Rachmaninov and the path back home

2012-08-07 11:36
I was reading an article of Irukandji today and suddenly I stumbled upon something deep inside of me. He wrote about Rachmaninov’s theme on a rhapsody of Paganini…….

After work I sat for a while in the car searching for this piece of music on my iPod and found it. For a while I shut the world out and remembered Rachmaninov and the warmth of Sabbath that I scorned when younger.

Sabbath was the time when our Orthodox Jewish forebears would teach us about music and who we are. We learned to feel the pain of the Holocaust through the fingers of Chopin, Rachmaninov and Beethoven.

I remembered as a child watching the sun set in the west of Johannesburg in winter. I would look out the windows of my Linksfield world and in the distance the smog of Alexandria would hover on the horizon of a world I knew nothing about.

I didn’t know they were huddled together by little fires trying to make sense of their fate in life. A few kilometres up the hill from them we Jews tried to make sense of our fate and 6 million of us killed for fun.

It was tradition in our house to play Rachmaninov just before the Sabbath would end at sunset. Once Rachmaninov was put on to play we knew as kids this dreadful day of Sabbath was near its end. Later as a teenager I knew it was almost time for me to sneak back to my bedroom and block out Rachmaninov and become Comfortably Numb with Pink Floyd.

But this afternoon I was just another brick in the African wall. A brick I was that had been cast in a specific place at a specific time. I sat here today being thankful I belonged somewhere.

I remembered how my Grandfather used to hold my Grandmother when Rachmaninov started playing. I saw their eternal love for each other, but never understood it. The memories of the sounds of plates when the sun set and we were about to eat and the homeliness I so desperately wanted to escape. The days when I tried to fly away from all of this when I didn’t even have wings yet.

I started the car and drove back to Linksfield. In the distance the smog was still hovering over Alexandria. They were still huddling together by little fires trying to make sense of a freedom that never happened.

My Dad was in his little organic garden picking vegetables for my Mum to cook for them. I called him to the car and asked him to sit with me.

I played him Rachmaninov and he said:

“I know this song, why are you playing it to me?”

I asked him to be quiet and listen to it with me. I needed Sabbath that moment and I needed him. I needed him, I needed me, because somewhere on all my tangents I have lost me…and my place of warmth.

Life is a strange animal. Irukandji would be the instrument to take me back where I belong….a place with Alexandria and little fires to warm the orphans of the ANC and me the descendant of people that should never have been here.

But here we are. Between the Holocaust, the divisions of Apartheid and the cruel realities of the ANC we have to find a way forward together while we learn to celebrate the Three Ships that founded our union as a nation.

Go listen to Rachmaninov, you will understand and maybe find your own peace within the deep corners of your African heart.


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