In our early years my mother drove a light blue VW beetle. It was a happy little car – overloaded with vitamin D from always being parked outside in the sun. It had fake, tan leather seats which burned our thighs and smelled funny whenever Lielie, Moemfie and I would bundle into the back (which had no seatbelts and no kiddies car seats).
We had a garage at our home in Pretoria, as well as in Acia Park, but my father’s adult, eventually slightly better cars lived there. I felt sorry for them, but respected them. They were clean, neat and serious. They didn’t get much sunlight and smelled important.
The blue beetle had a hole in its exhaust, which made its cheerful tuk-a-tuk-a-tuk song even louder – much to the embarrassment of my mom whose arrival would be announced from 2 km away. I loved it. Hearing it in the distance meant I could let go of the worry that would creep into my heart whenever the blue beetle would disappear around the corner with only my mom in it – off on an errand or to write and exam for the psychology degree she was studying part-time for. And when its big smile bumper would finally turn into the driveway, it was greeted with the same enthusiasm radiated by baby chicks welcoming their mother bird back from her food gathering trip. We fought over who would bump a ride up the driveway on the side of the little blue car and scrambled to discover what surprises it had brought back with it.
Not all surprises are pleasant. On one such occasion my mother got out of the car with what looked like a put-out velt fire on her head. Instead of her beautiful jet black hair, a cheap perm and colour had left her with smoldering red stumps. Moemfie started to cry that mom looked like a Thundercat and I started to think of ways to cover the debris around my poor mother’s face. It was awful and she knew it. To this day I remember her mourning her ruined crown in my father’s arms – the only thing visible of her being the singed red hair against his dark, puffy jacket.