Tag Archives: apartheid

A STRANGE AND MARVELOUS CHRISTMAS

Several people have encouraged me to write a sequel to An Immoral Proposal, the idea with which I’ve been toying. But as usual, the past decade has been unbelievably transient for me. Seven years ago, after a nine-year stint in New Zealand, we returned to North America after grandchildren began to appear on the scene.

Michael and I went back to Ontario, Canada, where we had lived for twelve years before moving on to the United States due to a job transfer. We’ve packed in so much moving and traveling over the past forty one years that it’s become par for the course now. Life has been too frenetic of late and so I’m just slowing down to catch my breath, staying in the now and simply letting creativity take its course.

Having revamped my website, I thought instead of writing a book sequel, I’ll simply write blog posts you all can follow and perhaps a book might materialize out of it. We’ll see.

So, I’ll kick off this post as a retrospective. If you’ve read An Immoral Proposal, you’ll know that my story begins in Cape Town, South Africa and the first move we made was to England to escape apartheid’s draconian Immorality Act law that forbade Michael and me to be together. What was it like for a young woman shy of twenty to leave her family and country behind and venture into pastures new and far away?

I left Cape Town on Christmas Day 1975, my first time on an aircraft. As the British Airways Jumbo 757 hurtled down the runway, my breathing became shallow as my chest tightened with a sense of awe, wonder and anticipation all rolled into one.  “Someone pinch me please, I can’t believe this is finally happening!” I wished I could tell someone, but my traveling companions were sparsely dotted about the fuselage. Being Christmas Day, the flight was only about a third full. Each traveler had a whole rows of seats to her/himself.

Once the aircraft had reached its cruising altitude, the attendants trundled down the narrow aisle with turkey dinners, cranberry sauce, Christmas pudding and brandy sauce – the works, complete with Christmas cracker (a party favour in the English tradition that normally has a charm, joke on a strip of paper and a paper hat.)

Jet travel then was still a novelty – expensive and therefore not yet commonplace.  Those were the days of warm scented towels, real crockery and cutlery and when people dressed up for air travel. Looking back makes me chortle at the most unsuitable gear I wore for a twelve-hour flight.

L to R: Cousin Connie, me and sister Sharon. Taken at D.F. Malan Airport (today Cape Town International Airport) It was Christmas Day and everyone was dressed up in their Sunday best even to come see me off at the airport.

A fashionable, fine corduroy patch-work patterned dress, chosen with much care and deliberation for the English winter, was my choice.  Matching maroon pantyhose met either dark green or maroon stilettos on my feet.  I can’t remember and I can’t see because the photographer (amateur) cut my feet off!  But really? Who did I think I was donning this get up complete with trendy green Sherlock Holmes style cloak to meet my Dearly Beloved? Elizabeth Taylor?

The downside of flying in 1975 was that the only source of entertainment was audio sound and it didn’t take long to run out of reading material. This was before in-flight movies and today’s plethora of modern electronic devices. The twelve-hour flight from Cape Town to London was brutal, especially not having a soul to talk to. Fortunately, I was able to stretch out across several seats in my row and fall into a restless sleep, at least giving me some respite from infernal boredom. How totally different flying is today!

After disembarking, I teetered nervously on swollen feet toward the baggage claim sign praying that Michael would find me and Heathrow Airport would not swallow me up. My prayer was answered almost immediately as I spotted the unmistakable short, wavy-haired figure of my sweetheart, beside a taller one, heading toward me. At this point, being the hopeless romantic I am, I’d like to report that I kicked off the shackles from my feet, and glided on the air in slow motion toward Michael’s open arms. Instead, I wobbled toward a very relieved looking sweetheart and his companion whom he introduced to me as Eli. This was our first taste of freedom together where the menacing watchful eyes of South Africa’s secret police could not reach us.

These were our passport photos taken in 1975 by Van Kalker, where everyone went for their photography.

Let me end this post by back-tracking to a moment in the flight.  As I was scrolling through the music channels on the armrest of my seat, I stopped at the one piping Karen Carpenter’s rich, mellow alto into my ear, “Love, look at the two of us, strangers in many ways/ We’ve got a lifetime to say, I knew you well/ For only time will tell us so/ and love may grow/ for all we know.

I hugged the small pillow to my chest and let The Carpenters music usher me into realms of celestial bliss. This, to me, was indeed a good omen that things were meant to be.

(Look out for my next post about what it was like for me to be in England with complete freedom of movement where there were no “whites only” signs and Michael and I could eat in a restaurant for the very first time.)