auntie esther…

i only met my biological father when i was 14. let’s just say that after years of fantasies of what he would be like, who he would be, reality fell short. it was not love at first sight for either of us. i remember exactly what i was wearing – an appalling beige outfit that could only belong to the 70’s, my hair in the ballerina bun i used to wear then. i was standing on the stoep of his house in the bo-kaap, waiting, when i saw this red-faced, brandy-boeped man come strolling up jordaan street. we looked at each other for a long minute before he said, “don’t tell me you’re sandra”. i looked right back at him, said, “no, i’m not!” and turned away. and those are the first words my father and i ever spoke to each other.

his wife, however, auntie esther, a beautiful malay woman who’d given up her muslim faith in order to marry my father, was amazing. she welcomed me with open arms, never made me feel any less than welcome and loved and would introduce me to people as her children’s sister. oh yes, i also discovered 4 half-siblings i didn’t know existed before then. when i’d go and visit on a sunday afternoon, auntie esther would make sure that she always packed some of  her amazing chicken pie – you can’t imagine how much that meant to an impoverished university student. though she was packing more than food, she was making sure that i went home with some love.

right now, auntie esther is in hospital in cape town and the doctors are stopping treatment. she’s in and out of a coma, has spreading gangrene in her legs which is poisoning her system and all her children have flown in (from as far as britain) to be with her. i wish i could be there. she didn’t birth me, but she never made me feel any less than her own, she never showed any resentment towards me for the fact that her youngest son, my half-brother, was but 6 months older than i was. she never blamed me for the fact that my father was a scallywag. and i wish i could be there to show her the same love she has always shown me and help to send her on her way to a better place. i love you auntie esther, may the next world welcome you with the same love and open arms you always showed me.

updated 17h58 RIP ESTHER VAN GRAAN.  the next world is lucky to have you.


when i left town last friday, the world was caught up in the throes of a fairytale wedding. when i came back on monday, everyone was talking about the death and funeral of a man hated by many. there has been much rejoicing at the death of bin laden and much controversy at the rejoicing. i remember being woken up in los angeles by a phone call to turn on the tv on september 11, 2001. minutes later we watched as the towers collapsed on the other side of the country and i remember the tears i shed at the horror of so many deaths. my ex-husband is from new york and i remember our fears for friends and family.

and yet, whatever the world may think of him, though he was abhorred by many, i cannot rejoice at another death.

this is a poem i wrote at the time:

fragments   911/9.11                   9.15.01


tomorrow is late

for the clocks were stopped today,

time evaporating in a fiery ball

and with it, all we know

of how a life is lived.

a ghostly,  gray oblivion holds sway;

so many vivid lights  flickering


today fear took flight on grim wings,

a grisly nightmare from which we shaken, cannot wake.

the mind rebels.

my mind repels reality as if any moment now

i’ll see the credits roll.

i’ll find that this is just

the  spill of celluloid unspooling-

a blockbuster.

the world is rapidly unhinging.

our souls are singed –

indigo, tinged with rue…

my feelings are mirrored in the frozen faces,

the gashes of tear-stained, stricken eyes,

horrified hands, aghast, clasped

over silently screaming mouths:

“this is the way the world ends

this is the way the world ends

this is the way the world ends…”

tomorrow is late

and despite our hopeful waiting

for some,

today will never come.

we are standing in the shadow of dark wings,


we need to send out the light,

we need to bend back the black.

we have plumetted

and plumbed the depths –

now let us ascend.

and today i would like to extend this wish i wrote for someone dear to me, to you reading this. have a good life. to quote gold fish, get busy living.

have a fabulous odyssey with  marvellous adventures.
be safe and successful in your endeavours.
laugh long and loud with enough tears only to bloom the bulbs of joy.
walk in the world with honor and respect for yourself and others.
have compassion as well as passion.
be truth.
magnify and be magnified – be magnificence personified.

i honor the place in you in which the entire universe dwells.
i honor the place in you, which is of light and peace.
when you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, we are one.


an off the wall week

this week is now almost the week that was. and wow! what a week it was!

first farrah dies. then michael. resulting in an off the wall media frenzy and completing the latest trilogy of dead pop icons which started with ed mcmahon. may they all R.I.P. then freddy hayward of the band mean mr mustard dies of a heart attack. in his 30’s! and former springbok rugby captain, joost van der westhuizen  is in hospital after a suspected heart attack. what’s with this spate of people’s hearts calling time out? scary…

in s.a. sports, bafana bafana held their own against brazil in the confed cup. the u.s.a. confounded spain by ending their 35-game winning streak, the boks won their second test against the irish lions in the dying minute of the game, and then bafana bafana again nearly caused an upset against spain. ample opportunities for more heart-stopping moments.

that was the news at large. personally, i finally committed and booked my ticket to l.a.. yup, i did it, i’m clicking my heels and i’m going home. from home (if only for 2 months). this is the confusion that happens when one has dual citizenship – you wind up not knowing where home is and pining for  the “other home” and the loved ones you leave behind there. makes for a somewhat schizophrenic existence.

i also finally went back to the dr. who was responsible for my laser peel disaster and had him persuade me to try a different type of laser called bbl or broad beam light, to fix the damage. i wound up canceling both appointments though, i think both scared and scarred by the memory of the excruciating pain i was in the last time. it’s supposed to be a completely different process, but i started making myself sick stressing about it. so now i’ll wait till i finish shooting and then decide if i have the courage to face another possible mishap.

thursday i made my way over to @exmi‘s pad in the ‘vale. seemed like a trek, but really nothing in comparison to the distances i’m going to have to get used to covering again in l.a.. it takes at least 30 minutes to get *anywhere*. anyway. had  a good time hanging out chatting and met her adorable kid and her guy. picked up some yummy body thrills, and delivered the dress she’d ordered from me. thursday night i cooked dinner for some business partners of the s.o. – nice people who sadly had to leave in the middle of dinner as the wife’s grandfather was succumbing to cancer. once again, R.I.P.

on friday, attended a great going away party for one of my oldest  friends, former afrikaans idols judge/radio personality/columnist/music industry maven, deon maas who is off to nigeria for 6 weeks to produce a reality show there. the best parties always happen at deon’s house. i paid for it dearly on saturday, i must confess, but it was worth it. we’ve known each other for over 20 years now and though people love to hate him, he’s a dear and loyal friend.

saturday afternoon i went to the bloggirls birthday bash at mellisoo‘s house where we overindulged in snacks and cupcakes and went crazy over the lions/springboks rugby match. was great to meet @glugster, @angelsmind ‘s other half and her son damien who has the most delightfully droll sense of humor. also met philly-girl’s very cute counter-part, @varen as well as stef who’s blog, i believe is now defunct. we swapped gifts, and i made off with some chocolate, candles and bubble bath, while angel got a beanie i’d knitted.

ok,  this was supposed to be a short post which i was just dashing off before friends arrive for hot soup and bread and the confed cup final between u.s.a. and brazil (we are the envy of many as the s.o. has a projector set up which has made our tv obsolete and makes for a larger than life picture).

ok, soccer time shortly. and  i’m shutting up now.

taking a trip down…

sometimes i wonder about myself, you know. sometimes i really worry.

tv plus magazine flies me down to cape town for all of 48 hours, to once again be one of the judges for their high school drama competition. i fly in somewhere around midnight on friday night. i have every intention of reading scripts on the plane, but instead i sink down in my seat, pull my cap over my eyes and hopefully don’t snore for the duration of the 2 hour flight. upon landing i, surprise!, don’t wait an eternity for my bag and when i get to the counter at budget, my paperwork is all done. i give them my cell phone number and the nissan tiida is mine for 2 days.
just like that.
paul is waiting up for me and wolf gets up out of bed when i make it to claremont. we make chai tea and eat mint chocolate balls while we catch up till about 2 a.m. i marvel at what hugo, their spca pavement special, looks like now. just goes to show, one never knows what one will get when one gets one of these lucky dip dogs. originally a dark brown ball, he now has curly ginger hair and is a marvel of hard to place features. one of those adorable mutts that wins your heart in movies.
saturday late morning i head into town to check out the afro coffee cafe to see if they have any more of the fabulous colorful bags like the one i’ve worn to death. i check the website for their address, only to discover when i get there that afro coffee no longer exists. their website says they do, but they don’t. guys. time to update your website. please.
i wander back down to miriam’s kitchen, one of the best places to buy salomies. (some kind of curry filling wrapped in a roti – a south african version of a burrito). i get a chicken salomie even though i don’t eat chicken 98% of the time. when i eventually get home, wolfgang and i polish it off with some tomato jam. all gone. yummy!
before that though, i walk through the greenmarket square flea market to get to my car. it used to be my all time favorite place for all kinds of unique items, but now it’s pretty much all curios and not much more. some leather jackets catch my eye and i spend some times going through the tchatchkes on the guys’ table. i buy an antique looking pencil even though it’s not working. imagine my surprise when i get home and google the marking on the pencil.
and i discover that this pencil, according to it’s markings, was made before 1850, i.e., 160 or so years ago! wow! score! probably worth way more than the hundred bucks i reluctantly parted with for it, though my intention is not resale, but personal use.
and then… and this is the part that really worries me, i proceed to clean the keys on my laptop. granted, the guys have left by now and i’m at the house all alone, and i’ve been meaning to do it for months, but please. i’m in cape town for the first time in 4 months. i should be out making the most of it, but instead i. am. cleaning. the. keys. on. my. keyboard. . . . . .
and i’m aware as i’m doing it, that this is weird. i. am. weird.
i leave an hour early for the theatre. i’ve decided to see if i can find ronald’s old flat where i stayed with him in 1981 and where wolfgang and i parted with our cherries. i drive to rosebank and find liesbeeck road. i walk through the now graffiti’d subway to get to the other side of the railway line and i’m surprised that i don’t really remember it. the elision of chunks of memory is scary…(i, unlike clinton, inhaled).  i don’t see the flat. it’s not where i think it was, so i stop to ask a family walking into their big old rambling house, whether they know a bridgebank road or bridgebank court. they point next door. i wander over there, but the blocks of flats across the road look more familiar than the building i’m looking for. it’s been renovated, but it’s not an improvement. i stand infront of it and stare, just as the occupants of a car parked infront of the building stare at me. i decide that i must look odd just standing there staring, so i move off.
i don’t know what i’m feeling.
from there i head into town, but on the way i have to pass the university of cape town,

where i spent 5 long years. on the spur of the moment i find myself on the ivy-walled campus. driving around and marvelling at how much and how little i remember after all the time i spent there. i finally head my car towards town, but when i get to the artscape complex. i am still almost half an hour early. i decide to head to beach road, mouille point, across the road from my friend ineke’s old apartment. i park my car and head out towards the ocean. i stand in the twilight and watch the waves crashing against the mostly submerged rocks where we scattered the ashes of one of my best friends in the world last november. i flew down to cape town almost every month last year saying a protracted goodbye to someone i found it impossible to part from, but finally i didn’t have a choice. i stand there. the last time i was in that same place, i had the gritty charcoal of ini’s cremains still clinging to my fingers, dusty smudges on my white pants.
i don’t know what i’m feeling.
introspective. sad? yes. i miss her crazy, wise, funny, penetrating, quirky self. i always will. i’m wondering about friendship. about the amazing people i’ve been privileged to have in my life. i think about about how though my friendships are consistent, my contact with those friends is not always so. something to change. i am getting old enough to have my best friends die. i don’t like this.
i get in the car and drive through the twilit city, the mountain a cardboard cut-out against the sky. i head to artscape where i am going to be one of the judges deciding, in essence, what direction a number of young actors’ lives will take. they are young and earnest and inexperienced and all pale in comparison to last year’s winner. i write my notes, i write down percentages. at the end of the night, we sit on the stage waiting for the results to be read out and winners announced. it is strange to see one of my high school teachers whom i used to dote on, in the audience. time contracts and expands and somehow is all the same moment. a winner is chosen. the girl who was 3rd last year, does not make top 3 this year. she walks off the stage, trying to disguise her emotions. i feel for her. around me the extremes of joy and disappointment. cameras flash. kisses, handshakes. the mask of comedy. the mask of tragedy. side by side.
i gather my masks and head back across the mountain.