kids


I see little hands.

They played over the water. Once.

I see little hands. Little hands holding. Holding on. Tight. So tight.

Those little hands clinging. To a dress. A shirt. Any piece of clothing will do.

I see little hands grasping. For mom. For dad. For anything. Anyone.

Those little hands.

Little hands reaching. Up. Higher. Pushing harder. For something. For air. Just a little bit will do for little lungs.

Little hands splashing. Slapping water. Fighting water. So much water for such little hands.

Those little hands. I see those little hands.

Little hands searching. For me. For you. For us.

Those little hands.

Those cold little hands. So cold. Blue.

Gripping.

Even just my little finger would do. They are so little. Just a little bit would help. They will hold on forever if they could. Hold on to me. My little finger for those those little hands. That will do.

I see little hands.

Still.

So still.

Just quiet little hands.

I see little hands. I see little hands do nothing.

Just little hands. Still. Not moving. Ever again.

Those little immigrant hands. Those illegal little hands. Those fleeing little hands.

I hope it gets a warm hug somewhere.

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I know, most people have read this one already. And you know me and my girls… They are my life.  But they also remind me of The Little Girl In The Blue House… Is there someone missing her? Someone talking to her each day? Is she waiting for someone? Is she okay?

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The Little Girl In The Blue House

I always walk the same way to the train station. I take the shortest route. I have too. Way too early to walk one meter further than I have to. Or one minute longer than what is needed. There is another route. Slightly longer. But all the time in the world if it is so bloody early in the morning. My normal route is an easy walk. Turn right, then a quick left and straight down to the station. A quick and easy 20 minute stroll.  And who said I don’t get enough exercise… But today I had to go the slightly longer route. Turn left, turn right and down the slightly longer walk to the station. Not by much. Just about 5 minutes added. But sometimes the longer route brings more than just a longer walk. And this morning I got more than I wanted. Another reason why I never like walking that route. A reminder. A memory.

My oldest daughter always does the “left turn” walk. Her friend from across the street walks with her to the bus stop. They pick up another friend along the way and off they go. But not this morning. The girl from across the road didn’t feel too well so she couldn’t walk with my daughter. Dad duties called. I am the backup. So off we went. On our left turn. 

We were joking as we walked. Doing our “home boy” walk down the street. Me doing funny walks and funny voices to show her how I was going to embarrass her in front of her friend who has never met me. Doing my typical dad stuff. We got to the house. I gave her a hug and a kiss and watched her walk to meet her friend. And off I went. Taking my right turn down the road. The slightly longer road.

I put my iPod on and was listening to A Fine Frenzy when I walked past the blue house. And it brought back memories of the little girl who lived there. The little girl in the blue house.

She was the first friend my oldest daughter made at her new school when we moved here. They were in the same class. Hung out together. I saw her often. At the school. Or at the park. Or just in the streets when we were walking. But she was always there when we took my daughter to school. Running to great her friend. She was scrawny just like my daughter. But she was a little bit too thin. A little bit too pale.

In summer she always had just a t-shirt on. And in winter. A very worn and tatty thin little jacket. And trust me. It gets damn cold over here in Boston in winter. I remember seeing her with her arms folded to try and keep some heat in that little body of hers. You could see she was cold. But that was all she had for winter.

Her mother was always well dresses. With the latest fashion. Clothes and accessories she bought at the mall. She looked well looked after. And warm. Not like her little girl. But we didn’t see her at school often. Or anywhere for that matter. She didn’t walk with her little girl that often.

And they stayed just down the road from the school. It looked like a pretty house from the outside. That blue house where the girl stayed.

I often took my girls to the park at the school. And we’ll see her there often. On her own. On the swings. And she’ll be so happy to see my daughters. She was always so good to my little one. Running up to her and giving her a hug and a kiss and playing with her. She was a nice little girl. That little girl from the blue house.

My daughter always told us about her friend. And how she shared her snacks at school with her because she never had snacks. So my wife put in a few extra snacks for two. Never mentioned it to the little girl. Didn’t want her to feel odd. My daughter just shared because that is how she is. It was her friend. No questions.

And one day she told us that the girl was so exited about going to visit her dad in Arkansas. Her parents were divorced. And she lived with her mother and boyfriend in the blue house. The boyfriend had a nice BMW convertible. Nice car. Pretty new. They obviously had some money. Just not always for the little girl. But she was excited. She was going to visit her dad.

And then we saw her during the holiday. When she was meant to be at her dad. It was the first time I really saw her sad. The smile wasn’t there. She spoke to my daughter in a low sad voice and I didn’t want to ask too many questions. Didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable. I just wanted her to be a little girl. Playing with her friend. And having fun the way 10-year old girls are meant to have fun. So I let them talk and watched as they started playing and giggling. And the smile started coming back. She was with her friend.

The odd thing was that apart from that day I always saw her smile. A big old child smile. I never heard her complain. Not in front of me in any case. She always looked happy. But you could see that there was something missing. You just had to look carefully.

I always hug and kiss my girls. No matter where we are. When we drop them off at school. When I say goodbye in the morning. When they go to sleep at night. Or just because we feel like a hug and a kiss. Which is often. No matter where we are. And this little girl saw this. Saw how I hugged my girls. And she wanted one too.

I used to see her looking at me and my daughter when we hug. And then one day she came up to me when I took my girl to her school and asked for a hug. She was a little bit shy about asking. But I just gave my girl a hug and she looked at me with her tatty top with the long sleeves and peeked at me. “Can I get a hug please?” “Of course!” I said. I gave her a big old hug. And she hugged back. Hugging maybe a little longer and harder than what I expected. Almost as if she didn’t get a lot of hugs and would like to get hugs more often. She was only ten.

And that was how it was. Whenever she saw me she would come running up to me and give me a hug. And I’ll hug her back. And I’ll give her a smile and ask how she was doing. It became a standard thing. I never really thought much about it. I knew she wanted a hug and I gave her one. We can do with more hugs in this world. And I didn’t think that she got too many hugs elsewhere in any case.

And then one day she was just gone. Just gone. Her mother packed their bags in the middle of the night and just disappeared. Gone. Not even a goodbye. Not even a last hug. Just gone with her tatty little top. We never knew what happened to her. How she is doing or how she is feeling. Is she with her dad? Is she okay? Is she happy? Is she being a kid? Did she get a warmer jacket? Is she still smiling those big old smiles of hers? Is she getting any hugs? Or is she still playing alone in the park?

Time passed and memories started fading. We’ll mention her every now and again and just wonder.

And then we started looking at buying a house. And one of the houses that was on the market was the blue house. The blue house where the little girl stayed. So off we went to look at the house. Thinking that maybe we can buy it and make it our little house. Until we opened the front door and walked in.

My wife and myself just looked at each other when we walked in. I knew what she was thinking. It was my thoughts to.

The house stank. It was dirty. So dirty. Everything was a mess. Stuff lying on the floor everywhere. Clothes. Plates. Old food. Ashtrays overflowing. Wet spots. I have never, ever seen anything like this anywhere. And I have been to some places… It has been like this for a long, long time. Our shoes got stuck on the sticky dirt that was on the floors. All the rooms were in a mess. You couldn’t even see what color the walls or carpets were. It was brown. From dirt and cigarette smoke. I felt nauseous. Sick. The ex-boyfriend was lying in bed downstairs watching something on a big screen television. On his huge water bed. With plates and empty bottles and cigarettes lying all around him. A pig in a pigsty.

We went up the stairs to look at the real bedrooms. And we walked into the room that would have been that little girls room. It was a mess. Just a mess. No place for a little girl. Any little girl. Dirty. Filthy. Disgusting. You could see little things she must have tried to do to make it a little girl’s room. A little picture here and there. A ripped out poster. A wonky little table where she must have tried to study. Some girlie jewelery lying on the floor amongst the dirt that she must have forgotten to pack in the haste. But it was covered in a floor that ran skew. Holes in the floors and roof. And cold. And this was in winter. No heating. This was the room of the little girl with the big smile.

My wife and myself just looked at each other. We knew what each of us were thinking. We just wanted to get out. Just wanted to forget that we ever came. That we ever knew that little girl. And that she lived there. Her little room in the blue house.

We sat in the car and just stared at nothing for a while. And then she said it. “She lived in that house.” That’s all that needed to be said. We knew. The little girl in the blue house.

And walking past that house this morning reminded me of her. That little girl in the blue house. Made me think. Again. How did she do it? How did she manage? How did she remain a little girl in that house? How long can she be that girl with the big old kid smile? How long before she falls through the cracks? Is she strong enough? Where will she find the love she needs? The hugs she deserves? How is the little girl from the blue house doing?

The little girl from the blue house. I hope you remember me. I hope you remember those hugs. I just wish I hugged you a little harder and a little longer.

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It started with a simple set of questions… “Dad, what are people doing? Why don’t they want other people to marry? Why don’t they do anything about global warming? Why are they always fighting?”

How do I tell her? How. Do. I. Tell. Her?

1001, 1002, 1003, die… 1004, 1005, 1006, dead…

How do I tell her that every 3 seconds a child dies from something that we could’ve stopped? From hunger. From not enough food. From not having an apple. Or clean drinking water. Or just a little porridge in the morning. That we have it in our power to stop it if we want. But we choose not to. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that our friends can’t marry because some people just hate their love too much? That love is sometimes not enough. That caring for each other is not what everyone else thinks should be. That the insecurities of the heart and soul of others drive hate instead of seeing the love. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that some people talk freedom but don’t believe in it? That freedom is freedom even if we don’t like what others do or say. That freedom to marry. Freedom to love. Freedom to see the love of your life die in hospital. That these freedoms are killed by bigots every day. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her the pursuit of happiness is denied for most? That it’s a lie that we are told by so many who deny the happiness of others. That justice, equality and liberty is claimed by many but believed and practiced by few. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her people believe in carrying guns that kill but don’t believe in caring for love? That it’s okay to defend the right to carry a weapon of hatred in your holster but not love in your heart. That it’s okay to defend the right to carry that gun but not the right to love? How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that I don’t know what our earth will look like in her future? That maybe we are killing this world of ours with our greed and want. That wanting, buying, driving, wearing, making, living, eating too much and all those things we do might be killing our world slowly. So slowly that we argue while the pot is starting to boil. Like frogs we are killing ourselves slowly. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that most people don’t really believe in human rights? That they speak of it as if they care and are willing to fight for it and die for it. But that they will deny others those same human rights. Their right not to be tortured. Their right to marry. Their right to choose. Their right to believe and love who they want. They deny it all. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that people are willing to let their fellow Americans die. That they can stop it but they choose to look the other way and walk away? That a public option will save lives but some of us are too selfish and scared and would rather offer up American lives. American blood. All because they don’t care to care. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that so many men carry hate in their hearts. They rape. They kill. They take away. That these are men we see and know. But we don’t see and we don’t know. That it’s okay to love the world. But be careful with who you trust. They will hurt you if they can because we know of those who are dead and missing. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her to not trust the man who speaks of God because they use and abuse His name? That they will hate in His name. That they will lie in His name. That they will give Him different names and still be full of hate and lies. That the hate and lies is preached by bigots claiming every religion – Christian, Jew, Hindu, Muslim – you name it. That it’s okay to love God but to not trust those who speak in His name. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that there are mad men in caves wanting to kill a dream? That there are enemies everywhere willing to take lives. Innocent lives. And that we live in so much fear that we are willing to do the same as them. We are willing to let innocent people die because of our own fears. That we play into the hand of the warmongers with our weakness of fear. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her all this and so much more? Racism. Discrimination. Child labor. Obesity. Diseases. Sexism. And all this stuff waiting out there in the world. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her all this? How do I tell her that if we all just wasted a little less. Wanted a little less. Cared a little more. Believed a little more. Loved a little more. Spoke out a little louder. Did a little more…

How do I tell her that I see the faces of those kids dying? I know their names in my dreams. That they are my kids. Our kids. Not a number. Her kids.

How do I tell her that I feel the love of my friends being denied? That I only feel threatened because they are being denied the right to love and live in love the way I do? They they are not gay. That they are me. They are her.

How do I tell her I believe in freedom? That it’s worth fighting for even when others are trying to kill it with their freedom-my-way-or-no-way lies and bigotry and double standards. That I fight for the rights for all because I fight for her rights.

How do I tell her I don’t believe in guns? That I hate guns. That guns have killed in my family. That I will still defend those who want the right to have a gun. But that I expect them to fight and defend the right of my friends to love just as hard. That those rights are all hers.

How do I tell her that I don’t know everything about global warming? That I don’t know the science that well. But that I know that it’s better to be safe than sorry. That I will fight for this planet because it is all we have. The only one we have. It’s all I can give her. This little planet in the middle of nowhere is her planet.

How do I tell her that human rights means we have to give it to everyone? To those who are like us. Who love like us. Who live like us. Who believe like us. And those who don’t believe like us. Don’t want to be us. That human rights means we take the higher road and don’t torture. That human right means we allow everyone to be treated the same way we are treated. In love and in marriage. And that I will speak out and fight for those rights. Every single day until we all have it. Because it is her rights.

How do I tell her I believe in justice, equality and liberty? That I believe it is fundamental to who we are and how we want to live. Even though other say it but don’t live it or truly believe it through action. That I will fight for her to have justice. That I will stand up for her to have equality. And I will defend her liberty. Because justice, equality and liberty are hers.

How do I tell her that I don’t want these Americans we live with to die? That I want them to live. I want to help look after them. I want them to have an option to get looked after when they are sick. And that the only option for them is a government option. That I have not option but support an option that will let Americans live. Because I believe that Americans are good. And that it is our duty to love them and respect them and help look after them. Because we are them. American health is her health.

How do I tell her not all men are bad? That there are good men out there. Men who love and care. Men we can trust. And that it’s worth trusting and finding the men we can believe in and trust. That we men will fight those who hurt. Because these are her men.

How do I tell her that God is good? That it is okay to believe and not be part of the lies told by those who claim Him – no matter what they call Him. That God is good and God is love. That I will fight for Him and claim Him back from those who use and abuse His name. Who lie and spread hate in His name. Because He is her God.

How do I tell her not to fear the mad man in the cave or anyone else who lives to hate? That fear is not what makes us who we are. That love makes us who we are. That the love we have is stronger than the hate of others. That love should never be seen as a weakness. Because I will fight for it. Because this love is her love. My love for her. My gift to her. Love.

How do I tell her that when I am alone in my thoughts… On the bus. Running. In a hotel. Flying. That I cry inside when I am alone. And sometimes I cry on the outside for all these strangers to see. Thinking of this. Knowing that I don’t know what we are doing. That I don’t know what we are leaving for her tomorrow. For her future. Her world. I just don’t know.

I don’t know what world she will inherit from us. I don’t know what world we will leave behind. For her. And for her kids.

But I do know that I will fight for what I believe in. I will fight for her rights. Her right to love, believe, be free, have no fear, carry a gun, marry who she wants. her right to be herself. My big angel. Because I love her. And it’s all I can give her.

I want to tell her that the world is full of good people. That every single day I work with people who make this world a little better. One step at a time. Sometimes small but always forward. I want to tell her we will fight the good fight. Every single day. There are more of us than what the world might think. And we are strong. And we will never give up.

I want to tell her I do what I do because of her. That I see her face when I work. I see her face when I fight for what is right. I see her face when I live my life. It drives me. I want to leave her a world to be proud of. I want to leave her a dad to be proud of.

But I don’t. I don’t tell her any of this…

I take her hand and we dance on a Saturday. I joke with her and I tickle her. I play with her and I tease her. I help her with her homework and I say I’m proud of her great work. I have fun with her and walk her to the bus stop. I hang out with her and watch Harry Potter with her. I lie watching music videos with her and write silly stuff to her on Facebook. Sometimes we talk about Madiba or God and space-time limitations. Or science and mathematics. Geography or food. Even a little bit of serious stuff like politics and rights. And then I talk to her about crazy silly things and give her my books to read. I pull her finger and burp as loud as I can. I go mess up her bed and chase her around. I just do the things a crazy silly stupid dad is meant to do. Because she is my girl. My oldest girl. My big angel. And I’m just her dad. That’s all I want to be. The cool guy who loves her more than life.

She is my Ubuntu. I am because we are.

So I don’t tell her. But I know. I know we have to fix this world to make it ready for her. She deserves nothing less. She is perfect. She needs a perfect world.

We’ve got work to do. My big angel is coming and I’ve got a world to clean and get ready…

I have two girls. Two beautiful girls. A little princess. And a slightly bigger angel. My girls. My life.

My girls they love to dance. Ballet. Jazz. Hip Hop. Tap. Crazy. You name the style and they have it. Just a shame their dad was born with two left feet…

I have the dancing ability of the Elephant Man. Some say it is cute. And then laugh when they can’t keep a straight face. Others just burst into laughter straight away. But it hasn’t stopped us from dancing our life away. It hasn’t stopped us from having our music moments. Let me tell you a bit about those moments…

I lie in on Sunday mornings. Not too late. But a little. My beautiful and suffering wife takes on Sunday mornings. Making Belgium waffles or pancakes or vetkoeke. And bacon. In the words of my little princess… “I loooove bacon”. But it sounds more like “I luuuuuuuuv bay-kin”. It’s Boston you see. It is rubbing off on her. But I lie in like a lord while the smell of love fills the air.

But I don’t lie alone. My big angel comes to join me. Just the two of us. Little princess is in the kitchen with mom learning how to cook. So we lie in bed. She lies in my arms and together we listen to music. No. We “play argue” about music. Channel hopping between VH1 Classics and MTV. She laughs at the big hair of the 80s and the crap music back then. I laugh at the lack of proper lyrics and new styles in the music of today. And we argue about who has the best music taste. She rolls her eyes when I go “Yeah” to Springsteen dancing with the Courtney Cox or do my MC Hammer impressions to “Can’t Touch This“. I laugh at her doing a hip hop impression with her skinny legs and the girlie voice when she goes “Yo!”

But sometimes we go quiet for a moment. A song comes up that makes us go quiet. And we just lie there. She in my arms. And I hold her a little bit tighter than before. It’s then that the music knows no age. It’s when the music goes straight to the heart. And the stomach. It just tells you to lie back and listen to the voice and melody. The words doesn’t even matter. It’s just a song that reminds the two of us that we are lucky. Lucky to have a mom who loves us. And a mom we love. And a little sister that’s a little bit crazy. And lucky that we have our little Sunday morning of music. And love.

We always goes quiet when Sinead O’Connor tells us Nothing Compares. Because we know. Nothing compares. Nothing compares to the laughing and the music in our house. To the love you can almost touch in our house. And nothing compares to the big angel and me lying back and enjoying our Sunday morning of music. Just a dad and his girl.

Sinead always does that to me. I look at her face and remember that she was the first crush I had. But it was just that video. And when she cries. When the tears starts rolling down her face. All I wanted to do was just hold her and say “It’s okay Sinead, we love you”. Of course I knew it was just a video. Just a song. But I always felt that she just needed a hug and a whisper that “it’ll be okay”.

But there is a new song that also makes us go quiet. A song of today. It’s not the words. Like Nothing Compares wasn’t about the words. It was about Sinead being lost without love. She reminds me about those out there with no love. Those with no Sunday mornings. This new song just reminds me that there isn’t enough love out there.

It’s different from Sinead. This song doesn’t make me feel sorry for singer. The song doesn’t tell you about the love that is missing in that life. But this song hits me. Always. I don’t know what it is. But it reminds me that most people don’t know that love. Love that hurts because it is so good. Love that makes you cry because you are so happy. This song haunts me. It makes me miss people I don’t even know. And I can see my angel feels the same when we lie in bed and listen to this song. Watching the tv. But not seeing the song. Just letting it flow.

That’s my Sunday morning of music. And love. And then there is the Sunday afternoon of music and love. Crazy music. Crazy times. Crazy love. That’s my little princess. And Love Is In The Air.

It’s from one of my favorite movies of all time. Strictly Ballroom. Make no mistake. I am not into ballroom. Or musicals for that matter. But this is one awesome movie. This guy can dance. And you should see me and my little princess make our moves on this song.

It’s just crazy. I never tell her when I am going to play it. Never. I just switch it on and watch her reaction. She’ll be in the lounge and I’ll put the boom-box on in the kitchen. Loud. No. LOUD! All she needs are those first few keys to play. And then she runs into the kitchen and shouts, “Louder dad! Louder!” So I turn it louder. Max. And then she jumps up for me to catch her. And hold her. Hang on baby, here we go!

You start off with a few slow swings. Her legs clamped around my middle. I take her hands and she falls back. Her long hair almost hitting the ground. And I wiggle her arms for her whole little body to shake. I swing her up and grab her by her middle. And flip her up in the air. Her head almost touching the roof. Her eyes jumps open wide with a mixture of exhilaration and happiness. I can hear her laugh and giggling throughout the song. I swing her around my body – over my shoulder and around my back. Her feet never touching the floor. It’s wild. And it gets wilder. She stretches out like Superman while I hold her up in the air and move her forward and backwards. And spin her a bit more. And then the song hits a high note and beat. And I swing her head back. Holding her head with one hand and her back with the other. And I start spinning. Around and around. Keeping up with the beat. And going faster and faster as that piece builds up and builds up. And then… BANG! “Love is in the air!” Full swing. I see nothing but her face laughing. Her mouth open with the happiness of just dancing. Her eyes wide open with pleasure. Her arms swinging outstretched. Complete trust that her dad will hold her tight enough no matter how fast we go. Her complete love for her crazy dad dancing his silly dance on a Sunday afternoon.

And when it is over? “Again dad! Again!” Love Is In The Air. On a Sunday afternoon.

But this song is also different. The words are true. The beat belies the words. The words…

Love is in the air
Everywhere I look around
Love is in the air
Every sight and every sound
And I don’t know if I’m being foolish
Don’t know if I’m being wise
But it’s something that I must believe in
And it’s there when I look in your eyesLove is in the air.

Love is in the air
In the whisper of the tree
Love is in the air
In the thunder of the sea
And I don’t know if I’m just dreaming
Don’t know if I feel safe
But it’s something that I must believe in
And it’s there when you call out my name

Love is in the air
Love is in the air

Love is in the air
In the rising of the sun
Love is in the air
When the day is nearly done
And I don’t know if you are an illusion
Don’t know if I see truth
But you are something that I must believe in
And you are there when I reach out for you

Love is in the air
Everywhere I look around
Love is in the air
Every sight and every sound
And I don’t know if I’m being foolish
Don’t know if I’m being wise
But it’s something that I must believe in
And it’s there when I look in your eyes

Love is in the air
Love is in the air

Love is in the air
Love is in the air

Sometimes with music. Always with love. Sometimes on a Sunday. Always every day. Love is in the air. In my home.

Love Is In The Air

Love Is In The Air

Will you take the flower please?

Will you take the flower please?

I am still haunted by this picture I have stuck in my head. The picture of the bully. The bully at my oldest angel’s school.

It happened a few years ago when my oldest daughter was graduating from her school. Well, graduating is pushing it a bit. She was just moving up to middle school. But we were proud parents. And we were there for her special day.

It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and the birds were out to sing us a few songs. Us parents huddled around waiting for our kids. Chatting away about this and about that. Taking up our seats on our nice comfortable chairs waiting for our our kids to graduate. And someone mentioned the bully.

She was also going to graduate today. She was in my daughter’s class. The discussion? We hoped that she won’t be in the same school as our angels next year. This year was tough enough. We really didn’t want our kids facing her again next year. The pushing on the playground and the shoving in the corridors. Enough was enough. And we all hoped the bully will land up somewhere else. Far away from our kids. Somewhere where she can cause trouble on her own and not cause any more crying at home.

This girl was really a bully. A big girl who bullied everyone at school. When they played she always took the ball away from the other kids. And then pushed them. Or just ran into them for no reason. Or shouting and screaming at them. You name it and she did it. The ways bullies do it. It was a bloody nightmare. She was always frowning and being nasty. Just one horrid girl that needed one good bloody hiding if you asked me.

We were still talking about the bully when the kids and teachers came out. There’s our angel! Big wave and even bigger smile and huge kiss blown her direction! Good! She saw me! Mission accomplished! Actually, I was only just warming up with silly things to do…

And then it was time for the end of school ceremony.

We all sat down and listened to the headmistress talking about the kids and what a great year they had. Just the usual blah-blah but special to us and for our kids. This was their big moment. And we hung onto every single word she had to say. We took photos and waved even when told not to wave. Our angel was a bit embarrassed (as she always is with me around!) but she waved back. And she had this huge grin on her face. We might embarrass her every now and again but she loved it. Just loved it. We could see it in her huge big smile. She’ll roll her eyes and whisper something to her friend pointing at me – her crazy dad. And the kid will look at me and laugh. I knew my girl loved her crazy dad and mom. Because they were there waving and whistling and smiling and taking millions of photos of every single moment – when she sang and when she got her piece of paper and when she walked up and when she shook the teacher’s hand and when she breathed… Clickety click-click. We never missed a moment and made sure we had the memories captured for her kids to see one day. The day she can tell her kids, “These are the photos my mom and dad took when I graduated to middle school.” And maybe she’ll tell them about the other times we were there.

Actually, all the kids were smiling at their parents. Smiling and waving and just being crazy kids loving their crazy silly parents. But I only noticed our big angel. “Hey girl! Look here for another photo! Do it or else I’ll dance!” That always got her laughing. And maybe a bit worried that her dad will actually do it. Because she knows he will!

The bully? She wasn’t waving. She wasn’t blowing kisses. She was bloody well pushing and shoving the other kids. With her arms folded and a frown on her face each time one of the kids close to her smiled and waved. You could see her lips moving. Saying things like, “Stop it you” and “Oh puh-leeze you wimp”. But I wasn’t going to let her spoil our special day. I was just smiling and waving and doing crazy things to let my girl never forget this special day.

The school had this really cool thing they do for children who do not have a younger sibling. They are given a rose to give to their parents. A thank you from the school for trusting them to look after their precious kid. And a goodbye as the school won’t see another one of their kids coming to their school. It was a really nice touch. Kids were called up by the headmistress and given a hug and a rose. The kid will then turn around and look for their mom to give her the rose. And a big hug and a kiss. Oh the mothers cried! Their youngest one finishing school! Look how big they are getting!

And the bully got called up to come get her rose. I was thinking that the school is lucky that she is the last one from her family to come to this school. You never know how her sisters and brothers might be. And I really didn’t want out youngest one to go through the same experience with the rest of her family. I was saying thank you for small miracles…

She got her rose. And she got her hug from the headmistress. And it was a bit odd. The hug was a little longer than usual. Longer than what the other kids got. And why was her shoulders shaking like that? It’s not that cold. And then she turned around. Slowly. To face the crowd of parents. And the tears was rolling down her face. Her little face…

She scanned the sea of people in front of her. But you could see that she knew. You could see it in her eyes and through her tears. She knew there was no one there for her. No one doing crazy waves. No one taking pictures. No one to give her a big smile. Her folks weren’t there. You could see her looking for her mom. But there was no one there. She was just a little girl on her own. Not a bully. Just a little girl crying.

She looked at the sea of faces for a few seconds. Hoping. But here was nothing and no one. Just tears that never stopped.

She turned around and leaned forward to give the headmistress one more big hug. And then gave her the rose.

And then she joined the other little girls.

And she was the only one crying…

What are we doing to our children?

____________________________

From the Loose Ends files…

fartlady

I got a talking-to from the lovely suffering wife… Yes, I know… It happens often…

Who said parenting was easy? My wife will respond by rolling her eyes and say, “A parent? You’re a bloody buddy to play with not a parent!” I’ll just be nodding my head with my eyes staring at the floor and my tail between my legs. And peeping to see where the girls are to get them to pull my finger once my “discipline session” is over.

Anyway…

I got the talking-to because the teacher had issues with my poetry teachings…

Apparently, not everyone at school appreciates good poetry. The missus got called in by my youngest daughter’s teacher for “potty talk”. Bah! It’s not potty talk! It’s poetry! Don’t they know anything cultural around here?

Let’s go back to my “poetry teaching” sessions with my 5-year old daughter…

As you might know by now, I bath my youngest daughter at night and put her to bed. Well, that is a pretty boring job if you stick to the “get-it-over-and-done” style of parenting. And I take my job as a parent very seriously. Very seriously… So up the stairs we go every night and in the bath she gets. Actually we do our “pictures” in the mirror first where we pull different faces – happy (Liverpool won!), sad (got to clean the cat litter) , mad (thinking Bush…), crazy (still thinking Bush…), handsome (my normal facial expression…), pretty (my Angelina look) and any other combination of faces. Only once we’ve done our acting classes in the mirror do I allow her to move into the bath. And Grand Master Teacher Angry (or  Guru African to some) comes out to play… hum… I mean… teach…

I have the curriculum well planned and sorted. We will eventually move on to Shakespeare, but for now I want us to concentrate on getting the basics right. Poetry 101… Nice easy rhymes…

So we did a few of the usual rhymes. You know…

“I’ve got a cat in my hat” and “I’ve got a yummy in my tummy” and “I’ve got a bear in my hair”. Just the usual rhymes. And then we moved on to more difficult pieces of poetry. Of course they also had to show me they take their lessons seriously and come up with their own poetry…

I really can’t help that my daughters are geniuses! It’s not my fault that they take innocent little rhymes and create their own unique take on poetry. Should I not be applauded for teaching my child the finer things in life? Should I not be rewarded for bringing the gift of literacy to my youngest daughter? Should I not be celebrated as a teacher and guru of poetry? Should I not be held up as the parent of all parents? Should I not…

And so on and so on. It ends with me claiming the Nobel Peace Prize for teaching my kids silly rhymes that ultimately and directly resulted in world peace and the end of world hunger and poverty. Oh yes, it also ended the current economic downturn worldwide. Hey, you’ve got to start somewhere. Now, where was I? Oh yes, the lack of appreciation…

So my youngest daughter decided to share her new found poetry gift with the rest of the class. I was so proud. My little girl sharing her passion for literature and fine arts with others. And, of course, for them to stand in awe and admire her poetic abilities. Bow down and sit at the master’s feet please. There’s a good class. Now sit still and listen. And then she let rip with some of her most creative pieces. Her own poetry in her own words…

“I have a drum in my bum.”

…and the clincher…

“I have art in my fart.”

The simple beauty of it. She makes me so proud. “Sniff.”

But noooooo… Apparently that isn’t good enough for Ms Snotty Nose teacher. Not appropriate language for a little girl. WTF? Does she not appreciate the beauty of poetry? Does she not recognize the modern version of a young Shakespeare? Damn teachers…

The curse of a genius…

Anyway, I couldn’t believe that the teacher didn’t give her a special prize for that one. Or at least push her one class ahead. Advance learning or something. Heck, I say let her teach the class literature! My little genius.

But maybe the teacher just didn’t understand her true ability. Because one of her pieces of genius poetry was in two languages… You hear me? Two languages! Bilingual baby!

“I’ve got a football in my poepol.”

Genius! Genius, I tell you!

I didn’t teach her any of this. Nada. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. She did it all on her own. Like I said, she makes me so proud. Damn teacher…

Oh, the meaning of poepol?

Hum… well… I… it’s a… the meaning is… but… No, I mean “butt”. Backside, arse, behind… You get my drift…

She mixed her languages all on her own and created this piece of beautiful poetry just for her dad. Like I said, she makes me real proud – “sniff.”

But ooooh nooooo, the teacher doesn’t recognize this piece of genius. Everyone is a critic. But maybe it was just a big misunderstanding. Because I also tell my girls to never lie. Not even in poetry.

If only the teacher asked her if she really had a drum in her bum…

My little girl would have kept a beat that will make her dad proud and her mother cry.

And maybe then the teacher would have realized that my little girl really told the truth when she said, “I have art in my fart”…

 _fartpropellant3

walk20away201920x2026_5

You know about my father and me. We didn’t get along. We didn’t talk much. We didn’t do much together. None of that “dad and son” stuff. We might not even have liked each other much. There was bad blood. Lots of it. And still I learned so much from the man. Even when he didn’t mean it and I did…

We had many arguments. Many, many arguments. Almost always about politics. He was on the side of Apartheid and I was on the other side fighting what and who he stood for. He was a bigot and I was always happy to point it out to him. And I was just as stubborn as him. I refused to budge. I refused to try and understand. I refused to give him one single little bit of ground. I refused to give him or what he stood for the benefit of doubt for even a split second. He was wrong and so was everything he stood for. No movement on bigotry. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch. I was right about Apartheid being wrong. Why should I move even an inch for any form of bigotry? I still won’t. I refuse to compromise just because it might make people feel better. Or because it would be the nice thing to do. I won’t. Not with bigots.

And I do expect people to point out my own bigotry. Trust me, I have a thick skin and I am a big boy – I can handle it. It’s the only way I can ever answer The Question…

Anyway, back to me and my father…

Back when we still spoke we had almost daily fights about Apartheid and the fight against Apartheid. He called those who fought the Apartheid government terrorists – Nelson Mandela to Breyten Breytenbach and everyone from the ANC to COSATU. Yes, we fought like hell. It eventually tore us apart completely. There was a moment when I just gave up. And there was a time that I realized he just taught me the biggest lesson of all. He didn’t know it but it has driven me since…

It was just one of those days again. We were arguing like hell. I can’t even remember what triggered this one. The ANC was already unbanned. It could have been him calling Nelson Mandela racist names again. Or him bitching about anyone who was black and who didn’t agree with his warped view of the world. Actually, you didn’t have to be black to be hated by him. Even Reverand Beyers Naudé was a terrorist in his eyes.  But we were off on our usual little boat ride down the rough river of arguing.

My poor mother was just sitting there half in shock as always. Every now and again trying to calm us down. But she knew it was a losing battle. I was never going to keep quiet. Not anymore. And it gave me a chance to fight him on every issues that I ever thought he was wrong about – from Apartheid to my mother. So once I started I would never let go. And he egged me on by pushing one button after the other. We were predictable…

He was on about the Apartheid National Party giving him a job and me an education. He was shouting at me that the ANC and Nelson Mandela will always be terrorists. I was throwing it back in his face that he must live with the fact that we have won. That it is over. You lost your right to bigotry and murder. No more. We won, you lost. And, to rub it in, that if Nelson Mandela is a terrorist then so is his own son.

It shut him for a little bit. He stared at me for a moment. I could see he was ready to explode. He was about to say something. And then it came. The question. I popped the question without even thinking…

“Tell me dad, what did you do?” (“Sê my pa, what het jy gedoen?”)

It shut him up. He had a puzzled look in his face. Not sure what I meant. That’s when I hit him with the meaning of my question…

“What have you ever done to make this country a better place? Where were you when they were murdering people? Where were you when all the killings were taking place? What did you do to stop all the madness? What did you do to end all the hate and bigotry dad? Where is the love and the peace and the freedom dad? Tell me dad, what have you ever done to make this world a better place? For me. For my sisters and mother. And for the kids we will one day have? Tell me dad, what did you do with your life?”

I only stopped when I saw his face change. I can’t even describe to you what he looked like. That expressions…

It was as if the life was sucked out of him. Like an animal in complete fear of his life and knowing that this is the end. That he has no more to offer. That everything is empty. That all that was left was this shell of a man standing in front of me. The look of a man knowing that everything he has ever done is meaningless and worthless in the eyes of his son. The look in his eyes was of a man knowing his life and what he stood for meant nothing to his son. Nothing. Like him. His life. Meaningless. All in a single expression.

it is difficult… I can’t really describe to you what he looked like…

But I will never forget it. That look in his eyes. It was something that made me shut up. I knew there was nothing more to say. I knew he was not my father anymore. He was… He was… Nothing…

Because his expression also told me something else. It betrayed him. It told me the answer…

Nothing…

I looked at him for a little while and said it one more time softly – almost a whisper, “Tell me dad, what have you ever done?”

His expression also betrayed something else…

It wasn’t just the question that cut him up. It wasn’t just his lack of answers that drained is soul. No. It was also my expression that sucked the life out of him. The expression of someone that felt nothing anymore. The look of someone who knew his father no more. The face of someone who knew a common love no more. The questions from someone who believed in his own blood no more. The end of the blood running through our veins. He knew that my own questions and eyes told him that we were no more…

That was what he saw… And what he heard…

And then I turned around and walked away. Leaving him there to… I don’t know… I just left him there without thinking about what I wanted from him. I didn’t want anything anymore. I didn’t need anything anymore. I got what I wanted…

I will never forget his face. I still see that expression. Daily. It drives me. That single question and that single expression drives me daily. Each and every single day. Because I never want to be asked that question. Never.

Maybe I am over sensitive to what is going on around me. Maybe I love my wife and kids a little more than what I would have if I didn’t know about that question. Maybe I get angry about bigotry and injustice and inequality more than I would have if I didn’t know about that expression. And maybe I see the beauty around me a bit clearer thanks to the face I saw that day. I don’t know. But I know this…

I never want any of my kids to ever ask me that question…

And I never want them to look at me the way I looked at my dad that day…

dont-ask

______________________

Note: I should have added that I did make peace with my dad shortly before he died. I do understand where he came from even though I never agreed with his politics or the way he treated some people. But we did make some form of peace. Do I wish our relationship was different? I am not sure because I would not be who I am without him being who he was. I am at peace with how it all turned out – it could have been better but it could have been worse. I focus on the here and now. The question I asked him doesn’t drive me a in conscious way where I think of them daily. It is only when I think and reflect on what I do that I recognise some of the events that played a key role – and this was one of those key events.

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