when grass and grain was yellow
Try to remember the kind of September when you were a tender and callow fellow
Try to remember and if you remember then follow
Two of the dogs bounced on ahead and Jordie, the aged one, lollipped gently behind. We came to a beautiful pasture with cows dotted in clusters and stunning mountains framing the blue of the sky. I ran calling the dogs as I sprinted nimbly to the centre of the field. Then I stood there, shut my eyes and took a deep breath. I opened them, looked skywards and said out loud:
“Sometimes, Lord, the days you create are sensational. This is one of them, thank You!”
I ambled on throwing a stick for Pee Wee. The cows caught my eye. They were no longer spotted around the field but had merged into a group and seemed to be moving towards us.
‘How sweet,’ I thought, ‘they are curious and are coming to greet us.’
“And a very good morning to you, Angel-Faces!” I called out to this steadily advancing horde.
The two dogs had stopped their carefree bounding and were now eyeing the cows with a growing distrust. The cows continued their inexorable stride towards us. Indeed they seemed to have picked up their pace and were actually trotting forward. Pee Wee was the first to turn tail and run, followed closely by Smiley. As the dogs began to run, so too did the huge gathering of cows. I took one look at this melee of stampeding, mooing, creatures hurtling towards us and decided there was only one thing to do. Join the dogs and run!!! I was pleased to see that Jordache had begun running a while back. Indeed the dogs were all way ahead of this ‘nimble sprinter’ who was gasping with exertion. The cows seemed to be getting closer. I could practically feel their breath on my back. As I approached the fence I thought: ‘I am not going to have time to go under it. A massive vault is called for!’
It is amazing what one can do in dire circumstances. I vaulted that fence like a winning Olympic athlete. I sat on the ground on the one side of the fence and eyed the bellowing multitude on the other.
My Book had gained another chapter. A Chapter connected to cows!
So many Chapters contained in these photograph albums. They are vital to me whose memory is sporadic because of my fall offstage. I like to know, as far as possible, what is contained in my Book. People have told me of incidents that are a total blank to me. Three months later, I am apt to wake up with a recounted scene clear and detailed in my mind. My memory works like that. At the same time, I am aware that certain parts of my brain have been killed off and with it certain memories have gone.
Never to return.
Recently my mother’s bestie and a wonderful friend of mine, Jean Boonzaier, died. Her Book’s final page was read and the Book was closed. It will be put on the bookshelf where it will be picked up and bits of it read again and again by those that loved her. When someone’s Book closes the loss is felt by those that loved that individual. Indeed through my tears, I was laughing at the lively, warm spirit that was Jean. An immense person resided in that body of hers. A person whose laughter, wisdom, listening ability and mischievous remarks I will greatly miss. Indeed I will often take out her Book and read the parts relevant to me with longing and love.
I don’t want any regrets in my Book about the way I have related to people. I keep on reminding myself to love. That is the thing I would like my Book to show.
That I have loved!