The following is a true story, written the day after my mother’s death on 22 June, 2021
It is a story that is all about my mother and who she was, an incredible person who despite the deep convictions of her beliefs knew how to touch a person’s soul in a way only that person could ever imagine.
The drama of the events in this story is the build up to the final few lines which reveal everything about my mother’s character.
It is a story that has been frowned upon and disparaged by some of the family and even other outsiders, because they consider it politically incorrect to eulogize my mother with a narrative of events outside the accepted clump conventionality of who she was.
Why write the usual ‘blah.. she was a good person.. blah.. she was much love.. blah.. she made everyone feel at home… blah, blah, blah…’ which says nothing about what made a person so uniquely special..
Maybe it was because I was raised in two cultures that I am not a very religious person.
As a falconer I understand how profoundly important imprinting is at an early age on young creatures.
Thus my realization today that I was dual imprinted.
As soon as I could walk and talk I discovered the huts in the compound on our family farms where the African workers lived.
Probably it was the attraction of their drum beats wafting across the fields every Saturday at dusk that drew me there, with the rhythms becoming more intricate and urgent as the 44 gallon drum of Chibuku Beer fueled the thumping hands of the drummers. Certainly I was mesmerized by the stamping feet of the dancers, which I would watch until it was almost dark before hurrying home.
I spent every free moment I had with the kids in those compounds, or in their bush surroundings, until I was almost thirteen.
Thinking back on it, my mother said she was shocked at how she would allow me to disappear for the entire day without any knowledge of where I was and what I was doing, sometimes miles from home in the bush. I lived in a Garden of Eden, truly halcyon days.
For half the time (or night) from 5 o’clock until 8 o’clock the next morning, I lived in a Weston culture, with Christianity and the bible at its moral core.
The other half, after breakfast, I would head off to hunt, fish, play and be influenced by my bafana friends, Kariyongo, Nau, Banda, Tomi and the others who were my peers, with their beliefs in Tokoloshi, Ngangas and spirits lurking everywhere close by, waiting to steal the souls of the unwary.
We ate the fish fingerlings we caught in the river, the birds we shot with slingshots, the mpotohai we cooked on the cut off top of a drum over a wood fire, and the molasses we dripped onto it by dipping a fencing standard into a drum for the cattle.
I shared bilharzia with them, too scared to tell my parents that I had it. I had been forbidden to swim in the parasite infected rivers, until my mother notice the blood and bits of flesh I was urinating as the bilharzia ate away my kidneys.
Every day I was immersed in the beliefs habits and culture of both Europe and Africa, leaving me with doubts as to who to believe. So why not emulate a chameleon? Change no more than the pigment in my mind to take on the color of the culture round about. I could even blend in with the beliefs in between, and be a good Jew whenever it was necessary.
After all I figured that everyone was part right and part wrong. Mostly wrong, and if I could tick enough don’t believe-boxes’ I could honestly claim to be an atheist.
So where is this seeming superfluous explanation leading?
My mother always said that God works in mysterious ways, and sometimes despite my stoic support of atheism, an occasional crack appears in the concrete of my conviction.
Back last fall, the woman who I had convinced myself was a gift from God, and to whom I had committed myself, shockingly, unexpectedly smashed an emotional brick in my face when at 4am she woke me to say she had found somebody else more suited to her lifestyle. Watever that meant.
My despair was so profound I didn’t want to live. I was sure I’d fixed the issues that my past partners had found in me! How could she possibly accuse me of a lack of commitment, and untrustworthiness? My God, I had found her in the gutter of her life and pulled her out from the brink of alcoholism and a penchant for hitting the casino’s, just for a start!
In the cold hollow of my loneliness and the drizzle of impending blindness dribbling its blur on the clarity of my future, I desperately needed something to cling to.
So what the heck! I put an ad in Match.com, with a bio tastefully written for me by another ex-girlfriend Joyce (bless her saintly soul) to catch the eye of a good woman.
From this I got 4 responses.
1 – Chikuka was Peruvian. She offered to teach me Spanish and show me the suburb Mario LLosa describes at the start of his beautiful sad story ‘Bad Girl’.
2 – Lilli-Ann was a well- known teacher and organizer of dance festivals in Seattle parks. She showed me how to do a pattern of rock and triple steps as well as a waterfall waltz on the river side trail in Snohomish.
3- Cynthia was an ex ballerina and now the wardrobe manager of the 5th avenue and Paramount theatres in Seattle.
She wanted a social dance partner. So I hired her to teach me east coast swing. She is also a fanatic Tarot card reader. She prepared my life chart, and pulls a Tarot card for me whenever she feels I could benefit from guidance with a prediction of an outcome, or a choice to be made.
4 – Alice had been dancing 5 times a week for years. She recently lost her dance partner after he was moved from deception pass to Blaine in the Park service. She offered to dance with me three times a week and teach me such alluringly mysterious styles as Night-Club-2-Step, and Progressive Waltz’…. But she has a super sensitive nose and She said I sometimes smelled bad, But so what! I furled my pride and went with her drift. As long as I pasted on my underarm with a butter knife and sprayed myself with enough cologne to make a French street walker gag, she is cool with me.
Interestingly Alice is also a devotee of Edgar Casey and a big time spirit medium, even putting on séance symposiums where she teaches how to enter trancing states to contact the dead.
Of course I couldn’t become remotely intimate with them. Each time I went for a walk or to a restaurant with any of them my mind was filled with the memory of another rose lipt maiden beside a brook now too broad for leaping.
But despite the despair, I noticed something unusual in the randomness to be mined in a sample of four. There was a lot of spirituality floating around in that sample. Weird spirituality, sure. But never the less it was there.
Alice even confirmed what Joyce’s ‘dog-whisperer’ had said a few years ago. After consulting with Joyce’s ‘Alpha and my ‘Bella” if I could be trusted to care for Allpha, the whisperer commented that the big cuddly benign ghost of Rich Giesel hangs out at my studio all the time.
It didn’t take much more digging to see that three out of the four wanted to dance with me.
Maybe, I supposed, it was a signal to get serious about my dance aspirations, still ringing after all these years in the echoes of long ago stamping feet.
Thus with Alice as a catalyst I found myself racing ahead.
She introduced me to Ari who agreed to teach me nightclub and soul dancing, from which has come a suggestion for a program using dancing as a tool of hope for the visually impaired. Possibly making a film about it.
With Alice’s help I have started a dance group on the island with live music, and it is only getting better.
But this is where things get interesting.
On Friday I happened to speak to Cynthia. She was soon to head across to the east coast to join her sister to collect their take on the sale of her mother’s house. It had been in limbo for a while after her mothers’ death. They had to wait for the court to decide if their brother could be cut off from receiving his share. He had disappeared three decades ago, a few days prior to serving a ten year prison sentence.
“Hey, draw me a card.” I asked, and with a flick of her pack out came the ‘High Priestess’.
“What does that one mean?”
“Ohh, Cynthia exclaimed, “You are going to get an important Omen this week.”
“What will it look like?”
“You will recognize it when you see it.” she replied.
Tuesday arrived. It was our third dance session. But I will step back two weeks to describe Jennifer.
She had caught my eye the moment she walked through the door of our first dance evening. She is beautiful. Wearing a black heavy hemmed skirt which flares out as she spins, it was even more eye-catching with its white polka dots scattered across it like snowdrops on a sooty surface.
She stood out from everyone else.
And with her dance partner Rick the flare of that skirt certainly showed her shapely legs.
‘Yes,” Alice said to me, “watch them, they are really good dances. Especially watch them when they do West Coast swing.”
Not having interacted with her much, it was thus with some surprise on Tuesday morning she called suggesting that if I showed up early she and Rick would teach me nightclub moves before the organized session..
“Wonderful! I would love that” I replied. And so it was that we danced.
It was Magical!
I dance twice more with her that evening.
Time flew fast. Before I knew it Marcia our singer announced that we were getting close to the end..
The group formed into a line dance in response to the last song.
Not being proficient in that dance I sat to the side.
I glanced at my watch, it was heading towards 9.30PM.
Jennifer didn’t join the line. Instead she did her own thing. She danced in front of me, looking at me. She danced with rippling sensuous movements. Seductive movements, movements full of verve and vibrancy. Her motions projected all the beauty of her artistry, revealing it to me. She was dancing for herself, as partnerless she danced for me.
Afterwards I realized I had been whispering the words “Wow.. Wow.. Wow…”
Her dance ended the evening.
“What was that you were dancing?” I later asked.
“A Push Tush Roll” she told me. What an appropriate name I thought.
The images of her dancing remained as I gingerly drove home in the darkness. Her undulations rippled through my mind as I sat with a cup of coffee in the hot tub to wash away my sweat.
The float of her light almost transparent cotton dress pressing against and breathing with the lithesome flow of her figure again entered my mind in the morning as I sat in the tub with another cup of coffee.
That was just prior to the phone call from my brother.
“Mum died at 9.30PM last night he said.”
There they were, those cracks in the convictions of my atheism.
9.30PM? Was that a coincidence?
of course not.
Staring me blatantly in the face was the omen I had been told to expect.
Like a puppeteer a spirit had been tugging on the strings of those beautiful dancing moves.
Everything would be OK the beautiful puppet said to me. My language of love would be found in dancing, and people to dance with, the spirit of that omen said.
But what a way it was delivered.
What a mother!, who knew exactly how to speak to me in a language I would understand better than any quote from a bible or poetry, or sunset vision or cuteness of a baby, or majesty of a eagle flying overhead…
Her insight….. A ‘Push Tush Roll, danced by a stunningly beautiful woman. a message to my soul.
What a special Mother.