It’s snowing in London today. I went out in the snow for a while this morning, but for now I can watch the snow falling, from the warmth and dryness of our flat. It’s been a bleak late-autumn week for the UK, with many parts of the country experiencing thigh-deep snow and temperatures around -16 degrees C. Traffic chaos is inevitable.
We had traffic chaos of another kind around the time of my elder son’s birth. He was born in the summer in Zimbabwe, in the season of wonderful, dramatic, electric thunder storms. The heat becomes unbearable as the storm clouds build and, as you smell the rain coming, the huge drops fall loudly on the red soil, bringing relief and life to the earth.
My son and I had come home in the humid mid-day to a rousing welcome from the women in our neighbourhood. They all sang to us in their native Shona, ululating and thanking my husband and me for the beautiful baby boy and, as is their custom, assured me that the baby looked like my husband. That, apparently, was an important reassurance.
My parents had come to stay with us, to meet their new grandson. They were such a joy and a treasure, bringing just what we needed in unconditional love and grandparently doting. I remember my Dad holding my baby son in his arms, turning the tiny-baby fingers over in his big hands, and saying to me, “You know, God never forgets anything.” My Mom made me feel like I was the best mother in the world, and that all my decisions were exactly right. She was by my side for the midnight feeds, cheering me on as only she can. Bless their cotton socks.
We also had a dear friend from the UK visiting us at that time. Another bonus.
The first Friday night we were home, we had invited my brother and his family to come and have supper with us and meet the new baby. A few hours ahead of their scheduled arrival, the heavens opened and the rain tumbled down in torrents. A knock on our back door alerted us to their arrival, but also to the news – from my completely sopping wet brother who looked like someone had just emptied a bowser of water over his head – that their car had got stuck in the mud on our driveway.
We rented a house on a smallholding, with a long, winding, dirt-road driveway up to our house. In the rain, the dirt became thick mud. My husband and his friend donned raincoats and went to help rescue the vehicle from the mud. My brother sat at the steering wheel while my husband and his friend tried to push the vehicle out of the mud. As the wheels spun, the vehicle went nowhere. About twenty minutes later, three men arrived at the back door – two were drenched in mud from head to toe, and one was still just sopping wet. The car was still stuck.
Sympathy was in short supply as hysterical laughter overtook us all. The three men went and scrubbed up.
Our friend was about to go out for the evening and he called a taxi to come and take him into town. My brother called a car breakdown service to come and tow his vehicle out of the mud. The tow-truck arrived about half an hour later, and it too got stuck in the mud. Our friend’s taxi seemed like it was never coming so he called to find out its whereabouts, only to be told it had turned back down our driveway as it couldn’t get past the tow-truck and the other vehicle.
At this stage, we were all crying with laughter. The tow-truck had to call in another tow-truck to rescue it from the driveway, and, given that it was a stormy night, tow-trucks were in short supply. We invited my brother and his family to stay the night, as we imagined tow-truck after tow-truck getting lodged in the mud along the entire length of our driveway.
Our friend ended up walking into town for his evening’s entertainment; the second tow-truck arrived at about midnight and managed to rescue both the other tow-truck and my brother’s car; and our new baby boy had a wonderful night’s sleep, oblivious to the chaos that unfolded around him and snug in the joyful arms of family.
So as the London snow continues to fall on the frozen dock in front of me, I smile and warm my hands on these precious memories.
Sunshine signing off for today.