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Bitter-sweetmemories of dear Aunty Meisie's time

Opinion
This week has been a time when the passing of family friend Aunty Meisie, Louise Daniels née Merino, caused me to reflect on how, under conditions of severe social and personal stress, we often reconstitute the familial assets of our society.

Aunty Meisie and my mother knew each other since childhood and both had been members of St Athanasius Anglican Church in Garden Village.

The Village was my summer retreat from Elsies River. The proximity of the Liesbeek and Black rivers provided places to swim and catch guppies using home-made nets made from Hessian sackcloth.

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The Very Rev Michael Weeder is the current Dean of St George's Cathedral. Picture: Leon Muller

The derby matches between Hellenic and Cape Town City were re-enacted every day on the small pitch opposite the home of my Ouma, ‘maBessie. And there were rare but dramatic occasions when gangs from Salt River and neighbouring territories invaded our almost idyllic little settlement next to the Valkenberg Mental Institution and the serene garden suburb of Pinelands.

All these instances provided substantial material that could be used in the compositions we had to write after the school holidays. Yet, instead, we were compelled to reflect on the social realities of our peers along Voortrekker Road and opposite the railway line and lie about “our holiday on the farm” and “A day at the seaside.”

My memories of Aunty Meisie were informed by those early years. Over time she would represent normality and care when all that made for cohesion in our lives slowly unravelled.

In the early 1980s, while away at seminary in Grahamstown, I took comfort knowing that whenever local crime surfaced in a wicked form in our area, the Daniels home at 11, Pearl Way in Matroosfontein would be a port of call for my mother and siblings.

It would only take a phone call and Uncle Hennie, Auntie Meisie’s husband, would be despatched. In less than a minute, his white bakkie would roll up in front of our house in Mountain Way.

When the threat was especially dire, the Daniel boys, Andre and Klein-John, would form part of the backup. I think Klein-John, besides being the youngest in the family was called such to distinguish him from Wit-John who for a while lived with the family.

Wit-John had been a deacon in the Dutch Reformed Church and had fallen on hard times. Aunty Meisie had befriended him during the time when she and Uncle Hennie sold fruit and vegetables in Observatory.

My mother and Aunty Meisie attended Sunday Mass at St Nicholas Anglican Church on Halt Road. Their fidelity to the ways of the Lord on one occasion resulted in a month-long spell as detainees at Pollsmoor Maximum Prison. This was during the 1985 State of Emergency and they had been part of the congregation that gathered for a Sunday afternoon prayer service. The congregation, including the priests, were arrested and locked up at the pleasure of then-president, PW Botha.

Last year, Aunty Meisie told me that I was to officiate at her funeral, a privilege her parish priest, Father Frankie Leonard availed me.

On Wednesday while I was about my business along Broadway in New York my attention was drawn to a woman selling food from a food truck parked on the pavement.

People work hard to make a life. To breathe. To make my city, our city and a home from wherever home is now, a beautiful dream to live in on some faraway tomorrow.

I buy som tum, which I don’t like, but the breyani line outside the Pakistani guy’s is long.

She might be a little less stressed if I bought spring rolls.

The smell of breyani shouts of everything on this day that is missing from my life which is not hard. Not at all.

I’ll buy pad thai or green curry. It might make this tired aunty smile like Aunty Meisie did when she “broked” her fruit and veg in the parking lot behind the Observatory Spar and whose banter Father David Binns loved so much.

I opted to buy chicken dumplings in memory of a dear aunty whose love I felt there on Broadway and who we’ll lay to rest this day.

* The Very Rev Michael Weeder is the current Dean of St George's Cathedral.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Weekend Argus

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