What a wonderful night. The Sunday school children had entertained us superbly with a display of the Nativity and the message of Christmas. Dressed up as shepherds, angels, wise men and Mary and Joseph; with samples of all the children Jesus loves, red and yellow, black and white; bringing us up to date. They had sung the traditional carols beautifully and each parent was certain that their child was born to be a star.
Presents followed, and eats to fill our bellies. Time was hardly noticed until we reached home to ready ourselves for our Christmas trip to South Africa. It was already after 10:00 pm and we were planning to visit my brother-in-law on the way. We set out immediately.
Our pastor had kept the Sunday School Christmas celebration as late as possible. The next day was Christmas Eve, and we had promised to return unsold goods and takings to the Christian Bookshop in Bulawayo before January 1. We intended to be with my parents in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa for Christmas. We had not advised them we were coming this year because our time was short.
Arch was rudely awakened at 2:00 am by the noise of our family arriving at the farm. He was a cowhand on a dairy farm and due to milk the herd at 4:00 am. The hilarity that had woken him continued unabated, during tea and hastily prepared sandwiches, until he had to go to the dairy to begin the day. We hastily exchanged gifts and boarded our Vanguard station wagon to continue our journey.
Arriving in Bulawayo we were too early for the Bookshop staff. We found somewhere to fuel up the car and ourselves, killing time until they opened. Our sales had been good that year, but it still took time to check the returned stock and cash. Champing at the bit we tried to look patient and content but the children, five boys, seemed to have ants in their pants. At last all was complete and we loaded the boys for the final leg of the journey.
Having kept the boys on the go for so long it was easy for them to fall asleep as we drove on, things were quiet. With the usual pit stops, refuelling, border crossing and meals, the day was full of things to do. On we went enjoying the beautiful countryside that greets visitors to South Africa, ever changing, but ever interesting to us especially. The country of our birth could only be outdone by Rhodesia, land of our choice. In our spirits we felt the unrest of the people under apartheid that was not present in the happy harmony of the people living in Rhodesia.
Having driven all day we arrived in Pietermaritzburg at 4:00 am on Christmas day.
“It’s early; we shouldn’t wake them, they don’t have young children and Robbie will want to sleep in on Christmas day,” Fi remarked.
You’re right,” I replied, “I’ll cut the engine before we reach their gate and just drift quietly to a stop. Then you and I can catch forty winks, the children are still asleep.” Suiting my actions to my words we approached my parent’s home. As we drew to a halt and prepared to settle in the car, a roar came from the house, “I told you the kids were coming; I told you they’d be here for Christmas.”
Despite the fact that my dad was retired and no longer needed to rise at 4:00 am to exercise the thoroughbreds, old habits die hard, the brush of tyres on the gravel in front of their house had aroused him. The front door swung open and Dad, still in pyjamas shouted, “Come in, I’ve put the kettle on and will gladly make breakfast.”
Our sons woke up not needing a second invitation; they just knew that Granddad’s home would be overflowing with good things on Christmas day. Dad’s outburst had awakened the whole household. We sat around the kitchen table, everybody talking at once. You just had to choose who you were talking to.
After breakfast Fi and I unloaded the car and we all settled down in front of the Christmas tree and shared our gifts. What excitement. We took the boys to church in the morning and then had a scrumptious Christmas lunch at home. Dad repeated over and over, “I just knew it. I just knew the kids would come.”
His best gift for that Christmas was his grandchildren.
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