I Didn’t Do It

I didn’t start the diary, that is. I keep telling myself I don’t have time for it, and then procrastinating until some future date like, say, next Monday. Wait no, the first of Jan. Along with most people’s fitness resolutions and my promises to organise my underwear drawer.

Actually, I don’t take this lightly (despite my careless words above). The thing is, I do see it as a valuable tool, but the privilege of being happy and fortunate and (don’t groan) loved, is that I forget how valuable a tool it will be and can be when times get dark. And statistically, times will get dark as I move on in years, so I’d better fire up that pen.

But I can’t concentrate on darkness because today I’m gushing with warmth. I just ate a year’s worth of trifle. I just watched my niece show immense gratitude at each Xmas present she got, little or big, she received from all of us. And she’s the only child in the family, so she’s not a little lavished. My dad spent the entire Christmas eve fixing a burst pipe in my bathroom. My mom, sisters, partner, their partners, all put in so much effort to make the holiday special, and I realised: they do this for EVERY occasion. I jokingly complain that my family might hang out a little too often and are probably getting on one another’s nerves, but it’s only a little true.

gopherExhibits A-F: A weekend trip to Greyton a mere hour away, my family phones me seven times to check that I’m there safe, how’s the room, what are the people like, have you had lunch yet? A Friday night and I’m ready for a date and my dad calls to ask what I’m doing because, you know, the braai just got fired and he’s just poured a whisky (I hear my mom in the background telling him to let the youngsters go out on their own). My sisters, weirdos, get over their hatred of all things social in order to celebrate my birthday with me and the friends who frighten them. My parents and I hang out now and then in Obz. They think it’s darling and enjoy looking at all the hippies and talking to the bartenders. That’s just the socialising. We used to fucking WORK together. Some of us still do. And then still spend holidays and the occasional weekend catching up. Once, when we were very broke my parents pretended to have bought too much food at the store and brought it over us because, you know, they can’t save all that food and how convenient they were just in the neighbourhood.

So, what does one do with all that good, cosy, lovey-dovey fortune? Why, you endure it of course! And you make the rest of the clan endure you too. I am one of the lucky ones. But it wasn’t all Kit-Kats & jelly beans. Sometimes it was the Halls cough drops. And not the nice, sweet, minty kind. The MENTHOL kind that makes you believe your mouth will never find happiness again.

Ugh. Menthol.

No, my family has seen its dark days. We’ve drifted apart and found our way back together again, and I’ll won’t dare tell you that you have to mend your own if it’s in a state of disrepair because that’s a rude thing to say and it’s unfair. I got to mend mine (and, my god, I was a wretched teenager gifted with the defiance and cunning of beelzebub himself) because my parents worked pretty hard at it and now I’m in my thirties and I’m working hard at it too. Also, they’re a riot, so I would miss laughing at them if they weren’t around.

Wednesday Adams might have been my spirit animal as a teen.

And though a close family is great, that’s a lot of pressure to withstand – even good pressure can become too much. So I have come up with a sort of battle plan to handle having such a wonderful but VERY PRESENT family. I shall take one week off, by myself, off the grid (almost) once in a while and ask them all to leave me the hell alone for that time. Just that week (to start). It might be at home, I might grab a tent (haha, I almost couldn’t finish writing that I laughed so hard) and head out somewhere. And then, it’ll be back to smsing regularly, phone calls at the cashier asking me to go back in and get garlic, weekend braais with the meat only being cooked by 11pm, calling them in a panic when I lose my wallet/phone/car keys/shoes, helping me move house every year, random cups of coffee with my sisters in my kitchen, ranting about each other on the telephone.

The kind of patient aunt (not me!) who hand draws a treasure map for the easter egg hunt for her niece.
The kind of patient aunt (not me!) who hand draws a treasure map for the easter egg hunt for her niece is the good kind of aunt.

I think I’ll stop here for fear of seeming like I’m just boasting about these funny people in my life, because of COURSE I feel like boasting but I also don’t feel like rubbing in the fact that I have this good fortune and other people don’t. I happened to get most of this particular family by blood, but not all of them so. Best friends have become siblings to me, and I know many people to whom siblings are like distant strangers. So I’m playing it a little loose with the term ‘family’.

I’ve even started to develop glimmerings of family-like feelings (so, sort of like one feels for extended family) for people who I don’t really know that well, and who I don’t really expect much of either. Some of them are friends, people I crushed on once, people who ask me for help now and then, the old man who bullied his way into my garden and then charged me a pretty penny for all the flowers he planted and which I didn’t ask for. It’s a nice feeling, having people around once in a while. I need them in small doses, and I give them doses of my time when they need it. A phone call here, a letter there, an e-mail once in a while. Or a cup of tea when they’re nearby.

This guy is a new addition to the family.
This guy is a new addition to the family.

Perhaps I’m high on trifle & Quality Streets and, you know, it’s the holidays but this post, I suppose, is a bit of gratitude from someone who was used to saying thanks in her nightly prayers as a little Catholic schoolchild, but has lost religion and found she misses saying ‘thank you’ for all the good stuff she’s got. You may call me the Grateful Atheist. And I will say it quietly tonight, as I go to sleep, but I also want to shout it out a little loud, as I am doing here by writing it down that I am a happy little goat with my cantankerous kin and I will do my best not to take them for granted.

My niece did up this tree. It’s a beautiful mess.

I will now go and refill my coffee cup with Amarula.

Good tidings, guys, good tidings.

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