I grew up in a small, friendly town called Port Elizabeth, in the Eastern Cape, and had what I consider to be, with hindsight, a fairly idyllic childhood. As kids we had a lot of freedom, and we used it to get up to all sorts of shenanigans. My best friend was Michele and we did everything together. Once, when we were about 12 years old, we were sitting upstairs on a bus when we glimpsed over a garden wall and saw some guys swimming kaalgat (naked) in a pool. We hopped off the bus and shouted to them to let us in. We had just finished Primary School and had our long summer holiday ahead of us before we started High School, and I think that was one of the best summer holidays ever. Two of the guys we met that day were P.E.’s very first hippies, Jerry and Wynne. They made leather goods and I still have a leather waistcoat that they made for me. One of the other guys we met that day became my childhood sweetheart. That was the year that Woodstock the movie was released in South Africa. We all went to see the movie together and found it hysterical when an elderly woman tapped Wynne on the shoulder and asked him to take off his Woodstock hat because she couldn’t see. We had never seen Wynne without his hat on, I’m sure he even slept in it.
Michele and I were also quite adept at sneaking out of my upstairs bedroom window at night, crawling across the garage roof and jumping down into a hedge to break our fall. We would then rendezvous with our boyfriends. It was all very innocent stuff really, just a lot fun, until my mum started to get curious about her squashed shrubbery.
When I was 15 years old, my father was transferred to Durban and I was inconsolable. I struggled to find the same sort of friendships that I had left behind in P.E. and school was a nightmare as the Durban girls poked fun at my Eastern Cape accent and the way I dressed. Eventually, I settled down and gradually lost touch with all my P.E. connections, as one does. Until recently when, thanks to Facebook, I reconnected with a few of my old friends, including Michele. Out of the blue Michele sent me a message saying that she was going to be in Durban on business and would like to visit me at the farm.
I was thrilled, but a tad anxious about us not hitting it off together after all this time and not having anything to say to each other. Well, I needn’t have worried because from the moment she arrived we clicked together again like two pieces in our lives’ puzzle. I sent Michele a message on Facebook afterwards and said that “Everything changes, and at the same time, nothing changes” and that is exactly how it felt. We are both so obviously different to our 15 year old selves, but we are both still Cathy and Michele.
As homage to our somewhat wild P.E. days, we also proceeded to drink too much (again, nothing changes). I was at one point reminded of Patsy and Eddy (from Ab Fab) but hey, what the heck we were having fun. Of course, now it takes a bit longer to recover the next day. Thank god we no longer drink Paarl Perlè or Liebies (one must be thankful for small mercies).
I’ve heard of people having disastrous reunions and I avoid school reunions at all costs, but there’s something rather reassuring about meeting up with an old friend and discovering that the old spark is still there. So I am very grateful to Michele for making the first move and being brave enough to visit us. I hope that we stay in touch, but even if we don’t I know that we shall always be able to just pick up where we left off (although hopefully without the hangovers).