BY HERMIEN ZWIERS
Continued from my blog. Previously “UP TO AGE 7”.
THE EARLY DAYS…. 1950’s – 1970’s, THE BEDFORD-GRAHAMSTOWN YEARS. Written by me from age 11 in Afrikaans and later translated by me.
I was 11 in this year, a year of innocent gangs and loss of innocence. Rin Tin Tin’s Rinty and the Heidi books look ridiculous in the eyes of the abuse I was to suffer towards the end of that year at the hands of my best friend’s father.
Nevertheless, my friends and I started the “gang” in July. We imagined being threatened by the “mask” gang quite often and nonchalantly shrugged it off. I did get into trouble with one of the gang members, and smiled behind everyone’s backs in glee too. Everything seemed to go fine after that. The “Voortrekker” gang, as we called ourselves, was called to a halt for a while. To our delight the “Mask” gang disintegrated, with us again smiling maliciously. They were destroyed, at least, that was what they had decided themselves.
At Christmas time, our gang put on a Christmas concert called “The baby of Bethlehem”. We made a few pennies, also trying to sell drinks, and sent it off to a charity organisation. We were flourishing, feeling so good. My friend taught me how to play a bit on their piano. “Chopsticks” was a hit.
The year ended and so did my primary school years. We were going to move into our new house on Stoneshill in the following few weeks. I still wore a size 4 shoe (probably size 5 in Australia)
Opa’s visit to Stoneshill: My Dutch grandfather Harmannus Luinge came from the Netherlands for an extended visit after the death of my grandmother Marchien Koops-Luinge.
What was 1968 like for me? Neither child nor adult. Exiting and yet mundane. Sunshine, boring barbecues and movies. The Saturday movies were my fairytales: Follow me Boys, Rough Night in Jerigo, Navadan Kelly, Sabrina, Countess to Hong Kong, You only Live Twice. Who’s minding the Mint?, Hercules, Samson and Ulysses, Bennie Boet, The Prisoner of Zenda, The Deadly Bees, Circus World, Rosy, The Deadly Affair. Having numbers mattered: our telephone number was 1378, our post box number was 16, our car registration number was CF 2509. And my number in school? First in class. This meant that I mattered; I was noticed.
In January my sister Hettie had her birthday and we phoned. I did not start school at the usual time because of sores on my head, a premonition of worse to come. Then it was back to school, Sunday school, and the Dutch Reformed Church with its proper hats, stiff upper lips and uncomfortable silence. We were even afraid to cough. No warm feelings, no love or joy. Our dog Wagter was killed on the road when my sister Margien had her 16th birthday party and somebody left the gate open. I attempted to knit; I did needlework for school and played with my friend E.V. For my 12th birthday I received pyjamas. Punishment at school included writing out 100 times “I must do my homework properly and in time” and an essay called “What do you think about Punishment at school” had to be written. Our exam debate was about whether boys and girls should be together in one school. Our duck hatched babies and two died in the first week. We brought a new dog-called Peppie into our lives. My brother Anton had his birthday roundabout Guy Fawkes time. Hettie and her husband Andre came to visit and then it was the end of my first year at High School. I was relieved that it was holiday time and enjoyed painting, reading, playing table tennis, repairing clothes, attending to my silk worms, writing out some recipes for my mum, learning to plait my hair and grooming my nails.
An uneventful year, one would say. In retrospect it was probably one of the worst years of my life, because I could not share the guilt I felt every time I left my friend’s house and her dad had had a go at me again. I knew my mum would react with “But didn’t YOU do something to cause it”. I felt weak because I did not know how to get out of the sexual abuse. It was to shape the rest of my life, along with my mother’s constant disgust with men and her reading the rape stories in the newspaper to me. I was so overly and unnaturally aware of my genitals that it was frightening even to ask the teacher to go to the loo. In my young mind all I could think of was that he would know that I had a vagina! How awful! The result was one of the most humiliating experiences of my entire life: I wet my pants and the entire area underneath my school desk because I could no longer “keep it in”! My relationship with my friend was to continue for another 2 years on a superficial basis, because I was starting to distance myself from all and everybody. I was going to show them all how good I was academically and rid myself of the ridicule and shame. Most human contact from that point on was filled with fear and distrust. No twelve-year-old should have to carry such a burden. My emotions had nowhere to go to but inward and a long lonely path of self-destruction started, never to leave me and only to be conquered. But how?
To be continued…