In Mother Nature's Garden


Pearls in PinocchioTipToe Through the Tulips 1955

In Mother Nature’s Garden 

Every mother has hopes and dreams for her offspring, but my mother encouraged lots of kids.  I hope that wherever you hail from, you’ll enjoy my family’s dynamics as I remember them

In Mother Nature’s Garden.

 My parents didn’t spend much time worrying about my brothers futures: they showed great promise.  My older brother seemed destined to succeed David Livingston as a great explorer.  Supervised camping, Boy Scout style, was not for him.  Perhaps before his teens even, my parents presented him with the heaviest fiberglass canoe ever made, for his birthday.  It was launched from places like Dutchman’s Pool, Sebakwe Poort and the Bembezaan River on camping expeditions into the vast interior.  Inevitably (like Livingstone) he discovered the rivers were not navigable here and there and lacked the benefit of Livingstone’s portage resources.  The going was tough, but perhaps he would be an inventor as he put himself to work designing a lighter boat. 

When the mighty Zambezi River was being dammed and great swaths of the bundu were hacked away to make way for Kariba’s huge power lines that would electrify the whole county, he decided to bicycle down into the heart of the Zambezi Valley to see how the dam wall was coming along.  He was a list maker: provisions, first aid, repairs, but not even he anticipated the size or number of thorns that would be encountered every square inch of the way. It was all about the experience of endurance my mother insisted:  character building.

My younger brother was quite different of course.  He was another Albert Einstein in the making.  There was no question about it.  From day one he dismantled every toy he ever received to find out why, for instance, his rubber ducky floated in his bath.  He asked questions I never thought of, like why the water rose when he was plopped into it too.  Mom said it had something to do with a fellow called Newton, Dad would know all about it.   No, it was not the Newton who owned the appliance store.  He asked questions I wouldn’t dare ask like where did babies come from? After a long silence in the car Mom said, “Somewhere down below. I’ll tell you when you’re ready.”  He took his bedside alarm clock apart.  There were a lot of left over bits when he put it back together.  It was a Godsend when he started school because, although two and a half years younger he would do my arithmetic homework for me, which was nice.  “It’s strange,” mused Dad as he reviewed my end of term report, “Your homework marks are tops but your test marks put you at the bottom of the class.”

“Its stage fright,” I said. It was tough being the middle child, sandwiched between all this promise.

“Well how about piano lessons to get you over that?” Dad suggested helpfully.  By the time I was seven I had agonized over daily piano lessons for a year.  “I was so lucky,” Dad said, “To have permission to practice at the Fotheringham Hall.  Not every child had that chance.”  Every hesitation, every missed chord echoed through that empty hall.  An ever shorter practice and longer dawdle back home saw its demise.

“Ballet might be it!” suggested Mom who, by now, was writing, producing and directing her first full-on pantomime.  At least it would give me some badly needed poise she reasoned.  Although it didn’t show on the outside, it seemed I had two left feet, and they were forever getting in the way of each other.  Our ballet teacher, Mrs. Schimowitz,  was a ballerina, no doubt, from another world, but now she hailed from the great metropolis of Gatooma and drove all the way (40 miles) to share her expertise with us once a week.

She screamed and shouted and had tantrums to no avail.  It was most un-ballerina like I thought and only added to my stage fright. 

Mom consoled me, that ballet teachers are a breed of their own: very temperamental.   Mom was in a position to know.  Mrs. Schimowitz’s dancers were show cased in Mom’s very first pantomime, In Mother Nature’s Garden.