One year we had all the family at our house for Christmas. The “family” consisted mostly out of the sorry, knifing bunch on my father’s side. Though that year my maternal grandmother was also present, Ouma Issie. She was my favourite and ,though it’s probably wrong, I think I was hers too. She died a few years back in an horrible car accident…
To me she was the only redeeming person present. Maybe it’s just because she actually gave me the time of day. The other family members did not– to them kids, and in particular myself, was a nuisance. We always got in the way and bothered the grownups who were busy doing grownup stuff.
That particular christmas they made an exception and I was allowed to sit very quietly in the lounge and hear the grownups talk. I felt so wonderfully mature! Only in hindsight do I see how foolish I was. Only had I stayed outside and climbed a tree or something. Anything to keep my impending puberty at bay…
Grownups aren’t any better than children. Only, grown-ps do not realise this because their worlds are devoid of innocence and magic.
Whilst sitting in the corner, the adult conversation was seeing the effects of the merry intake of food and drink. They began to reminisce about the old times. You know, the old times when everything was better. And you were happier and life was simpler and all the shit of the world had not yet hit the fan. People tend to idolize and romanticize over the past.
Somebody was relating an humorous anecdote when my grandmother, who like myself, had also been sitting quietly, suddenly speaks.
Once her husband, when he was a boy, had been sent by his father to the neigbouring farm on an urgent errand. While taking a shortcut through a veld, he came upon a lamb. It was newly born, but the lamb was dying. The boy, who was no stranger to the death of animals on a farm, suddenly felt such great heartache and love for this poor forsaken lamb. He gingerly picked up the lamb and took it back to the farm.
His father saw him coming up the dirt road with the lamb cradled in his arms. Greatgrandfather was a hard man. He took the whip he had with him and walked up to his son. “What’s this. Tommie?”
“Pa, he’s dying.”
“Where’s the stuff I sent you for?”
Silence. Tommie looked up at his father just when the whip came down on his shoulder. He dropped the lamb. Young Tommie cried out, fell to the ground and covered the lamb with his body while the whip came raining down upon him.
Silence. The party in the lounge feel a bit uncomfortable and most of them wonder why, oh why, some people just gotta be such downers?
Slowely conversation springs up again and it’s just my Ouma and I who sit silently. While under the glare of a vulture like aunt, I go sit next to my gran.
“Did the lamb surive, Ouma?”
Conspiraterly she winks and gives me a little smile.