Sunday, June 3, 2012


Yesterday, my Aunt Emmy and my Uncle Walt left South Africa after a two week visit.  It is the first family who have made the trek out here from the States, besides our two children, Vince and Alicia who lived briefly with us here. 

The visit revived me, bringing in the much needed injection of family life into our house – our own little Johannesburg cottage hosted my Aunt and Uncle!  I made a lemon meringue pie one night with my Auntie in my own kitchen, and while I made it, she snacked on small pretzels like she does in Tracy, and we chatted about family events casually as I cooked.   It struck me that she was snacking in my kitchen, and I became happy in a way that was incredibly satisfying.  My Auntie was eating small South African pretzels, and walking around my counter like all of the other counters she walks around “back home”.

I loved the fact that they hung out with us on our back porch and we chatted over chicken and salad and had to watch for mosquitoes together.  I love the fact that they saw the silliness of the neighboring geese who squawk for nothing.  I loved how they met our friends and witnessed part of our life’s work here.   Most of all, I loved my Aunties random hugs, which she gave me constantly.  

It reminded me of my own mom....

Just before they arrived here, an interesting thing happened.  One of my “heroes” (an American editor I admire) accepted the project of editing my first novel, which was almost finished.  Since she’s rather old school, she asked to have a hard-copy manuscript (double-spaced, bound) that she could mark up and read at her leisure.  It occurred to me that the novel had to be finished, bound and sent back with my auntie and uncle before they left, and I rose to the challenge. 

A view of Joburg from the Carlton Building 
The greatest challenge was that I was 4 chapters short of perfection – I knew the chapters, they just ...weren’t...written...down.

Writing involves time and a certain amount of concentration.  My “office” is in the center of the house, a barstool on the kitchen nook that overlooks the kitchen and dining room.  Besides, my Aunt and Uncle were here!!  They were well-deserving of all of my attention!!

Weren’t they?

A first draft is like a first coat of paint.  Very few paint jobs look good after one coat, but you can tell what the color of the room is going to look like.  In writing the first draft, I was happy with it until I realized that my aforementioned hero was going to read it.  It was so raw, so amateurish that she may laugh...or not want to keep reading. 

A Hoopoe just outside my window at Sun City
Already planned into the visit was a trip to Sun City, our mecca of rest that we wanted to show to my Aunt and Uncle.  

A one-week stay there meant a trip to the Pilanesburg, one of the most rewarding game parks in South Africa, where my Auntie and Uncle would be treated to the Big Five sightings they looked forward to.

During the trip there, I fit in to minimal (gorgeous) activity with everyone, holing myself up in my room and finishing two and a half chapters.  

While my Aunt and Uncle braved a second day at the game reserve, I hung back with my laptop.  Later Mario worked out at the fitness center (alone) and I typed a frenzied finish. 

Mario and I at Sun City
Once back home, we all relaxed, and I felt a little more content with finishing.  The second week with us, we dutifully put Auntie Emmy and Uncle Walt on a plane bound for Cape Town.  Our friends here said that we would be doing them a disservice  if we did not force the west coast and the beauty of the Cape into their trip.  Of course they were right. 

I found out wonderful things about my Aunt and Uncle during the trip: they think of most things as “on purpose” – as an adventure unfolding piece by piece in front of them.  Getting lost didn’t make them angry, having a trip all planned out for them seemed fun... and they did Cape Town right.  Not just Cape Town, but the whole peninsula that is the great Cape, including the Southern tip, the Cape of Good Hope.  Every day we heard updates of new adventures and we laughed at their friendly, adventurous spirit. 

Also while they were touring the Cape, I was making last minute adjustments on the manuscript.  I rewrote a whole chapter, since it didn’t gel with the rest of the novel.  I went through the last minute changes that my South African editor, and friend, Kgaugelo, had said to fix.  She has yet to see the last four chapters.   

The day before my Aunt and Uncle came home from Cape Town we bound the first and rough draft at our printers, who admired the concept.  One copy was double spaced and bound for the editor.  Another copy was single spaced and bound for my parents.  Both would travel home with my Auntie. 

Auntie Emmy at the Cape of Good Hope

When I picked my Aunt and Uncle up from the airport, I heard their stories of the Cape.  We came and downloaded their pictures.  My Auntie has a magnificent eye, and a sense of humor as a photographer, and I “borrowed” some of her shots for potential wallpaper on my computer.  We had a relaxed time, and people over for dinner (more of our friends that loved them). 

The following day, our church leadership team had a night meeting and we left them to pack as we socialized (and were richly blessed) with Wally and Shirley, our friends from the Cape.  The following day, our church had a morning meeting with them as well, and we all were again...richly blessed.  Especially me. 

I was overwhelmed with thankfulness to God, and so grateful for his love and grace for me.  I was able to receive a rich blessing from Him during a time of an incredible rich blessing... I was so blessed.

When we got home, my Aunt and Uncle had strategically packed their bags and even impressed Mario, the international packing champion of our team.  My Auntie was in a hurry to get near the airport.  There was a mood of satisfaction and gratitude that we had such a wonderful trip together, despite the “distraction” of finishing the first draft of my book.

“Hey! I got an idea!” Uncle Walt said, after they weighed the suit cases.  “Let’s all go out to lunch...someplace really South African!”

A flash of delight ran through my head.  Should we go to Moyo at Zoo lake before they leave?  The place was so touristy and South African clich√© was irresistible. 

At Moyo, our table was outside and we were given steel menus and complementary bread and a beautiful lady painted my face like a Xhosa.  Her name was Faith, and it turned out she was a twin (like my Auntie) and they bonded and took pictures together.  It was the most beautiful farewell to them, and for them to our country.  The perfect ending.

When we came back from the airport, Mario looked around and said, “We’re going to miss them.”  It made my heart ache.

He was right.

Elvis has left the building....

1 comment:

  1. No one benefited more than Walt and I as a result of our visit to your warm, beautiful little cottage in Johannesburg. We can't thank you enough for all you did for us. You friends (ours now) and Junction Church team are so blessed to have you there and know the feeling is mutual. The work you do there is totally unselfish, caring, giving and filled with love from the heart. This is one holiday that will live in our hearts forever! Thank you for making our visit filled with adventure, happiness and beautiful memories. We love you.