I must admit that not all my forays into offering employment have been too terrible. One of the loveliest women I’ve ever had the pleasure to pay to look after The Eldest was actually named after angels – I’ll call her Angela* to protect her anonymity. Angela probably only seemed to stand out because around her her world was collapsing. Surrounded by poverty in the affluent winelands she hailed from a place called Malgas (Crazy Gas) where among other jobs that she’d held down she was also a Petrol ‘Jockey’ (Petrol Pump Attendant – for those of you that are not up with the lingo). Abandoned by her father when she and her siblings were still small. Her mother, she told me, was an alcoholic and had passed her on to her Auntie to raise. Well,’ raise’ is such a relative term. Angela was forced to leave school in Grade 4 to become a ‘maid’ in her Aunts house while her cousins went to school she would be ‘Cinderella’ in the house. The ‘Tannie’ trained her very well as a slave. My sugar bowl was never empty for 3 years. My stoep was always swept. I could find anything that I was looking for. I had to stop her from ironing our t shirts (we don’t have ANYTHING that needs ironing!) My floors were immaculate even while we had two big inside living hairy dogs. The Eldest was always read to and learnt a lovely selection of songs. In fact Angela probably took better care of my offspring and neglected her own – he’s a boy child, named Angelo (see how they did that?), about the same age, they’re not as much fun to play doll with.
Angela had a flair for decorating and I would often get home after my 52 step commute and she would have re-arranged the furniture (in the 2 hours that I would spend working) – no small job since most our stuff was inherited bulky art deco. She’d source flowers that were in bloom on the farm and arrange them on my kitchen table – from daisies to agapanthas. She could, probably still can, put together a fruit bowl like a Cezanne still life – this chick has got skills. With all this to her credit, I was constantly trying to ‘trade her up’ – you know get her a little receptionist job somewhere. Enrol her in Educare courses, help her try and get her drivers license – fill her tool box with useful tools, reach down from my great white priviledged height and give her better opportunities. she’d have none of it – lacking confidence, the day before a course would start or an interview would happen she’d collapse into a puddle of tears, begging me not to make her go. Pleading for her to keep her job – to keep working for me. *sigh* What a complex collection of moisture and nerves we all are.
As perfect as our Angela was she had her faults:
Debt. She couldn’t resist the bright shiny advertising papers with their promises of ‘Last Offers” and “Big Discounts”, “Buy This Now and Get This Painting Of a Flamingo For FREE”. Oh man, I think when our ways parted she was at least 50 grand into it. Some of the people still phone me looking for her – well they did until about a year ago when I changed my number. I think they might have repossessed her bed at some stage – but she’d had 2 years use of it and I had ‘sold’ her my student bed. Her house was full of (free) pictures hanging against the wall, still in their plastic with the cardboard protecting the corners of the ‘gold’ frames – she was keeping them nice for when she moved into her own house.
Drinking. Not her own drinking problem but the society around her. From her mother to her neighbours. I’d harbored her and her little son a couple of times when she’d phoned wailing into the receiver that her husband had hit her (not really, more like shoved to keep her out of the greater fray that she’d charged into with her child on her hip, ‘skelling and yelling’ trying to put the drunken louts in their place – firecracker that she is). The wine farm that she stayed on even had a guy called “The Rapist” – apparently he’d molest little girls and had been in court a couple of times but it’s not like the ‘justice system’ actually does anything about it in a free range community like hers. It doesn’t help to get angry about it, she taught me, what helps is to lock yourself and your loved ones in your house.
Angela also had a cousin that didn’t know she was pregnant until her stomach cramps got so bad that she gave birth to healthy baby boy. Turns out it wasn’t something she ate! This new little life was welcomed like any child and Mattew is living with The Auntie while his mother runs up more debt to provide him with his own tv and playstation. I could only drop my jaw and shake my head in wonder.
Our ways parted when The Eldest started play school, Angela went on to follow her husband to a bigger, better more famous wine farm and have another little boy child (which she knew she was pregnant with and prayed fervently for a daughter). She worked as a nanny for a few more women before opting to become a waitress on the wine farm, this made her more available to her little boys since she was on the premises and I believe it allowed her to apply for even more loans from loan sharks to pay off her debt. She’s still phoning me regularly to ask for money – which I never give, it wouldn’t really help anyway – would it? Instead I would pass on clothes that my son had outgrown or buy groceries instead. I can’t help her out that much anymore, since we relocated to about 500km away from where she stays, but Malgas is half way so I suppose we could still meet up. We’re still in touch, phone calls on Christmas and Birthdays and while we were still living in that neck of the woods she’d often pop in and make me a cup of tea and fill my sugar bowl and ask for money.
What an existence.
What a life.