I woke up screaming, except the sound was in my head. It was dark and I heard the cuckoo clock in the hall strike 2. I searched around looking for my “nightie”, a cut off from my Mothers night gown which I could not sleep without and remembered Mom was with the angels.
It was the 29th of December 1962 and Steph and I would turn three in February. I have no recollection of the events but have been told the story from other family members. The four of us were on our way to Beira in Mozambique for a seaside holiday with my Aunt, Uncle and my Mothers cousin following behind us in their car.
Sometime during the night my parents changed drivers so my Dad could sleep and my Mother drove on. The car rolled and Mom was killed instantly. The accident happened at Macheki. The manager from the Marandalas Hotel helped us and was waiting with us under a street light for my Aunt and Uncle to arrive. Aunty Mabel spotted us and her first words were “Where is Jean?”.
Life changed and we went to live with our maternal Grandmother, Bess in her house in Famona in Bulawayo. Dad was remote and moved into a Gentleman’s Club as my Uncle Chris was still at home and there was not enough space for all of us. Those were dark days and I became more withdrawn than usual.
Gran tried hard to give us all the love and support we needed but she doted on Steph and it was only much later when I spoke to Dad that I realized it was because I looked the spitting of our Mother and she found the loss of her daughter difficult to deal with.
Dad decided we would go back to England to live with his parents when we were around four. We had lots of freedom and I remember my first big lesson, thou shalt not steal. We were walking along the pavement and I saw a beautiful rose hanging over the neighbour’s low wall. I picked it to give to my Grandmother but instead of being pleased, I got a hiding for stealing!
We were given a patch each at the bottom of the garden to plant seeds and Steph produced pretty flowers, I managed to grow radishes. An insight into life looking back now.
Mud island eventually got to Dad and he missed the sun. We returned home to Bulawayo during our fifth year and life resumed as it had before.
We were enrolled in the local school nearby when we were 6 and the two of us used to walk to school and back every day. Those were carefree years and I enjoyed the learning. I did not make friends easily as I was exceptionally shy and withdrawn. Steph on the other hand was pretty, vivacious and warm. As twins we are two halves of a whole, Ying and Yang, fraternal twins and totally different in appearance. We have always had a complicated relationship and used to fight like cat and dog. Sibling rivalry at its worst. We could be shouting at each other, pulling hair but if someone intervened, we were immediately as one again.
During that year, Dad announced his decision to get married and introduced us to our new Mother Jeanette. We moved into our own home in the country outside of town where there were lots of horses. The property was large and even had a swimming pool which was much needed with the temperatures getting up to late thirties in summer.
We changed schools to be closer to home and had to spend the first term in the D class until we had been assessed. I was bored silly and remember one revolting teacher hitting my knuckles with a ruler to pay attention. She had a hole in her tongue and used to spit when shouting at you. Not at all PC in today’s times with Covid!
My step Mother was extremely strict and hidings would be given for the smallest of errors, like dropping the teapot lid by mistake and watching it smash on the floor. I was scared of her and did my utmost to stay out of the way. Steph on the other hand would have tantrums and hold her breath until she turned blue. I think her strategy worked better than mine in truth but it was not in my nature to be confrontational.
Rhodesia was a magnificent country and I was really privileged to grow up there. We roamed free after school and made friends with the girls in the neighbourhood. I remember spending summer afternoons in someone’s stable yard (yes illegally), and holding our own jumping shows, hopping over the jumps as best we could to see who could jump the highest. Well, that was me of course and that’s why I ended up in the school athletics team.
Life was good, but I had a Step Grandfather who changed that!