Thursday, January 24, 2008
Happy Birthday Ouma
It's hard to remain uninspired when this amazing woman was your Ouma.
Not only did she survive life in a concentration camp during WWII, she did it while protecting and nurturing her very young son, my dad. After losing her husband in the war, she and my dad left Holland for South Africa to start a new life. She worked hard (damn hard) and overcame her circumstances to become a prominent figure in both academia and theater.
Her life story is rich with the kind of details only found in movies. Faced with adversity, she met every challenge head on and prevailed with dignity and grace. She was educated, ambitious and empowered long before the women's movement and it would serve me well to aspire to her achievements.
My fondest memories of my Ouma were of visiting her on Sundays. Her little house in Cape Town had this amazing backyard. It was dark and mossy, worlds away from the beautiful antiques that filled her home. It was like a secret garden and when I close my eyes I can even remember how it smelled.
I remember sitting with her while she recounted stories of her move to South Africa. I remember the sweets she would set out for us when we visited.
I remember the softness of her face, the translucency of her skin and the way her eyes closed when she laughed. I remember how it felt to be hugged by her.
It has been over 25 years since she passed away, but I still draw strength and inspiration from the woman she was and the life she led. I know deep in my soul that her spirit will live on within me and my girls as they grow and eventually create a life as accomplished women.
So, to my amazing Ouma, happy birthday.
I love and miss you.