It’s My Party

Robert went to bed early as rehearsed, and I had enough time to get this party on track.

First I had to get dressed for the guests, then I set the table. The guests arrived immediately.

Here is what we had :

The Table
The Table

The Guests
The Guests

It was all  very informal, obviously. I mean you can still spot the beach ball under the table and all that but I know my guests did not mind.  Before I popped the bottle of sparkling wine I phoned my next door neighbour. Her boyfriend was out working at the restaurant and I thought she would appreciate the company but she was not feeling well, so it was up to me and my guests to drink up that sparkling wine.

We had quite a ball, surfing the internet as we downed our drinks.  Sometime in the middle of the this festive mood, my mostly silent land-line phone rang, and a hesitant woman’s voice asked whether this was Sea Point Police Station. I hope her business with them was not too serious because she got a rather giggly response from me. Two glasses or so short of a bottle, and two hours or so short of a New Year. We all felt sleepy and thought we’d catch a quick nap before the fireworks start. I do not think any of my guests noticed the fireworks, but my cat must have because when I woke up twenty minutes past midnight he was snuggled up on the bed with us.  My guests and I finished the rest of the sparkling wine, and before we turned in for the night I spotted a text message from my ex sent just after midnight, it said : 2008 was not great but 2009 will be just fine. Happy New Year.

Old Year’s Eve

As I was getting ready to take Robert for the weekly Pram Jam at the Sea Point library, we get another text message from his father.  He wondered again about our plans and thought we could take Robert someplace. I arranged for him to meet us at the library then to go to the Company Gardens.

Today Robert and I were the only attendants for the Pram Jam and the session was suspended until my son perked up from his nap in the buggy. Thankfully we were later joined by a three-year-old boy and his dad, otherwise it would have been such a waste of Ronnie’s efforts, trying to read and sing to Robert who always has his attention somewhere else. The library provides a fair amount of distraction with toys, stuffed animals and rows upon rows of book. Robert takes pleasure in pulling books off the shelves, always from the Afrikaans section for some reason, and thus keeps me busy tidying up behind him.

When  Robert’s father joined us,  he suggested that we make a stop at his place in town. He came from gym and wanted to have a quick bite to eat.  My curiosity about my ex’s dwelling was finally satisified. He does not live next door to his girlfriend, but in ground floor flat in a small city block. The flat has a small private garden but no parking.  When I took my flat, price and proximity to local ameneities and transport were the main criteria. Therefore I sacrificed a lot in the area of presentability and creature comforts.  My ex in contrast worries most about presentability and creature comfort, and apart from the missing dedicated parking the flat is modern, well appointed and immaculate; at least in my humbled estimation.

My ex lives within walking distance of the Company Gardens and this is where we headed. He took charge of Robert, carried him around and showed him the bird cages and the squirells. When Robert got too antsy I managed to get him into the buggy, plying him with some snack and we set on a brisk walk into town.  The idea was to get him to sleep in the buggy, and as soon as he did we headed back to the Company Gardens for a drink.

The drinks turned somehow into a lunch (nothing fancy just a couple of burgers). It was the same as the old days, but so totally different.  We still had the same brands of bear and a frugal meal, but we split the bill and the tip. The toast I proposed was “to a better 2009” and he agreed. We talked a little about how terrible 2008 was. I related some of the story of my ordeal and the subsequent fallout with Jackie. My ex chimed in that he felt sorry for me, for the treatment I got there, he said he was sorry. I did not know how to respond to this, yes perhaps I have chosen to bury the hatchet and move on, maybe I will eventually forgive, but I will never forget.  My ex showed me little or no consideration at all in 2008, and in fact his maltreatment made me an easy prey for others.  What can I expect from other people, when my husband of nine years literally throws me out? How do I measure the damage this has done to my self-image and self esteem? Will I ever recover enough trust and courage to be able to surrender myself into a new relationship? – Even the way I pose this question betrays the extent of the damage you do not “surrender” yourself into a relationship.

It is perhaps surprising that with all these questions and emotions boiling under the surface I manage to appear completely neutral towards my ex. On an intellectual level he is quite interesting, and great to talk to, but he does not appeal to me as a mate anymore. The only relationship I want with him from now on is one that revolves around Robert’s best interests, and that is how things are going to be from now on.

Robert started crying and clinging to his father when we arrived home, so I relented and invited my ex in for the second time.  In my disorganized place -among the mismatched assortment of old, new, borrowed and cast off furniture- Robert got to play some more with his father, and on impulse I decided to share my Christmas Pudding. This treat was so symbolic for me because I never got to enjoy it when I was married to the man – too extravagant he considered it.  We both had a second helping and even Robert took a liking to brandy custard and started asking for “mo”. Later we still managed a quick trip to Queens Beach, and returned as soon as Robert looked tired. I wanted to get him ready for bed as quickly as possible to enjoy my solo New Year’s Party.

So Much for Easy

I am ready for the beach now Mommy
I am ready for the beach now Mommy

Surprisingly, Robert’s father sent me an SMS today to ask whether I have plans with Robert.  I was just thinking of a gentle stroll along Main Road in Sea Point, doing some light shopping, but since his plans included taking Robert to the beach I thought I might as well get my long delayed visit to the Traffic Department over with.

Since I lost my wallet in October (the one I really lost not the one I thought I did) I started the slow process of getting all my cards back and the last was my Driver’s Licence. There was no urgency because I am not driving at the moment, and it is unlikely that I would start in the near future, since I can ill afford buying a car at this time.

My last visit to the Traffic Department  was recorded in this post, which I imported from a defunct blog I started an eternity ago. I am happy to say that the experience was far less spectacular this time.  I mean who would waste a perfect day of sunshine and holidays to stand in a queue and get rankled by ill tempered government workers who would rather be at the beach instead. Well, apparently there are quite a few of us losers out there, but not enough to make the visit a whole day excursion.

I skimmed a local magazine while waiting at the first queue, then was quickly rushed through eye test and finger prints.  There was a substantial queue before the notorious counter 8, but it was moving quickly since the cashiers of other counters were also chipping in; there wasn’t really that much work otherwise.  I pocketed my temporary licence and the receipt for the permanent one, roughly two hours after I entered the department. Before Robert got dropped off I also managed a quick trip to the shops, to buy supplies for my New Year’s Eve solo party.

Robert apparently had lots of fun on the beach. Before his father left him he said that he might see him again tomorrow. I carried a sleeping Robert to our flat, but he only slept for a few more minutes and carried on spinning until about eight. I am not sure I want to do the same thing tomorrow. I am planning a party !

Taking it Easy

We have had stay-at-home weather since Saturday, and except for the necessary trip to the shops I was happy to oblige. My holiday is almost over and I cannot believe that I will be back at work on Friday. For the next few days I plan to take it easy and do as little as possible outside the home. I am still trying to clean up the flat, clean up my desktop computer and transfer the good and important files to the laptop. Eventually I will sell the big machine and experience full mobility with the laptop.

Under the drizzle we managed to get out to the shops today. I bought a 2 gigabyte flash memory drive for R100.  Would you believe that three years ago I bought a 128 megabyte flash drive for around R 300 ? The progress of technology is really scary.  The flash drive will minimize the time it takes me to transfer files between the two machines, and eliminate the need for creating multiple CD ROMS unnecessarily. If I was really technologically savvy I would just buy a network cable and build a network of the two machines, but I do not want to go there. My desktop machine is really iffy and may get unstable if I change too many settings.

The next thing I bought today was Christmas Pudding. I have been feasting on Christmas goodies and cooking easy but fancy meals.  The Christmas Pudding was something that I could added to my menu, but its price last week was prohibitive. Now that Christmas is over, the shops are putting all the goodies out at half price, so we can have the goodies for New Year.

I plan to have a quiet New Year celebration. Reflect on the difficult year that was and make a plan for the year coming. Last year at this time I was still a part of a family, and I thought it was going to last forever. Now it is just me and my little son,  a smaller family unit, with the difficulties resting squarely on my shoulders. I will be able to handle it, no problem, but sometimes the sheer magnitude of the task gets daunting.

I cannot help remembering that at the start of 2008, my ex was fond of saying: “2008 will be great”. His prediction turned out to be a fallacy, and the only great thing about 2008 for me was the disappoinment of my marriage. So this year I will not make lofty predictions, I will predict that in 2009, we will be just fine.

Robert’s Adventures at Sixteen Months

The most remarkable progress Robert made in the last month was with his vocabulary and with recognizing himself as a separate entity.

When I recently ask him where is Robert, he points to himself and says: Ah-Peh, which is what he calls himself these days.

Among other words and vocabulary: , Out, hat (at), ball, up (refers to both up and down for him), water (Ah-ti), book, back (he orders me to put back the food he does not want), bike – the new toy he received from his father(sounds exactly like back), Apple (ah-pi, and refers to all round fruits), open (ah-pi), baked (for baked beans), head (ed),  hug (ug), kaka (anything dirty), tick tak (his name for the clock or anything that looks like a clock) bucket (bah-ki refers to the small play buckets he has), cup (for his play cups) and baby. This in addition to his favourite sentence : don’t go down (dungoda).

Britt gave Robert a big picture book of all the animals and among those he recognizes are : dog (pronounces it like duck), and puppy. The cat in the book looks remarkably like Petey, and perhaps this is why Robert points at it and just grunts. Him and the cat do not like each other that much.

There are other words that he says, that I do not remember at the moment. He says car (cah – which is the same sound he uses for cow referring to the milk bottle), and he says papa, but unfortunately whenever he says mama he is referring (and demanding) the part of my anatomy that still provides him with a comforting snack. Lucy said that perhaps this is his pronounciation of nana (with a Xhosa click sound) which is their baby language for food, but I do not think my son is that gifted to speak Xhosa as well.

Gregarious as my little one is, his new flair for words sometimes only makes for new frustration for both of us.  There are many words that sound the same in his diction, and for them I go through a process of elimination. Robert’s patience sometimes runs out and he does not understand why it takes me so long to get him what he actually wants.

Apart from the words he can actually say, there are many more he understands. Today when I said Christmas he turned and pointed to the Christmas tree, and when I asked him whether he wanted music he pointed to the radio.

I am starting to notice patterns of behaviour as well:  He gets very impatient and frustrated when things do not work, and this is when he has a fit with a pointing finger. He also cannot tolerate any dirty hankies in his vicinity, this includes the paper towel which I keep handy at feeding time. He keeps, however, throwing it to the floor with the exclamation: kaka !

When he wakes up and finds me working on the laptop he starts trying to get my attention, and usually demands : Back ! ( I should put away the laptop I guess).

During these days we spent at home Robert’s appetite returned and he started picking up weight again. Maybe it is because he is away from the daycare and all the germs from other kids, but it is could also be attributed to less teething pain, as two more molars have already cut through (he now has a total of three). When it comes to food, Robert is very hands-on. He opens the fridge himself taking out the food he wants (or the food he thinks he wants).  Baked beans are by far his favourite food and he calls them by name, or finds them in cupboard, fridge and pantry and brings them over. He amazes me by holding the can from the top using only one hand.

Today and after our busy time at Christmas and Boxing Day, we got to the beach, and this coincided nicely with Robert’s 16 months birthday. It was an outing sponsored by Robert’s father who bought him a bucket and a shovel to play with. We went there in the morning and it was a perfect day for the beach, the sky was clear and we could even say the cable car on Table Mountain from Clifton Beach. Robert enjoyed the cold water, he still hasn’t learned the word for ocean but he recognizes it as a body of “Ah-ti”. His favourite game was to fill the bucket with water and then walk with it back to the shade of the tree where we set up our temporary camp.  He made quite a few walks back and forth and was whipped tired by midday. I let him sleep sandy nappy and all until three in the afternoon.

Boxing Day

Robert multitasking with toy and remote while Mr. (100% Trouble) is quietly watching

Another adventure awaited us today, we were invited to Camps Bay, to a friend’s house. She is another playgroup mom, and we share similar Middle East roots. I really did not think about getting anyone Christmas presents this year, but I had something small for Zach yesterday, which was really lucky since his mom gave Robert such a generous present. Today we had to make do with food and drinks for the grown ups and a little sweet treat for my son’s playmate.

The gathering was a typical South African bring and braai, and there were many guests, including some friends from overseas. I was slightly out of my comfort zone because this is not exactly my scene. I do prefer more intimate visits where one actually talks, but we had fun nevertheless. There was another baby apart from the two pictured here, so there was no escape from moms and babies talk.

After some initial discomfort Robert started to walk around and explore the big house. At some point we had to block the little ones from accessing the pool, and then minimize their exposure to braai smoke, but there were no major disasters. Robert snacked on all the goodies offered, and even asked for his own favourite food, when he took out a can of baked beans (baked – as he calls it) from an open cupboard.  My friend’s son, who is slightly older is not as verbal yet, and this is perhaps because he is raised bilingual (his father speaks to him only in German).  Children who are exposed to two languages simultaneously mostly take longer to verbalize, but then start speaking both with equal ease; these are the rare people who have TWO mother tongues.

My friend S. indicated that she would like to have us over for New Year’s but I politely declined. It was nice of her to have us today, especially considering that she had to pick us up and then drop us off. New Year’s is a time to party, and I wouldn’t want her to do so any less because she has to drive a mom and babe home.  Besides,  I was inclined to spend the last few days of the year in peaceful reflection of the past and the future, the most immediate of which is getting back to work on Friday January 2nd.

Christmas Day

The holiday is one thing and getting enough sleep is quite another. The situation is not helped when Robert wakes me up every few hours, or when I am second guessing myself even in the subconscious of sleep, about inviting my ex over, and giving him access to my space. As things went though, I shouldn’t have worried.

Robert’s father arrived with his present, a little plastic bike that is so popular with toddlers, and which I suggested as a present for this year. He also brought the large coffee press, since I only have a single cup press.  We had the usual breakfast with some festive stollen. Later Robert got to open his presents, which I had bought from different sources and saved for this day in particular. The biggest hit was a book of nursery rhymes with music.

After breakfast we took Robert for a walk, which he followed by a very short nap.  During all this time and until we returned home, my ex and I talked about general things. No recriminations, minimal talk about troubles, and mostly focused about Robert, I do not mind this sort of interaction at all.  Robert was still asleep when we arrived home, but a  s soon as he woke up, I had to move again to a friend’s place where we were invited for Christmas lunch.  The lunch was a small affair, very much to my liking, and there was only another couple invited. We still managed to get in the party mood,  cracking party favours and wearing paper crowns. The hosts were very generous and included both Robert and me with Christmas presents, whereas I only had a present for their little boy Zach, who is only one month older than Robert. The other guests received funny presents, while Robert got another noisy toy to add to his collection. I will get to enjoy that in the next few months.

Once home we had another visit from Lucy’s daughter and her son Tando. It was the perfect occasion to call Lucy in the Eastern Cape and wish her Merry Christmas. Even Robert got to say something to his nanny for this day,  it didn’t matter if nobody understood what he wanted to say, we just assumed it was a fitting Christmas greeting.

Robert tries to figure out the funny shaped present his father brought him
Robert tries to figure out the funny shaped present his father brought him

Silly Season Stories and Christmas Eve

The glorious South African weather apparently always turns to the worse (cold, wind, rain) for Christmas. Perhaps because heat and humidity are hardly fitting companions for the celebration, or maybe in sympathy with the housewives and kitchen employees who do a tremendous amount of cooking for the occasion, I mean who would even want to think of a roast when it is roasting hot outside.  This held true this year, as Cape Town witnessed gale force winds, unseasonal rain and almost wintry temperatures in the past few days.  The rough seas brought some unexpected consequences for a coastal resort, as people were treated to a white Christmas landscape on the beach, with the ocean foam that settled on the beach. The cool weather which was with us since late Sunday afternoon was an excuse for me to take a break from my daily jaunt to the shops.

Sea Point is becoming crazy in these days. There are tourists, holiday makers, and shoppers and the Main Road is covered with bumper to bumper traffic. These are the days when it is good to be on foot.  Like everyone else I had a busy day today. Robert and I made to the library for story time then off to the bank for some unfinished business. I was grateful that this boring stuff was dispenses with while Robert napped in his buggy. Later I nipped into the post office for some late mail – this is quite a habit with me as you will notice, everything to the last minute.  Actually all the work that I have done today (except for the holiday mail) could have easily waited until after the holidays, but there is nothing like a long weekend to put you in panic. Some of the shops are even open during Christmas day for some time, but still there is a sense of panic to get everything done and bought because some of the businesses close and the shops are not open for twelve hours. Humans are really strange.

As I write this I do not need to buy anything anymore. This year I went overboard, maybe it is to compensate for the long months of hardship, or to prove to myself that there is life after divorce. Perhaps to spite my ex I went out and bought all the things that he did was loathe to waste money on, it is kind of retail therapy I guess.  The last few days were no different, and I was running around for last minute shopping trips even as far as the Waterfront.

I did my last shopping trip to the Waterfront on Friday as Robert was with his father. And on that day I witnessed an unfortunate exchange between a bus driver and an irate would-be passenger, who tried to hail the bus to stop at a traffic circle near the Waterfront shopping complex. The driver did not stop and the irate South African continued running after the bus through the traffic and knocked so hard on the door that he shattered the glass.   Like a horror movie scene the same guy waited with his bloody hand and the next bus stop and screamed at the driver to wait on the side of the road because he had just called the police.  The driver, he claimed had risked injuring him gravely when he drove on as he was holding on to the bus, and his hand got stuck.  I was in the seat next just by the door of the bus, and I remarked that I could not see any of that. The man had irritated me so much with his crazy outburst, but he was adamant that from my vantage point I could not see everything.  The bus driver drove on and did not heed this man, but I can tell that he was shaken by the incident and he took my cell number for reference in case he got further questioning from his boss.  This crazy incident and the total lawlessness of the shopping frenzy at the V&A Waterfront made me vow to avoid it until the end of the holidays. It is a pity because Robert and I could spend a lot of time at the Aquarium, but we will get much more out of it if we wait until the out of town crowd leaves.

My shopping was later restricted to the supermarket in my direct area, and I started planning elaborate but easy menus for a quiet Christmas at home. I bought Stollen, Christmas Pudding, sparkling wine and some cold ham (no roasting for me thanks, I do struggle with simple cooking). But my plans where altered when I received two different invitations for lunch on Christmas Day and on Boxing Day.  Two different moms from my playgroup with Robert, which would be quite nice.

Last Sunday I noticed that the Church on my street ( literally two houses away) is holding a Christmas Carol evening, so I thought I could go there with Robert. We went directly after he went for a walk with his father on the beachfront.  I expected music and a lot of hymns but what I got was somewhat disappointing. The church must have been one of the less famous ones, since the congregation consisted of barely a dozen coloured people.  When I arrived the band was “rehearsing” Silent Night, and there were many miscues and mishaps, and even when they managed to get through a segment without someone dropping out, it just did not sound right.  In the end Robert and I managed to stay for roughly half the prayer evening.  I started out in the last pew but the Pastor asked me to move forward, as it was a relaxed prayer session today. The children, he said, can walk freely and look around, because this is a house. All fine and good but when Robert started chattering in front of the pulpit, I thought it was perhaps getting too much. Although I swear the little one provided some entertainment value for those who could not concentrate on the religious message.  I did not get to hear Silent Night, but managed about half of Joy to the World and one hymn at the beginning.

Personally I like the prayers that offer a universal message of peace, kindness and love, but the intricate issues of Christian faith are rather beyond me. Perhaps I cannot comprehend these ideas because  I was raised in a Monotheist faith.  This is neither the time nor the place to throw my religious convictions (or the lack of them) around so I will desist right here. Next year I will go to a proper Carols by Candlelight, either in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens or in one of the more glamorous Churches in town.

After all these adventures this week, Christmas Eve is finally upon us. Robert’s father took him again today for a walk on the beach front, and this time I spent most of my break from baby at home. I did tidied up and wrapped up all of our presents, I only had one present to go by the time Robert came back.  As Robert drifted off to sleep I decided that perhaps it would be a good idea to invite his father over for breakfast on Christmas Day, he struck a dejected and sad figure as he dropped off Robert. Maybe I am naive but I am hopeful that he we will maintain a cordial relationship that will benefit our son.

Busy Playing, Busy Organizing

Yesterday was another busy day. In the morning I met with two moms from our playgroup at the Pavillion Park, and the kids spent a great time in parallel play. Robert took turns on the swing and climbing up the slide and basically running around.

In the early afternoon I took delivery of our new furniture. The rest of the day was spent trying to organize and store things in their proper places and getting rid of the boxes. I have recently posted a photo of my chaotic lounge area and now I will have to post another one demonstrating the great change. The tidy-up process is still ongoing, because after the bulk of the work is done there is always the fine-tuning and the subsequent disposal of unnecessary bits and pieces, which were simply squirreled away out of laziness or because there was no time to deal with them immediately.

It is difficult to do such work with Robert running around, and the time he spends sleeping is hardly enough to get the necessary work done, but getting organized remains my one major objective for this holiday. It would be nice if I manage to update my blog as well,  but this latter job is still sadly lagging behind.

Robert helped me organize yesterday in his own way. Pulling out books while I tried to put them on the shelves and emptying the drawers I painstakingly ordered.  At the end of the day I was really frustrated, and as soon as I got most major stuff out of the way we took off for a quick visit to the beach. After a full day of being stuck in a hot apartmernt,  Robert played happily and enjoyed the nice mild weather of the late afternoon.  We headed home at sunset and Robert slept in his buggy all the way home.

Staycation Report

As of Monday Robert and I are on summer vacation, and I cannot believe we have been at it already for five days now. So what have we all been busy with.

Monday I met one of the mothers from my playgroup at the park. This is a mother from my Friday playgroup, which I used to enjoy so much because there were moms from many different backgrounds, and almost none of them a native Capetonian.  This apparently can raise the temperature of personal interaction between moms to a comfortable degree.  Perhaps this is a gross generalization, but I must admit that the Thursday group was decidedly frosty for me, and that was one of the reasons why I decided to quit the play group, it had served its purpose.

On Tuesday Robert and I took the window shopping route, along Sea Point Main Road. We went to the book sale held at Sea Point High School. Robert was excited by the number of books he saw.  He started to babble : book.. book; I am pleased to announce that this is now one of his favourite words. He especially asks for “book” when it is time for sleep, and his favourites are usually the ones that I am keeping away from him until I get a chance to repair the destruction they received at his hands.  Today, I found a couple of books that I thought he would enjoy.  On the way back I bought us lunch at the supermarket and we had an impromptu picnic at the Mount Nelson Park, which we visited together today after a very long time. The park had changed and I had trouble getting in there because they added an invisible childproof lock at the back of the gate, and I had to push and strain at the gate for almost ten minutes before I realized the problem. We had the park to ourselves, which was really strange considering that the day was a public holiday.  But being summer it is safe to assume that everyone was headed to the beach. It is a good thing that I did not go to the beach on that day because I received my first light sunburn of the summer on my shoulders. It is also a good thing that I always put sunscreen on Robert.

Yesterday though was the strangest day of all. In the morning I took Robert to the Pram Jam at the Sea Point Library. It is a story and song session hosted by the children’s librarian, and attended by young tots and their moms (or their caregivers as was the case with most the attendees this time).  Robert’s father picked us up from the library and he took us to the Waterfront.  It was the first time we go on an activity for Robert’s benefit since our divorce and I must say that it was a little surreal for me.  The sights and sounds were all the same, but the dynamics between the three of us was completely different. Robert was on his father’s arms the whole day, and was behaving most of the time.  First we stopped at the toy shop where Robert spends a lot of his time with his dad. The array of toys is mind boggling and they all vie for the attention of children of all ages, and it is a great way to waste time with a toddler even if the intention isn’t really buying. I got a chance to go shopping for some discount items not available in our area, and also for a sandal for Robert. Lastly I got to replace my lost Aquarium card, but we did not get to visit the aquarium because Robert was starting to get over tired.  When we finally got home we were both exhausted. I thought Robert would sleep for hours but he only managed one hour and then continued to spin around the flat until about half past eight, and this time we both dropped to sleep dead to the world.

The next morning my ex had sent me an SMS telling me it was nice to see how much of a mother I was to Robert, and that he felt strangely removed although still close to him. He suggested we go to the beach next time. I really do not know about spending time with my ex. On the one hand the peace is good for the soul, I spend less energy fighting with him and more on being myself and mother to Robert.  However it is still exhausting on another level, because I have no idea who I am dealing with. I have seen so many faces of the man it keeps me wondering what next. Wait and see, that’s the only thing to do.