The Self Employed Housewife - A Seaman's Wife's story Ch 5
The Self Employed Housewife
People in the neighborhood
The Mini that belonged to her Dutch next door neighbors, drove up their joint driveway, and Debbie’s husband Gerrit waved. He was a jolly man with a huge mustache. He worked on a fishing trawler and would soon be a captain of his own fishing boat. Their two boys climbed out of the car and followed Jeroen inside to see the new toy truck he got from his Dad. Shane, a little three year old toddler who was always on his own playing outside, wanted to join them , but he was clearly not welcome.
“Kids could be so cruel”, she thought.
Sascia was still holding onto her skirt. She was clearly still upset about the angry woman, who had implied that her mommy was guilty of something, she knew not what. The woman had by now disappeared into her home down the road.
“Sascia, why does nobody want to play with Shane?”
“Mommy he is dirty.”
Shane was crying. She felt sad for the little bugger, but he was rather odd. His misshapen body and his rather large tummy reminded her of photos of starving children in Africa. His parents, both in their twenties, lived two doors away. Both of them worked and a nanny looked after Shane and his baby sister during the day. Corrie said that Shane’s mother showed no love for her little boy whenever he tried to get her attention. Something was not normal, but what could she do?
The Lack of Social Skills
Jan came outside to see what all the commotion was all about. She was about to introduce him to her new Dutch friends but instead Gerrit, who was a lot shorter and rather hefty introduced himself and invited Jan for a beer.
She hoped that Jan would accept the friendly invitation and be social. She liked tall men, especially when they were also intelligent and trustworthy. Jan fitted that bill so why was she worried that others wouldn’t like him? Jan replied by saying that he never drank beer but was a wine drinker. She was about to interrupt, when Jan added that he had a job to finish and without any explanation he returned back to the garage.
Debbie stared at her husband as if to say: “I told you so.”
“Hermien what job does your hubby do when he is ashore?”
She explained about the belt order, and the hammering from inside the garage told the rest.
“Oh, I will have a look later if I may.” Gerrit replied as if nothing fazed him. If only Jan could be a bit more amicable with people he met for the first time. She suspected it had to do with her enthusiasm about the neighborhood. She was far more talkative. She often sensed that it irritated him, because inwardly she knew that she tried to compensate for his aloofness.
Addressing the Rumors
“What was the woman implying by asking what is going on in our garage?” Jan asked, peering at her with his pipe dangling from his mouth. She was surprised that he had heard, since he never stopped doing his job.
“I’ve no idea. I was just as flabbergasted as you. Corrie did warn me that the woman (I don’t know her name), was a bit strange and very unfriendly, so who knows.”
The loud shouting from inside the house brought an abrupt end to their conversation. She ran inside to see what the commotion was all about. Sascia was clearly angry with Debbie’s oldest boy. In a cute but bossy manner she told him off. She was the oldest by six months. Jeroen was crying. A wheel had come off his new truck. She could just imagine what had happened.
After fixing the wheel back on she ordered them all to play outside. She decided to have a talk with Jan when they were alone together having coffee, hoping that Sascia would not hang around. She would have to tell him about the horrible neighbor, but he would have to promise not do anything rash, since she saw his wife almost every day. His wife knew nothing about her husband’s behavior.
Weeks went by
The townhouses at the far end of the complex were almost finished. Some people had already moved in. There was no sign of the nasty woman, and besides she was so busy making leather accessories for a few boutiques, that time flew past. The belt order was delivered and paid for. She saved the money for a deposit on a car but every weekend paper advertised nothing suitable in her price range.
Sascia loved her school and she had enrolled Jeroen in a play school for two mornings a week. At first he didn’t like it but after he made friends with one boy, Jeroen seemed to adjust. He needed to learn to interact with more children than just the two little hooligans from next door, not to mention Shane, who now had a habit sitting and waiting for them on their front stoep every morning.
Lately she had started to give him breakfast, but the little boy had absolutely no table manners. He also didn’t speak, only grunted, as if there was something wrong with his vocal cords. What worried her most was the dirt on him. It looked like he had not had a bath for weeks.
No child in the neighborhood wanted to play with him, and Sascia and Jeroen didn’t like it when Shane was waiting for them. One morning early she spotted Shane’s mother leaving for work by car. Shane was running next to it, as if he wanted to say goodbye, but she ignored him and drove off. Her heart cringed from sadness, seeing his skinny legs as he ran bare feet on the tarred road still looking dirty.
On her walks to and from the school she often saw the son of the building contractor of the complex. He was a supervisor on the site. He was about twenty five, her age but that didn’t stop him from flirting with a married woman and the mother of two kids. Several times he asked her out, even for weekends. Twice he knocked on the front door, but she never invited him in. She kept him at bay by clearly showing that she didn’t take him seriously, threatening that she would tell her husband, but that didn’t seem to faze him. What was it with these South African men?
She contemplated asking Corrie’s husband for a lift on a day when he came home for lunch, so she could phone the woman who had the beetle for sale. She had said she could. Who knows the Beetle might still be there? It would be so handy if her friend would keep an eye on Sascia and Jeroen while they were playing with her two little girls outside her home. It was very safe, since their townhouses were in a cul-de-sac. What stopped her was Jan, since he had not been introduced to these friends.
She expected Jan home in around two days and this time she would invite all her neighbors around for a drink. She had planned it for when Jan was home, so he couldn’t object. That would also make the women in the complex more at ease. She sensed that some were wary because they kept asking about Jan. She had tried to find out if any of the people who lived near the entrance of Palm Springs worked for Unicorn shipping, but the one couple that Jim gave a lift to in the morning kept very much to themselves, and the unkind woman who had shouted at her seemed to have disappeared. The plumber next door never greeted her anymore.
Have you ever owned a Beetle?
Focusing on a car paid off
She chatted to Corrie and Jim over coffee one Saturday morning about phoning the owner of the Beetle, just in case and they were all for it. Jim took immediate action being his day off and so all four kids, and three adults squeezed in his car. Jim drove her to the phone booth while everyone waited outside. A woman’s voice answered and she explained who she was.
“I’ve been thinking of you, and I’m sorry that I never took your number. The car is still for sale. The young couple never turned up. When do you want to come to see it?”
She made thumbs up sign to Jim, who immediately stepped out of the car and joined her in the phone booth.
“They still have it! She asked me when I could come to see the car.” She whispered covering the receiver with her hand.
“Tell her you are on the way. Let me speak to her.” Jim took the phone and asked for the address, making arrangements to be there in two hours. Jim knew something about cars, and she had the deposit with her.
They arrived at a very upmarket estate in Umhlanga Rocks. There was a Beetle parked under a carport. It had big flowers on the roof and doors. She loved it. They took it for a test drive and Jim encouraged her to pay the deposit and make arrangements to pick the car up when Jan was home again. She did just that. It was the first time that she had made a major decision on her own without Jan’s approval. If only he would not be mad at her.
- The Self Employed housewife. (Ch 6)
Being a seaman’s wife meant making important decisions without her husband, but what if she made mistakes? Keeping busy was her way to cope with the loneliness.