Where The Streets Have A Name

Where is home when you’re away from it?IMG_4751

In my hometown of Pretoria, South Africa the streets all have new names. It’s been 21 years. New government. New era. New names. Charles Street is now Justice Mohamed. Duncan is Jan Shoba. Queen Wilhelmina has changed to Florence Ribiero but it’s still long and familiar. You cannot get from there to here without crossing it… no matter what it’s called. I don’t know why it was ever Queen Wilhelmina in the first place.

The hadedas call good morning before 7am. The African sun glows gently. It lights the whole sky from the inside. A car honks outside. Irreverent in the early quiet. For a few moments the hadedas wage a shrill war with the car. The sun climbs higher. The sky is brighter. The car moves on. The hadedas settle down.

The meat thaws on the counter. Somebody’s been up before me. Chops and steak gleam purply-red through the tight saran sheath. A faint smudge of frost clings to the plastic. Drops of water pool on the counter, as the meat softens in the warm kitchen. Coils of boerewors – literally “farmer’s sausage” – slowly defrost. So much wrapped up in those faintly spicy spirals.

There will be hot, crusty rolls. A crisp, green salad. Cabbage finely shredded and doused with sweet, tangy vinegar. Potato salad for sure. Homemade pickles. Cold beer and all kinds of soda. The meat is at the heart of it.

We will eat with towels wrapped around our swimsuit-clad bodies, water dripping from our hair onto our plates. We won’t care what the grown-ups are talking about and we won’t remember to say please or thank you. Not even when we ask for seconds. The meat will sizzle on the braai (barbecue) and everywhere will smell like smoke (the good kind) and chlorine. We will shoo away the lazy flies and pesky bees, and the grass will tickle my bum and make it itch.

Charles Street is still Charles and you always make a right at Duncan. This is the way from here to there.

We will swim some more and make up dances and tell our parents they have to watch us perform on the patio. Why wouldn’t they? We are their stars, shining with promise and bellies full of smoky boerewors and potato salad. There’s nowhere like home and even though their conversation is full of apartheid and Israel and Houston and Sydney, home is where we are and we are here.

We will have bright yellow mangoes and granadillas for dessert, meringues and something custardy. “Maybe there’s a bag of kosher marshmallows in the pantry…” someone will wonder.

Tea with milk and sugar. Plain “minute” cake. Or a rich, dark chocolate decorated with cherries and chocolate sprinkles. We will lie on the bedroom floor and play rummikub. So happy and easy together. As if we’ve been doing this forever and we have.

Years later, separated by vast oceans and complicated time zones, we will find our way back to each other time and again. Forever will come with us and the decades before and after will always be gently smudged with yesterday’s memories and tomorrow’s desires. But for now there is now. So happy and easy together. We will do this forever.

The sun will start to sink and the light will change. Woodsmoke, charred meat and jasmine will fill the air and wherever in the world my home becomes, the smell of fire outside will always make me ache with homesickness.

One day I will leave. Home will be where the foghorns are much louder than the hadedas, where the streets roll up and down the hilly city. They are long and will become just as familiar. The weekends will smell like smoky meat on the braai because my children love boerewors as much as I do. But we won’t have granadillas.

Charles Street is no longer Charles. But even after 17 years, you still turn right to get from there to here.

This post was inspired by the prompt “Food & Comfort”  from the online Winter Joy Writing Retreat I’m currently enjoying. Hosted by Jena Schwartz and Cigdem Kobu of The Inky Path, the theme of the retreat is Edible Memories. It’s astounding, enriching and a little scary to discover where our food memories take us!

This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, where writers and bloggers gather together to share their versions of a completed sentence. This week’s prompt is, “What I’m really trying to say is…” Hosted by Kristi of Finding Ninee, and co-hosted by Mardra of Mardra Sikora and Vidya of Vidya Sury. What I’m really trying to say is, so many things make home home. Even if they’re not there anymore.

30 thoughts on “Where The Streets Have A Name

  1. I visited Pretoria a few years back. My memories are so different. Driving on the opposite side of the road, tiny feelings of fear when stopped at stoplights, eyes watching with mistrust and hate. Rude women, drunken men. And granadillas.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful Nick.. reminds me of Lukasrand days with daddy and the 3 of you AND my youth. The memories come tripping back like it was yesterday. Glad your trip to South Africa triggered such stunning and beautiful memories. Love you my child.. to the moon and back. Hugs & xxx’s

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Whoah Nicki! The savory, smoky details. I was so tempted to sign up for the winter joy writing retreat, but didn’t for lack of time right now. But this makes me wish again that I did if it means getting to read delicious posts like this! Such memories you were able to dig up. Awesome.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Pingback: Literary Crushes: My not-so-secret addiction | C. Jai Ferry

  5. This made me happy. My dear friend is from South Africa and moved here when he was eight. Childhood home for me was New Jersey and the streets still have the same names, whenever I get back there.
    This is so lovely. Made me almost homesick for a place I’ve never been.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I can so relate because I too had a similar carefree long-days-of-summer kind childhood and now, the streets’ names have changed, the streets themselves have changed but my childhood home is still as it was! 🙂
    Lovely, lovely post!

    Liked by 1 person

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