I fell into my aunt and uncle’s arms exhausted, as the bus that had tortured my posterior completed its epic 14-hour journey across the country. I was back in Brackenfell, a little worse for wear, but ready to face the rest of my African adventure with gusto. I had conquered the wilds of Botswana and touched on a little corner of Zimbabwe. The impressions were worn into my psyche and I wore them like a badge of honour. I gushed to my kin about the animals I had seen and the adventures I had survived, trying to give the PG-13 version, but with flair. I am sure they saw a very different niece than had left them three weeks previous, but they were happy to see me return with such excitement. They let me prattle on, as was my wont. When I paused for breath, they announced a surprise for me as well. I had had visitors! My brush with Miki, in what felt like a previous life time, had not been forgotten. She had arrived in Cape Town herself and had called after me. In fact, upon us arriving back to my aunt and uncle’s house, a note had been stuffed in the door. She had popped by, knowing I was to return that day. She immediately shot up to the top of my list of priority people to call and see, but first bed and a shower called.
The following days seemed to fly by faster than I could process. It was a week before Christmas, but being South of the Equator, felt nothing like the Christmases I knew. Not a speck of snow was visible except in television commercials. I wandered in shorts, when not swimming outside. I visited the Waterfront in Cape Town with a cousin and her friend. We took in the touristy sights to my delight and ended the day by checking out the Christmas lights in Sommerset West. On a subsequent day, a wine tour was enjoyed. With all the renowned wineries in the area, we made a day of it with yet other cousins escorting me along for the fun. And of course, I reconnected with Miki. Just as her South African friend had noted, he lived mere minutes from my home base. We caught up on the adventures the two of us had experienced since seeing each other last and made plans for an evening out.
And with that it was Christmas. The first I had ever been away from my mother and sister. While I could have been melancholy and sad over their presence being missed, I was instead slightly hung over. Christmas Eve, Miki showed up on my uncle’s doorstep to take me out for a glass of Christmas cheer. She returned me back to his doorstep closer to the 4 AM point and my morning at church was a little painful, but weathered. Christmas day was set poolside at my cousin Marianne and Weppie’s home. We dined on a cold buffet lunch, which was a far cry from the turkey dinners I knew and loved. The heat was not conducive to oven roasted fare though and I knew that while I piled my plate high. My best Christmas present of the day was a treat from my cousin Naude though. He surprised the family by coming down from Johannesburg for Christmas and he brought me some leftover turkey with stuffing from a previous Christmas feast he had attended. It was a very sweet offering and it made my day. We laughed and cheered, ate and swam. I survived my first Christmas without my closest kin, but instead was surrounded by the kin of my father and surrounded by love. It was a very special day, not to be forgotten.