While I was away in London, my mother grew up.
She’s a 71 year-old Margaret Thatcher matriarch of the Portuguese community within Cape Town’s Northern Suburbs, with fellow residents from as far afield as Paarl travelling down to get their age-old sequin dresses hemmed and stitched by her soft and wrinkled yet experienced hands. She doesn’t quite skateboard down steep hills or listen to thrash metal locked away in her bedroom but, like a teenager squabbling to her parents for the next Nokia, she seeks out new experiences with youthful aplomb.
Skimming through our family photos from the 60’s and the 70’s, her appearance made her look like a house-wife with no discernable interests in music, movies, outdoor activities or styles, always happy to tend to her family’s needs and being there whenever someone’s butt needed kicking. Even growing up, I could see how she fumed at my computer when it beeped and boinked over the sound of her sewing machine, growled at the sound of my brother’s over-amped muzzler in his VW Golf, dismissed popular movies like Indiana Jones, Back to the Future and Star Wars as “milkshakes for idiots” and scrutinized the obscure celebrities performing hits outside her curtain shop in Shoprite Park with an air of someone with something better to do somewhere else, dankie baie much. But today, since 2000, she’s changed into a monster.
Loaded with a computer that handles Skype sufficiently for her to converse with alien forces around the world, a.k.a. relatives, ploughing through her Facebook account offering sentiments to others and popping up religious memes that others would define as “virtual bible-bashing”, and delving into her Absa Internet Banking like a master, trawling through stocks and shares like she’s a monetary connoisseur with a snooty disposition.
She quotes movies I never thought she would ever watch like Requiem for a Dream and Pay It Forward, weaves opinions of celebrities in the air like “Lady GaGa should marinade her meat-dress before appearing in front of paparazzi, the stupid cow,” and watches MasterChefSA with a classic notepad and pen, scolding her grown-up children accustomed to macaroni and burgers while she’s trying to study how to make parfait.
Is she making up for lost time? Somewhere since we all moved out, did she think she wasn’t interesting anymore when she put all her efforts into developing our lives? Is she doing it to feel relevant? I get nostalgic most days for the food she used to cook, the dresses she used to wear and the old-style rimmed glasses that never fell off her nose.
But today, myself a grown man, I get a real kick now out of my own beautiful mother consoling her equally-aged sibling on a Blackberry with classic phrases such as, “Darling, did you switch it on and off?” and “I’m not speaking to that lady, she didn’t accept my request on Facebook!”