Twenty days after my birth, in cold sleet and sloshy England, my husband was born in the humidifying heat of South Africa. Miles apart. Nevertheless, already hand picked by the Creator of all, by the Lord, Who puts the lonely in families. Years later, because of the forever itching feet of my father, and the complete optimism of my mother, I came face to face with my husband, in a sleepy country town, in the state of Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa.
We met while we were both in school; Andre was on school holidays, with his mom and together they were staying at a friend's house in my hometown. The local pool and cinema were great highlights of our days. The minute I met him, I knew I loved him. I didn't even know him, but I knew.
We endured being apart during school, as he lived and attended school in another town. We endured being apart during my Technical College and his apprenticeship years. We endured being apart during the first half of his National Service in the South African Defence Force. And then - four months after the completion of his compulsory army service ~ we married. Childhood sweethearts, now joined as one.
The early days of marriage were filled with joy and excitement. We started off with a piece of carpet on the floor (which we used as our bed), a couple of blankets and one pillow. We slept fully dressed in winter, as two flimsy blankets aren't enough to keep the freezing damp air at bay. Friends and family donated furniture and accessories, and before long, we were piecing together our first nest. We would feast on rice with onion gravy, followed by coffee and Ouma's rusks. Now and again, we would treat ourselves to a chocolate bar and a trip to the two Rand drive- in, where we would park the Yamaha 175 and lie under the stars, enjoying every minute of being together. There's much to be said in building up a home together. Building it together. Not marrying into a fully furnished, pantry well-stocked, efficiently heated home, bur rather, doing it Hard Time.
Before long, and just after my husband had left for a stint in the army, I discovered that I was carrying a new life. Emma was born with large, dark eyes and little hair - blonde fluff, as we called it. We weren't in hospital long; we wanted to be home. The three of us were together just three weeks before Andre had to leave for a three month 'border duty' camp. Each day, I would write to Emma's daddy. Each day, Emma would sleep in her pram next to me, while I wrote and told him of every little insignificant thing that we lived through. And then, as the letters were completed, we would post them, hoping that there would be a return letter for us in the mail. Letters from my husband were few and far between. Those that we did receive were censored by army officials.
A year after the National Service my husband qualified as a fitter and turner. This meant more in the pay-packet and a chance to go forward in life. We were able to buy good food and lots of it. We were able to buy a new bed. We were able to buy many items that we had waited so long for. Despite our house developing into the cosy home we had long desired, it wasn't enough. My feet were itching, just as my father's had years ago. My husband's feet caught the same fever.
"It's the land of milk and honey, Helen...." my father would tell me, referring to the country in which we now live - Australia. "Things are going to get worse here. You'll have no regrets. We'll follow you soon. I promise."
Three years later, we had packed up our home and were waiting at my parent's home for the day that great Silver bird would take us to a foreign land. My parents and brothers promised me that they would only say a 'quick' goodbye. They lied. The day of our departure dragged on. I felt as if my heart was about to jump out of my throat. I ached all over; physically and emotionally. My mam slipped a book of verses by Helen Steiner Rice under my arm, as she squeezed me and implored me to "...go now, Helen" I read this on the flight, as the tears streamed down my face.
Time is a great healer. It's true.
My father was true to his word and joined us six months later. We have lived close by each other ever since.
With two more little Aussies, Sarah and Samuel our family is complete and the Love Story continues through generations.