And called a long-ago friend. I hadn’t spoken to her in years. As in the last time was circa early eighties.
Those were fun days. Most of the time. This was South Africa in the late seventies. The town, Pretoria.
In theory we were rivals. She worked for British Airways (as far as I’m concerned she ran that office). I worked for South African Airways and later for Sabena Belgian World Airlines
In reality we were friends. Sharing jokes, confidences and more.
She married an Englishman. I married an American.
Our roads diverged.
She ended up in England. I ended up in America.
And there we were. A life-time later. But as she answered the phone, I was back in Pretoria. She sounded the same. I’m sure so did I.
And to hear my mother tongue in a torrent of speech with that lovely inflection of tone which is so peculiar to Afrikaans. Heaven.
We talked. How we talked! About the roads we’d taken. The things we’d done. But over and over the same refrain repeated.
For her it was the friends she’d left behind. With only four years of living in a new country under her belt, the memories are still vivid. For me, thirty-five plus years and counting, not so much.
And then there’s the African sun. And my heart went out to her as she explained, without realizing the pathos in her voice, that the English sun would shine but it would not warm you.
Eight years in Belgium had me thinking the same at the time. And as my poor deceased brother, after a month long visit, pointed out the day he left -
He didn’t think there was a place on earth where it would rain for thirty days straight.
So I understand. I truly do. The African sun is special. It doesn’t only warm your body. It warms your soul. And only people from Africa would understand.
I thought of her as I drove past an impeccable green Florida golf course. She’s a golfer and I guess I will leave it to the imagination what she has to say about wading through mud to try and play golf. (I abstained from suggesting she gets some green “wellies.”)
We agreed about the strangeness of it all when leaving South Africa. And she had me in stitches about the accents and dialects she’s encountering.
“I don’t understand a word when the Scots get going. It takes me a couple of days.”
Which brought me full circle to the time I encountered, for the first time, someone from the Deep South.
But, at the end, we agreed that we were grateful for what we had, to be where we are, contented and happy in our adopted countries.
May today there be peace within.
May you trust your highest power that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let his presence settle into our bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of you.