The ten year reunion

About a year ago I was in East London packing up my mother’s house and rethinking the idea of home. My mother had just had a stroke and my sisters and I had just under two weeks to wrap up my mother’s life as she could no longer live alone because the stroke was quite severe. We decided she would move to Durban to be near my sisters. As a result of my mother leaving East London I realised East London could no longer be home. It became the place where my childhood and adolescent memories had meaning. 

My visitor status was highlighted last night when I arrived at the airport. Instead of using public transport or asking my sister to pick me up, I hired a car and drove along Settlers Way on my own for the first time in my life. The road was familiar after the many trips to and from the airport and living in Sunnyridge (a suburb close to the airport) for many years. I’m not sure what I expected to happen on the short trip to my friend’s house: perhaps the cops would emerge somewhere and tell me they’ve never seen me drive on this road and therefore I had no right to be there. Or perhaps I feel like a fraud: I’ve never had to be an adult driving myself around in East London. That’s what my sisters are for. I’ve never been in East London without having a home to go to with my mother waiting to see me. I’ve never been in East London without being my mother’s daughter.

Coming back to East London for my high school reunion highlights my visitor status even more. I doubt I would be spending a few days of my holiday in East London if it hadn’t been for the reunion. Many friends have eschewed coming to the reunion and I find I have had to explain my choice to come back; even to myself. I was invited to speak at my school’s prizegiving five years ago while I was still studying in Grahamstown. I was surprised by the invitation and it came with a mixture of honour and horror that I would be the person saying a speech at my school’s prizegiving like all the white men and women who had done while I was in high school. I realised that I neither remembered their faces nor their messages. 

Like many people: I had a bitter-sweet experience at school. I mastered the art of being the good student and staying out of trouble and mostly had a holistic experience peppered with assimilation along the way i.e. the coconut. I liked most of my teachers and left matric with a glowing testimonial with the list of achievements I had accumulated in the 12 years as a “Clarriebag”. School was mostly a safe space in comparison to home where my family was fracturing while trying to survive: my father’s unemployment, my mother’s volatile and aggressive behaviour and my sisters’ quietness. School and books kept me sane. Unlike my sister (two years ahead of me)I didn’t have many friends. I wasn’t as beautiful and popular as her and I lived the quintessential high school existence vicariously through her: the rugby games, the dances, the boys and the rebelliousness with drinking and smoking. 

A whole itinerary has been mapped out for the weekend: an old girls’ dinner tonight, Founder’s Day assembly on Friday, followed by a hockey match followed by drinks and finally brunch on Saturday morning. I’m grateful for the somewhat busy schedule because I’ll have little time to naval-gaze about my sense of loss or displacement in a place I was once so certain about. I will also have a chance to meet up with old friends and decide whether I want to see my cousins or not (usually my mother insisted I see them); people I may not get a chance to catch up with again after this weekend. It feels as though there’s a lot of meaning to the weekend and no meaning at all.


From: http://www.clarendonschools.co.za/high

Comments

  1. I was thinking of you last night! Push your cousins aside... I can't wait to catch up with you x

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  4. It would not have been the same without you. I'm glad you came :)

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