The Self Employed Housewife – Diary of a foreigner – Book two Ch 4
Her new neighbor Judy, an Afrikaans mother of two was nice enough, but the first thing she saw was her very bad complexion. How horrible that acne could leave such marks. Sadly the whole time during the braai she talked about illnesses. Her two boys looked healthy enough but being older than Jeroen by three years or more, they ignored them both. It must have been the language, because they only spoke Afrikaans, as did Mike, her short pudgy husband who tried to engage Jan in conversation about rugby. They never followed the Springboks, a South African rugby team on TV and Jan’s pipe smoking seemed to have bothered Judy. She kept coughing, even outside.
“Do you like speaking Afrikaans?” she asked Jan when they returned home. He was carrying Jeroen who was by then fast asleep.
“I speak it every day at work. They are all Afrikaans speaking except for you know who.” He meant his Dutch colleague who had lived and sailed on lake Malawi.
“Mommy I do not like these boys. They never ask Jeroen and me to play with them.”
“Did you speak Afrikaans, or English to them?”
“English, like we speak at school, they do not understand when we speak Dutch, and I do not like speaking Afrikaans.” She said it with such an arrogant tone, gosh where had she picked that up from? It was Sascia’s turn to sleep on the top bunk bed, which was just as well. Jeroen never woke up when she changed him into his pajamas. He was feeling warm. She wondered if he had a temperature.
“Jan, what do you think?” Jeroen was a sickly child, but she didn’t want to be like her new neighbor, talking in front of her kids about their ailments. Really!
“He might be fine tomorrow. It’s always up and down with him. It’s late, so let’s go to bed.”
“It’s only ten o’clock! I want to read my book.” She knew that irritated him, but she was wide awake after their visit next-door.
Entertaining at home
Two weeks later Judy asked why she never came around to visit. Judy had visited her on several mornings while she was working in her outside workroom, so she had not bothered, and they had so little in common. Jan had not spoken to her husband again, but she felt obliged to organize a braai party in their back garden. Jan Liked holding a barbecue as long as she organized everything. If she asked Jenny and Marisa with their husbands and kids to join them, then Jan would not need to entertain the neighbors husband. He was happy enough looking after the meat.
Overseas phone calls
“Jan do you mind if I go and visit Jenny after dinner?” He was reading the paper and smoking his pipe in the lounge.
“Not if you do not stay away too long. I might get a phone call from work” The kids were playing in the bath. Jan would read them a story after they had finished. That was still their favorite routine while she cleared the dishes.
“Really, do you have to go to work tonight?”
“Mommy Jeroen is hitting me!” The noises from the bathroom made them both realize that Sascia was growing up and started to get impatient with her younger brother. They were only two years apart, and Jeroen was getting more boisterous.
“Jeroen leave your sister alone. Get dressed and you can pick the book for Daddy to read.” Her seven year old boy still looked skinny and his dark shadows under his big blue eyes kept worrying her, as she wrapped him in a large bath towel.
“Where are you going?” Sascia must have seen the car keys in her hand.
“To aunt Jenny, asking if they all want to come for a braai this weekend.”
“Will Oliver come too?” Jeroen asked.
“Of course, and the new neighbors with their two boys.”
That started a whole debate, so she left Jan to deal with it. What she really wanted to do was join her two friends at the phone booth near Pat’s second hand bookshop. She hadn’t told Jan that she was going to try phoning her sister and mother from a phone booth. Both Jenny and Marisa had done it successfully two weeks ago. She truly hoped it still worked with just one coin!
“I’ll be back in one hour, I promise.” She was driving the Beetle, so Jan could leave in his company car if there was an emergency, but they had never left the kids on their own in the house before. Sascia was already eight and a half but far too young to be on her own looking after her younger brother.
Feeling like a criminal
There were two phone booths. Both Marisa and Jenny were each chatting inside to their family when she arrived. She waited outside hoping that nobody else would need to use the phone.
“Oh good we waited for you.” Jenny said after she hung up. I’ll show you what you must do. Give me your mom’s phone number.”
Her heart was pumping knowing that what they were doing was grossly illegal. After putting a ten cent coin into the phone, she watched while Jenny forced her finger inside the dialing wheel back fast every time she dialed the next number. She then listened and winked.
“Here, quick. Someone is picking up.”
“Mommy, is that you?” she rattled quickly in Dutch. Her mother was in shock when she recognized it was her.
“What’s wrong? What has happened?”
It was stupid of her not to phone her sister first. She should have prepared her mom for her phone call. Now she had to explain why she phoned and why it was from a phone booth. It took a while for her mom to grasp that the call was only costing her one coin. She kept asking if everything was okay.
“Mom I now have to hang up and phone Jolanda.”
“They are not at home. Why?” Again she tried to explain what they were doing, but by now both Jenny and Marisa were making signs for her to finish the call. They were getting clearly anxious, and so was she. After at least twenty minutes she had only paid ten cent for an overseas call! It had worked! They could not stop giggling when they walked back to their cars.
“And, what did you mom say?”
“She kept asking if there was something wrong, because we never phone them unless it’s their birthdays.”
“Really? You never talk to your mom, not even from your land line?” Marisa asked
“We have a land line because Jan’s firm pays for it, so he does not want me to use it, only for emergencies. And how is your brother Marisa, he started his new job not so?”
“That’s what we all thought. Can you believe it? He packed everything up, gave up his flat, enrolled the kids into a new school and moved temporarily in with his wife’s parents until they found somewhere to rent. Guess what happened?”
It was a warm November evening and Jenny and Marisa came in one car, so they were chatting outside.
“What?” They both asked
“My brother arrived on the day that he was scheduled to start his new job only to be told that the job was no longer available!” They were both shocked.
“Is that legal, is that allowed?” she asked. “How can a company do that to anybody?” They chatted some more and they both accepted her invitation to come with their families to the barbecue the coming weekend.
Dealing with major disappointments
On her drive home she thought about how Marisa’s story reminded her of their disappointment when they first arrived in Melbourne. While they were still living in Holland they met Jan’s uncle and his wife at his parent’s home. They had been on a family visit. His uncle had emigrated many years ago to Australia and lived in Melbourne. He worked for a market gardener company but wanted to start his own, and when Jan told him that they were keen to emigrate to Australia, his uncle was immediately keen for them both to join them in Melbourne. He loved the idea of starting a market garden business with Jan his nephew.
Jan was still at home; his car was parked in the driveway. Gosh she had completely forgotten about how Jan had been disillusioned by his uncle. After living in Fisherman's Bend Hostel in Port Melbourne for six months, while he worked in a nearby factory because his merchant navy papers were not recognized by the Australian government , they kept hoping that Jan’s uncle was still keen to start a garden business with Jan. Every time they drove to their place for a visit his uncle no longer spoke about starting his own business. They had arrived in Australia with some money but Jan had wanted to invest that in the proposed joint market garden business.
When it became clear that his uncle had changed his mind, they bought a house and Jan started a house painting business with someone else. He hated every moment of it. Jan never truly expressed his hurt, but she knew that he had been hurt by his uncle. During the four years they were there she was never allowed to tell his uncle why they had come to Melbourne because Jan felt it was his mistake to have believed in him.
In her heart she felt sorry for Jan because he bottled up his feelings. When she entered i the lounge she gave him a hug and a kiss. “Hi there did you already make coffee?”
“No, I waited for you. Did you ask them for a braai?” For the first time she became aware of the strong smell of his pipe tobacco in the room.
“Yes they are coming Saturday around five. I’m glad you do not have to go to work tonight. After coffee I’m going to take a long soak in the bath and then let’s go to bed.”
That was the first time she had mentioned the going to bed part. She had looked at Jan from a different perception. He was a good man whom she could rely upon.