My earliest memory is of Laka and I playing on the swing under the huge old thorn tree in the backyard, quite a distance from the house. A car tyre turned inside out and suspended from a high, thick branch of the tree gave us many hours of fun.
Laka was my very first friend and the granddaughter of Outa Arrie and Aia Sanna. They were in my parents' service. Aia Sanna helping my mother in the house with cleaning, washing and ironing, and Outa Arrie helping my father with gardening, milking and whatever needed to be done.
Her father was Andries, but he was a "tsotsi" (criminal) and in prison and it was better not to talk about him. Her mother ran off with another man when Andries went to prison and left her behind with her grandmother.
I clearly remember the absolute delight of us sitting on the floor in front of the old roll top radio, in the coolness of the sitting room, listening to "Siembamba" every morning. While listening to the story of the day, Laka and I would share a plate of sandwiches, fruit or whatever was available as a 10 o'clock snack. We would drink homemade ginger beer or cold, creamy, milk that left Laka with a white moustache.
I cannot remember any specifics about it ever being winter during those early years in the Old House. I cannot remember that we were ever cold, or that the sun was not shining, or what we ate or drank when it was cold. What I do remember though, is the excitement of hearing the bell of the ice cream boy's bicycle. He pedalled that bicycle all the way from town to bring us the delight of Covent Garden Cherry Tops and water suckers. That bell announced summer and then we could swim again.
Swimming happened in the small dam just outside the back porch... also only when it was almost empty, because neither of us could swim and we were not allowed into deep water until we could swim! The big children were allowed to swim in it even when it was full but they preferred to swim in the big, cement dam up at the "rietbos" (bamboo bush).
Happy, carefree and sunny days of my earliest memories, but of course, they could not last. Nineteen Sixty was drawing near and with it came the "Winds of Change" of Mr Harold McMillan's famous speech to the South African parliament in 1960; not only for South Africa, but also in my life. Laka's mother came back to claim her and suddenly a major part of my life just vanished overnight. The heartache and confusion of the loss of my friend was cushioned by the excitement of the New House and going to school in January 1960.
To this day I still wonder about Laka. Did her mother take care of her with love, like her grandmother? Did she fell in love, marry and have children? Was she happy and did she live a meaningful life? Does she remember her first friend with affection, as I remember her, or was her memory of our friendship wiped out by the cruel indignities of Apartheid South Africa. Maybe I'll never know, but a slim chance that I will find her again one day does exist.....