The Self Employed Housewife - A Seaman's Wife's story Ch 7
The Self Employed Housewife
The children woke them both up early by jumping on their bed. Jeroen seemed to be fine again, with no temperature. What did worry her were the dark shadows under his big blue eyes.
“Mommy when are we going to get our car?” Sascia had already packed her backpack with things to do in the train.
“Moppie, after breakfast we will walk to the train station. Maybe you should help Jeroen with his back pack” giving her something to do might just calm her down.
They were invited to join the sellers of the car for a barbeque, a braai as they called it. They were an Afrikaans family in Umhlanga Rocks. Jan loved using the small barbeque in their tiny courtyard when he was home. She would prepare the salads and the kids loved eating boerewors, a typical Afrikaans traditional sausage. She was never so keen on it. For her chicken and a big mushroom with onions wrapped in aluminum foil was more of a treat.
Their last trip by train
Walking to the taxi rank in Malvern next to the train station was what she usually did. This time the kids were almost running the whole way. The taxi fare for the trip into town was far more expensive, and the kids loved the train.
Jeroen was happily jumping up and down on the platform that would take them into Durban. From the main station they would take a taxi to Umhlanga Rocks.
“You said that you have been there by car. Was it a long drive?” Jan asked
“No daddy it was short, really?” Sascia replied
“I can’t remember, about forty minutes?” Sascia’s frowning expression made her realize that she was picking up on her own apprehensive feeling about Jan not liking to drive a long distance.
Jan had gone to the bank yesterday after she had reminded him several times, to draw the rest of the money. He had gone on his own and came back with meat for the barbeque. That was the custom in Australia, to bring your own meat and somehow they suspected it might be the same in South Africa.
The drive in the taxi to the address in Umhlanga Rocks (a very affluent suburb) was an eye opener for Jan. She was a still apprehensive. It was the first time that they had been invited by a South African family where everybody spoke Afrikaans. She could follow it if they talked slowly. Afrikaans did have a rather childish feeling to it compared to Dutch. Some words they used were really funny, and how they expressed them was even more simplistic, but they had better not let them know that.
The first time she had traveled with Corrie and Jim to look at the Beetle had been great fun. The Beetle had belonged to the daughter of the family who had left to study in Stellenbosch, a university town near Cape Town.
This time she hoped that they were all properly dressed.
“Mommy are these people very rich?” Sascia whispered as they walked up the steep driveway. It was only later that they spotted the steps next to the driveway.
“Very well off I would say” Jan replied. He was carrying Jeroen on his shoulders.
They were greeted in a friendly casual way, and the lady of the house introduced them to some couples of different age groups. Jan greeted them in what he thought was Afrikaans, but she couldn’t do that. It was like twisting their Dutch language to such a degree, more like talking as if they were small children.
Sascia and Jeroen were used to playing with English speaking children and her two friends at Palm Springs were from the UK, so neither of them said a word at the beginning. Jeroen was practically hiding behind her longish skirt.
To her great surprise Jan was in his element chatting in Afrikaans with two of the men who both also smoked a pipe. The rest were all smokers, so she joined them on their outside deck in the front overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
The older couple, the hostess’s parents, were from somewhere inland. They were farmers, but she had no idea where their farm was and didn’t want to ask. They apparently bred chickens and some cattle. Jan was really enjoying himself. She had not heard him talk this much for a long time.
The children were happily playing with two other children who were a bit older but they seemed to like entertaining them. Sascia spoke English to them and as usual dragged her little brother along.
While she was in the kitchen helping with the salads, Jan went for a test drive with the man of the house. They drove to a café to buy more ingredients for the meal. She was trying to follow the Afrikaans conversation between the other women, more or less pretending to understand them. When they asked her when they had arrived in South Africa, she explained in English that they had been in the country for four months and that before that they had lived for four years in Australia.
They seemed to have no problem with her replying in English after she apologized for not really managing Afrikaans as well as Jan.
“Are you alright driving the Beetle? Since it’s been a while since you have driven a car.” The hostess asked while grinding a lot of garlic into the salad. If only she knew how much Jan hated garlic, but she wasn’t about to tell her.
“I think I will be fine. We had a Holden in Australia. That is where I learned to drive.” They had no idea what kind of car a Holden was, and her English vocabulary was not sufficient to describe a typical Australian make. She tried to tell it in Dutch, but she completely lost them.
Private swimming pool.
“Mommy look!” Sascia had a swimming costume on and was dripping wet. She hadn’t seen a pool, so that alarmed her somewhat.
“Where is Jeroen?”
“Playing near the pool, but he will not go in the water. I have been in the water. Come mommy.”
Now she was alarmed. Who was looking after them? They had had a portable pool in Australia, but they were never allowed to go in by themselves.
When she followed Sascia to the back garden the tropical oasis was truly enchanting. Gosh why were they not having a barbeque here, instead of the deck in the front of the house?
Jeroen was playing on the side of a shallow kiddie’s pool, not deeper than half a meter. What a relief. The older children were playing and swimming in the larger pool at the other end, and two black nannies were apparently babysitting two small toddlers she hadn’t seen yet.
She would not have minded staying, but she was called away to join the adults because the food was ready. She insisted that Sascia and Jeroen come along with her to get some food. She was not going to cook a meal when they were home again.
The return journey
They left after six in their own car. She was ecstatic. Jan drove. They had kindly given them a map and she was map reading. Jan had pulled the seat down at the back and the children were happily lying in the back. There was enough room for them to even sleep there. How handy.
Jeroen fell asleep by the time they were home.
“Are you not happy now that we can drive to wherever we want to go?” She asked Jan, looking sideways at him smoking his pipe. Jan nodded. He was clearly happy having his own transport.
“Yes I must admit it is a good thing not to have to walk to the train station or the phone booth.”
“Mommy we can now go to the drive in, like Danny’s mom and dad often do.” Sascia was still wide awake, hanging over her. Her hair was wet from the swimming pool but Jeroen never went in. She wondered if they would ever see these Afrikaans people again.
“We will see, maybe when daddy is home again OK” turning back to her little girl who was still wide awake made her all happy inside. She could now start to explore their neighborhood if she felt like it, while the kids were happily playing in the back.
When they drove into Palm Springs little Shawn was sitting on the pavement in front of their garage. Where were his parents?
“Who is that kid, and what is he doing up so late?” Jan asked. It was well after seven. She explained about Shawn, the neglected toddler belonging to the couple three doors down. He recognized her as she stepped out of the Beetle. The excitement on his grubby face at seeing Sascia waving at him from inside the car, made her feel sad for the lonely child.
At that moment his dad called him. Shawn was clearly glad to see his Dad, because he ran home barefoot as if his life depended on it....
- The Self Employed Housewife. (Ch 8)
A whole new world lay at her feet now that she had a car to drive all around Durban while her children were safe in the back playing. She felt far more independent.