How SA's lockdown reminds me of growing up in the 80s

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Getty Images

If, and when, my kids ever ask me what my childhood was like (up till now they’ve been too busy enjoying their own to wonder) I will be able to tell them that it was like this. Just like this.

Because had this outbreak happened thirty years ago, not much would have changed for me and my five siblings (yes there were six of us for those of you who haven’t been doing your daily online Maths) who grew up in Rondebosch, Cape Town.

In fact, I doubt we would have even known about Covid-19.

You see, because there were so many of us, we were never taken out.

My Mom said she tried once, and it was just so embarrassing, she couldn’t ever do it again.

There was one friend (she’s still alive and if she’s reading this, she knows who she is) who took pity on us, and we used to go for lunch at her house on New Year’s day and my Dad also used to take us for an ice cream and a walk along the Sea Point promenade on New Year’s Day (God I loved New Year’s Day) but apart from that, we stayed at home.

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We stayed at home in our big and beautiful house and mostly, and in between fighting with each other, we played.

We played music from the balcony, we played games that required half a pack of cards and no rules because I think we only had one board game and it was missing most of its pieces.

And we climbed the tree and we slid down the stairs in a sleeping bag and hung from the bannister and held our breaths and hid in our rooms.

There were no craft days. There was no schedule.

There weren’t five million books to choose from, and a million episodes of whatever on Netflix. There was no snack cupboard. We were lucky if we got a slice of the chicken.

I’ll admit, we probably had THE best house in Cape Town in which to do all of this, but we didn’t only stay there because there were too many of us to fit in the car and go out.

We also stayed there because back in the day, there really wasn’t all that much to do outside of the house (please don’t go and email me now when you are finished reading this and tell me all the things that were going on in the outside world in the 80s apart from George Michael not coming out of the closet).

There was no Rush, or Be-Up or money to go to a restaurant just so my Mom could have a break from cooking and we could run around outside.

There were no designated play areas so we would have screamed at the table inside instead and my father, the aspiring High Court judge (despite us, he became one in 1987), would have hung his head in shame and apologised profusely for his hoard hooligans.

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We didn’t have instant gratification. We didn’t get what we wanted, all the time and every day.

We were loved beyond measure, but it wasn’t shown to us with Steers or movies or the waterslides or trips up Table Mountain or high teas at the Mount Nelson.

If we went on holiday, half of us went and if my Dad took us to visit Uncle Bob who lived in Clovelly on a Sunday, we said thank you a hundred times over and remained forever grateful for the mountains of chocolates he provided and the Lime Cordial we looked forward to.

We lived a simple and crazy life where I was the turkey in the family play. Yip, the Christmas turkey. My kids have it good.

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