Summer holiday plans, you will today for the first time meet Janet and Santie's children. It's some twenty years later; all four are now teenagers. Insults fly as they trade riposte at a family breakfast.
This is chapter six from A Family Affair by Bernard Preston.
The story reads so far; the tale opens with Jan Jansen making plans to kidnap his son, borne out of wedlock, and return to his place of birth in the Netherlands. In Maastricht five generations of advocates have lived, but he is childless until Lady Luck smiles on him.
Meantime Janet and Santie, women in love, are taking baby Klein Jan shopping; by coincidence they meet blind Ouma Jansen. Something is bothering the old woman as she repeatedly traces her fingers over the boy's face. He is her grandson, she knows it.
Jansen indeed snaffles the lad, first to Australia and then, switching passports, on to Maastricht; he leaves behind a grievous Ouma. It's from her home that the snitch happens.
Life moves on, and the Moms have four children between them; but who is the father? Janet never forgets her missing son; Ouma prays for him daily.
Interpol mysteriously can find no trace of Jan Jansen or his son. He has changed their name. It's twenty long years before the lad returns and is reunited with his family.
Summer holiday plans has the Moms' family arguing about where to go this year.
‘We never go anywhere on holiday,’ cried Storm angrily. The redhead was in one of her teenager moods.
‘What nonsense, Storm,’ said her mother, Janet Twycross. ‘We had a week last summer in the Eastern Cape. Remember, at Storm’s River?’
‘So boring. There was nothing to do except walk along those stupid rocky beaches. Not even anywhere to swim.’
‘Storm, Storm’s River! Hey, was that just a coincidence, or was that a coincidence?’ asked June.
Janet shot her eldest daughter a smile. ‘On the ball this morning, June. Yes, well, um …’ She hesitated.
Santie Veenstra cut in. ‘Your mum was very preg when we went on that family holiday, Storm. You three won’t remember it,’ she said, turning to the other teenagers. ‘You were too young, but you, Storm,’ she said, turning back to their youngest, ‘were born about three weeks after we got back from Storm’s River. We so loved that holiday, that we decided to name you after it.’
‘Family holiday, huh! We five, with Storm in there,’ said June with a laugh, pointing at her mother’s tum. She is tall like her mother, nearly twenty but, unlike Janet, a little plump in the wrong places. Her hair is long and striking like her mother’s, hanging loosely around her shoulders, though with rather darker natural streaks in contrast to Janet’s platinum blonde.
Sunday morning breakfast was usually a happy family time. The girls picked at some fruit and a little muesli. Anyone watching the lads would think they hadn’t eaten for a week. Prodigious quantities of cereals, eggs on toast and pork sausages were being shoveled down the hatches. At breakfast they often planned an outing during the holidays if the weather was fine, or they would argue over which movie to go and see if it was indifferent. Sometimes they would do a jazz concert, and occasionally even a classical.
Carlo played the cello rather well, though he had no ambitions in that regard. It was pure hobby. He had been planning to be a lawyer like his mother, until a favourite teacher had suggested he should consider medicine. Unfortunately he had missed the first cut for Medschool, though he had been invited to a second interview on the strength of his strong final matric results. The children had been brought up with good catholic tastes, though one of them usually complained, whatever the decision.
Breakfast in their pajamas was allowed on Sunday
morning, but both boys were showered and casually dressed in shorts and
old T shirts. Carlo got up and put more bread in the toaster. His red
headed half brother Trek sat scratching behind his ear.
‘What’s the matter with you, Trek? You look like you’re all hung over, or something, this morning.’
‘Oh, shut up, Storm. I’m trying to make up my mind whether to go and squeeze more oranges, or just pour a cup of tea.’
‘The only important decision you will make today, huh?’ Turning to her mother, she said, ‘Bah, fancy naming me after a river. Why didn’t you call him Orange?’ Storm pointed at her red headed brother. ‘And him Umkomaas,’ she said turning to Carlo. ‘His hair is about the same colour as that muddy water.’
Neither boy rose to the bait. They are a good looking pair, though quite different in appearance. Born three days apart, they recently finished their schooling at a prestigious college in Aston, East Griqualand. Trek is tall and willowy, with a shock of bright red hair, just like his sister, Storm’s. Carlo on the other hand is broad and powerful, and very dark, almost black hair like Santie’s. About the only similarities between them is an unusually prominent forehead, and deep set dark blue eyes.
‘Get out of bed on the wrong side, this morning, Storm?’ was all Carlo had to add, grinning at his younger sister. He had learnt not to let her get under his skin.
Trek, on the other hand, enjoyed giving his kid sister a rough ride. ‘Must be that time of the month again, eh, Storm. Tough being a female. Next month we’ll remember not to invite you to Sunday breakfast.’
‘That’s enough, Trek. You can thank your lucky stars you don’t have our problems once a month. Please apologise to your sister,’ said their mother.
Trek was contrite but his sister did sometimes go over the top. ‘Sorry Storm, I take that back.’
‘That holiday wasn’t so bad, Storm,’ said June. ‘Remember, we saw the Big Tree , and walked in those forests and the guys bungied from that bridge.’
‘Big tree, big deal. We didn’t even get to see Big Foot.’
‘You could have bungied too, if you weren’t so chicken.’ Trek gave his kid sister a gentle punch on the shoulder. Usually the two red heads were very close, but Storm was in no mood for her brother’s teasing.
‘And we did go to Addo, if you remember,’ June added.
‘All my friends from school go on long holidays at Christmas. Thandi’s in Switzerland with her parents, skiing, and Suzie’s in the Comores on one of those dream, dazzling-white beaches. And Julie …’
Carlo cut in. ‘Poor little rich girls. Listen, I have to go for that interview in Cape Town. Why don’t we do something original, like cycling to the Cape for a holiday. Then, after my interview is over, we could spend a week at Hermanus watching the whales and there are even some nice dazzling white beaches for you girls to catch a few rays!’
‘Very funny,’ Storm scowled at him.
‘And you were very aptly named.’
‘You don’t make a bad jackal yourself!’ Storm retorted. It was a stale family joke.
‘Oh, shut up you two. What’s the matter with us all this morning?’ said June. ‘That’s not such a bad idea, Carlo, but I have a better suggestion.’ She leafed through the new edition of Cosmopolitan. ‘There’s a nice holiday package being advertised here. Take the Blue Train to Cape Town, spend a week at a glam Timeshare on the beachfront at Blauwbergstrand, and then fly back home to Johannesburg. There’s even a car thrown in for nothing as a sweetener.’
Storm leaned over the table, grabbing the magazine from her elder sister.
‘Reading Cosmo again, June,’ taunted Trek. ‘Isn’t that the one with the Ten Sizzling Sex tips? You just want to go to Cape Town to see that guy again.’
June blushed a deep crimson. She stood up abruptly and leaned over the table, glaring at her kid brother. ‘Don’t you ever talk to me like that again.’ she yelled, giving him a stinging slap on the cheek.
Janet stood up abruptly, scraping her chair loudly. ‘You asked for that, Trek, and you, young lady, need to find better ways of dealing with vulgar men. I will not have this kind of behaviour at our dining table. Will you both leave, immediately, and settle this in the family room. You, my boy, had better start with a very earnest apology to your sister. We’ve had enough of you and your rudeness this morning. First taunting Storm and now this; get out.’
Janet pointed angrily to the door. June fled in tears with a contrite Trek just a few steps behind her. He knew he had gone too far. In any case, his sister wasn’t the sort to sleep with her new boyfriend.
For several minutes the only sounds at the dining room table were the clinking of teacups and munching of toast. Muted sounds of tears and angry voices came from beyond the door.
Storm pushed the glossy magazine across to her mother. ‘That’s not a bad looking holiday, I must say. You can count on my vote, and you two guys can save the Moms quite a lot of money by cycling to Cape Town,’ she grinned at Carlo. Although she never said much about it, Storm was the only one quite unreconciled to having two mothers. ‘If we can afford it,’ she ended, rather viciously, looking at the bottom line.
‘That wasn’t necessary, Storm. It’s rather tiresome, in fact. You know we can afford it, if we choose. It’s not a matter of the money,’ said Santie.
‘And I’m tired of having you for a father, thinking you should always be correcting me.’ Storm stared arrogantly at Santie, challengingly.
‘Storm, how can you say that? You too can apologise, this minute.’ Janet was fed up with her three children. Instead, Storm stood up, sullenly stalking from the table without another word.
‘Do you think we'll ever be a happy family?’ murmured Santie.
‘I suppose that is a desirable destination.’ said Janet with a sigh. ‘No, after this morning, I don’t think we will ever arrive anywhere happy until these brats leave home.’
‘Of course we’ll get there. We are there,’ said Carlo quietly. He’s the dark one, not usually having much to say, but when he did, people always listened. ‘Aren’t we living and loving, and either playing or fighting the odds with each other? That’s what happiness is.’
‘No pot of gold at the end of a rainbow?’ asked Janet, smiling at their handsome son.
‘It’s like that guy said on the telly last night. We’re continually hunting for some missing link, until it finally dawns on us, that we are the missing link! This is all the happiness that I am expecting.’ As an afterthought, Carlo added: ‘Well, a pretty girlfriend wouldn’t go amiss!’ He reached for the magazine. A half slice of toast later, he ventured: ‘Very nice. You’ve got my vote too,’ continuing, ‘Storm’s right, Moms. It’s not cheap.’ ‘Shall I wash the dishes this morning?’ Janet and Santie looked at him appreciatively.
‘Just like old times,’ said Janet looking at Santie across the table after Carlo had gathered up the dirty plates and cups, and they could hear him splashing at the kitchen sink. ‘Just you and me.’
Santie smiled back. ‘Weren’t they a bunch of little wasps this morning?’
Janet nodded. ‘I’m sorry about Storm’s outburst. I’ll speak to her.’
‘It’s okay. It is tough for them having two mothers and no father. I can understand her frustration.’
Both women are in their mid forties. Santie has already showered and is dressed in a bright blue kimono, her favourite colour, with an intricate gold-embroidered Chinese pattern. Her thick, curly, almost black hair, hangs loosely to her shoulders. A very handsome, rather than beautiful woman, most people would say. Janet on the other hand is still in her pink dressing-gown, her long blonde hair knotted in a high pony tail. They pore over the glossy magazine together, finishing up the dregs of their tea.‘What do you think?’ asked Janet.
‘Storm’s got a point. It is over a year since we’ve had a proper holiday. Let’s do it.’
‘Shall I book? When should we go?’
Santie nodded. ‘Yes, go ahead. There’s a website here for reservations. If there’s a vacancy I suggest next weekend? I don’t have any heavy commitments at the moment.’
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Did you know that you can make your own fresh pesto in only five minutes? Full of anti oxidants, your pesto made from fresh sweet basil, pine nuts and olive oil is a cinch; I often use pecan nuts when I'm out of pine nuts. Summer holiday plans is about the enjoyment of healthy choice foods too.
Pesto'll turn any dull green salad into a triumph.
Healthy choice foods is about the use of herbs and spices quickly and deliciously.
Bernard Preston, the author of Summer holiday plans is a bit of health nut; he doesn't like pain and enjoys a life without medication, so these healthy choice foods are always on the table; prevention remains better than a cure, says he.
A trilogy by Bernard Preston