today is a good day. today 14 years ago, first born arrived...after a long and incredibly hard birth ....which i would never write about here....(how do people share their giving birth photographs? eeeeeuw) he was born in a little clinic in marondera in zimbabwe. i remember flying from luangwa valley in a little cessna 206, over mozambique, just me and the pilot and a very very heavy belly. i remember looking down and not seeing any sign of life, just miles and miles of bloody africa and thinking ooooh noooo we don't want to crash here....we didn't.
i spent those last days with micky and myrtle (sister's parents in law) on their farm outside marondera. i spent pastel days picking mulberries, walking the dogs to the dam and reading stories of victorian women explorers late at night in the bath with a candle while i waited and waited for the arrival of baby number 1. in the early hours of the morning, en route for the umpteenth toilet run, i would stop and marvel at the fat zimbabwean stars and listen to the gentle tinkling of the chimes in myrtle's courtyard, head cocked, where the jasmine grew profusely. strangely, i was overwhelmed with something so sad yet universal in those moments. this memory has stayed with me ever since....the smell of the jasmine and the tinkling chimes and the stars and that particular strain of sadness.
micky would weigh me on his maize scales once a week, after bets had been made at the breakfast table. honest. he did. he also made us all take bets on whether it was a boy or a girl. the little chits would be kept in a box in the dining room for future payments. in the evenings i would help myrtle with the dinner trolley, which would be wheeled into the lounge where micky sat in his kikoi, surrounded by farting dogs next to the fire, watching mugabe rant on the telly and bark out suitably abusive expletives at the screen. i would loll quietly in the corner playing an extremely complex game of patience (as in the card game). micky couldn't help but get involved in it, passing witty and humorous remarks, mostly pertaining to my intelligence, or lack thereof. every now and then they would say " dear, don't you want to go and hang out with The Young People?" i did a few times but i much preferred their company. and anyway, at that stage the only things which fitted were a pair of old track suit pants with holes in them and a pair of hideous dungarees. one hardly wants to be seen out, if you know what i mean? it's not that fun being a public spectacle.
i loved hanging out with M&M. tea times were always taken in the courtyard, with micky and i shooting quelea with the pellet gun, taking bets who would get the most, in between sips of tea and nibbling home made biscuits. the jack russels would eat the dead birds, of which, oh bestests, there were never many. if we went out anywhere, myrtle would always drive and micky would tell her how to. he would always blow his top. she was so patient "yes dear i know dear". they dragged me off to the Harare Agricultural Show. i was taken with the Brahman bull with the blue sash and gold ring in his nose. completely. with his dark, wise eyes and wrinkled face and snowy white coat. i watched the clay pigeon shooting. i lunched at ranches, went with myrtle on her egg runs, watched micky dip the cattle. and waited and waited and waited. safari c arrived about a week before first born made his dramatic entry into the world. the day before we went hiking into the hills where i was literally pushed and pulled to the very top of a giant matopo styled rocky koppie.
it was no easy birth and danu pops was almost dead on arrival. it was 17 hours of pain and struggle. eventually at 21:00hrs, on 11 September 1996, he was born. he hung lifeless, like a dead fish, upside down, for a few minutes. i could hear the doctor saying " come on my boy, breathe, come on my boy breathe" and the noise of the oxygen machine. they kept him that night, away from me, in a little glass box. i cried in the dark. quietly. he was so little and impossibly fragile. i was utterly bewildered and clueless. my dad flew up from south africa and visited me with bright yellow daffodils from the hogsback mountains in the eastern cape. yellow has always been daniel's best colour. he was registered as an "alien zimbabwean".
after a week, we put him in a little wicker basket and drove back to lusaka, through the zambezi valley, across the same chirundu bridge, through a baking pre october heat with the mopane trees stark and naked. he slept star spangled and tiny the whole way home. he was the most perfect thing i think i had ever done. my chest could not contain the love which blossomed and bloomed and nearly killed me.
if i think too much about it, i could die from the enormous, insurmountable love for my boy.
happy birthday precious precious daniel. 9/11 has always been a good day for me.