My Weekend Child

J. Francois Barnard – 6 June 1994

You were about three years old when I remarried. It was such an intense time for both of us. We both had to make adjustments. But we were young and handled it well.

It was sad that the marriage between Mom and I did not work out. I later told Mom that it would be even worse if the divorce did not work out. She and I had to keep on communicating to make it a success. And that was for one reason only: You.

We filled your weekend visits with fun and laughter. At the time we were living in Sunnyside in a small apartment and had very few responsibilities. It was such an uncomplicated time!

When your Mom remarried and moved to Pietersburg, we had to plan your visits more meticulously. Stepdad was married before too. His little girl, Little Lu, was your age and lived in Pretoria.

life01The arrangement was actually quite simple. I would pick Little Lu up at her mom’s place in Kilner Park and Stepdad would meet us halfway at Naboomspruit. We drank coffee and milkshakes at the Wimpy Bar, did the custody exchange and went home for the weekend.

We had such a jolly time driving the 120km back to Pretoria. We sang songs and your favorite was “I could do with a million!” Couldn’t we all! You regularly surprised us with something you heard someone else say. You once told me: “You’re far too tense. Pop a Valium!” We were in fits of laughter.

Friday evening you and your stepmom would get into the bath together, like best friends. And no, she never even tried to be a “stepmom”, because she could never replace your mom. You just called her by her name, and she had her own terms of endearment for you.

Bedtime was storytime!

I would sit on the side of the bed and imitate sucking a story out of my thumb. My left thumb. The one with the stories. Sometimes I would pull on a story, bite it off, chew it, and spit it out! Bad story. Suck another! Actually, I was buying time. I was thinking hard what story I had to come up with for this weekend.

Your little face was a sight to behold whenever I told a story. Your facial expressions followed my own. I would frown, and you would frown. When I made big eyes, so did you. It was as if I was looking into a mirror. Your imagination merged with my own and we went on outrageous journeys of make-believe. Once the story was over, you would sigh and smile. Contentment.

One day you insisted that I should suck the story out of my right thumb.

“But Dee, that is where my computer programs are! I suck computer programs out of the right thumb and stories out of the left.”

But you were absolutely adamant. Dad had to simply suck that story from the right thumb.

The right thumb did deliver a story. Not a computer program, but a story about Jap, the IBM-compatible computer. Today I cannot recall all the things that happened to Jap and the dumb blonde operating him. What I do recall was that you could say “IBM-compatible computer” by the time you were four years old!

It was so easy to let you go off to sleep.

Your grandma bought you a soft flannel blanket which she divided into two pieces. When it was bedtime you would clutch this little blanket in your little hand, popped out your thumb and sucked it. That way you would fall asleep on any surface. On the carpet below our chairs in the church. On the back of the car seat. On bare cement. Anywhere!

The crisis would be when we mislaid your little blanket. Then we were in deep trouble. But your mom would always pack in an extra one. I once said I would even drive back to Pietersburg just to get a little blanket!

Saturdays we would get up early, eat breakfast and fetched your cousin, Lande. She is on the dot four years older than you as you share the same birth date. For years we shared parties on this day.

Our Saturday outing would be the zoo. Pretoria’s Zoo or the one at the Hartebeespoort Dam. At the dam was a cableway which we would take to the top of the Magalies Mountain. That evening we would be so tired, but you insisted on hearing a thumb-sucked story.

One weekend, I recall, I started telling serials. I would start the story on a Friday evening and leave it on a cliff hanger. You just could not wait for Saturday to hear its continuance. I should have written those stories down, but never did.

The problem came in when you visited on a weekend and requested to hear the same story again. By then I had already forgotten most of it. But I would try, and you would correct me where I got it wrong.

Sunday mornings we dressed up to go to church. Your Sunday best was a checkered frock and shiny shoes. You were so proud of it. The church was huge and you would stand on the chair to sing along. But the preaching was boring and you would take your flannel blanket and fall asleep below my chair.

Afterward, we would go to Grandpa and Grandma Lowe sometimes just for tea and other times we would join them for Sunday lunch. But then the sadness stepped in.

You see, it was time for you to go back home again. Your bag was packed, the flannel blanket was ready on the backseat and we drove north towards Naboomspruit.

Stepdad and Little Lu would be waiting for us at the Wimpy Bar. They were just as sad as we were. Stepdad and I would drink coffee, and you two girls milkshakes. We said our goodbyes. In the beginning, both of you girls would cry. Stepdad and I tried our best not to join in. The only consolation was that we would repeat it all again in two week’s time. I just could not wait for my Weekend Child to visit again!


Author's note:

It is many years later now. My "Weekend Child" is all grown up, married, and a mom too. Her son enjoys the same treatment now.