Heigh ho and off to work we go

2009-01-21 00:00

Did you just notice something that passed very quickly, making loud whooshing and whirring noises? It was the long-awaited holidays flying by, matched only by the speed of debt mounting on many parents’ credit cards.

The Gilroys recorded a family first — we managed to drive 2 300 kilometres in two weeks and visit several relatives without a single unnatural disaster of the family variety. We also learnt a few interesting things about the travelling habits of South Africans, for example what and whom they take on holiday and what they eat on the journey.

In our travels through several northern provinces, we saw an astonishing array of household goods squashed into vehicles, fastened to roof racks and tied to trailers — obviously regarded as essential to a comfortable break. These included reading lamps, ironing boards, microwave ovens and reclining armchairs. These could, I suppose, have been Christmas gifts for some unsuspecting relative, in which case, I bet those families didn’t escape without an unnatural disaster of some kind. (Note to my beloved: don’t ever even think about giving me an ironing board for Christmas.)

On the animal front, we saw a wide array of dogs, and not only the handbag variety, being walked and watered at highway stops. At the Harrismith Wimpy stop we saw a pair of golden retrievers, a dalmatian and a German shepherd, as well as numerous “SFJs” — small fluffy jobs. Emerging from a bathroom near Mashishing (formerly Lydenburg), I met a parrot relieving itself on its owner’s shoulder. Obviously not travel-trained, that one. Some lucky hamsters were headed for a beach holiday as we saw their cage flash by in the back window of a GP-registered sports utility vehicle. (Here I have to confess that we took the silkworms and a large supply of mulberry leaves with us for a holiday last year, but that really was a matter of life and death, and not just for the worms.)

While many families like us headed gratefully for the convenience of the fast-food outlets at garages, I was interested to see that some didn’t. Admittedly, there weren’t many, but it was touching to see that the oldtradition of mum’s padkos, served from the boot of the car, isn’t dead just yet. Speaking of mums, I discovered a profound truth about parenting this holiday.

People often come over all sentimental when quoting the African saying: “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” They think it refers to the importance of community in moulding children’s identity and imparting wholesome values, etc. Absolute tosh. I know from several weeks of close research in the (battle) field (called school holidays) that it’s about the unrelenting labour of caring for children 24/7.

Parents have to outsource the load of child rearing to other adults such as schools, after-care facilities, grandparents and childminders just to ensure the survival of the species. Several parents have guiltily admitted that they are relieved to go back to work to have a break from tending their children. I, for one, never thought that I’d be glad to face an Inbox full of spam and a “to do list” as tall and tottering as the Tower of Pisa. Heigh ho and back to work we go.

Happy 2009.


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