These early days, I’m on a steep learning curve, I’ve been gathering data quickly, often by taking photographs so I have a visual. I am learning what fruits Sammy likes, which songs he prefers from his favorite movies that I will inevitably memorize. I'm learning how to fill his lunch box, how not to drip water to drip in his eyes when I wash his hair, and that he may cry a bit when he wakes from a nap. He’s very ticklish and loves to snuggle in the fuzzy blue robe I bought at Woolworths when I got here.
When we read together, he likes to turn the pages even before I have finished. Tonight I got him to turn them back for an extra minute. When we play 'Hide & Seek," he covers his eyes and counts, then announces his hiding spot when his mommy asks, "Samuel, where are you?" I'm learning to play like a three year old.
I'm learning how he sees the world in color. His favorite at the moment, is red. He arranges his cars by the color wheel. He remembers names of plastic characters and people alike and his repertoire of words lends itself to some very stitch-able stuff. He doesn't ignore the easy puzzles, but asks for harder ones. I watch he and his dad work through the complexities of forty-five pieces in a most gentle repartee. I marvel at what is in store for this little boy with all the love and encouragement he receives. i'm reminded that everything is a toy.
Back in SC, when I go for a walk, I leave my front door open. In Durban I have two sets of keys. I’m carrying five house and garage keys, a remote gate control, a front door fob and a skeleton key for the mailbox. I have a set for my daughter’s house as well with a remote for the big gate where cars enter the back lot to the garages. Yesterday I learn I must push the red button just once, not knowing that the gate closes automatically, after pointing the remote at 10 different possible contact points, which just kept it open.
When I go out alone, I'm learning the necessary habits of safety that are not just a courtesy text to my kids. And others will let me know when they arrive safely.
I am learning how to jay-walk. It’s safer than crossing at the corner.
I’ve met someone who rolls her own tobacco cigarettes with filters, because it is cost-effective and to 'roll down' the window in the back seat while she smokes in the car.
Not all cars have automatic windows. That it’s better to drive an old jalopy than a fancy SUV.
I have learned to place my knife and fork together at the edge of my plate, so a waiter knows I’m really done with my meal. What looks like an infant spoon is actually a tea spoon.
I learn to approximate temperature from Celsius, feet from centimeters, costs, rand to dollar.
I discover that people fetch things and sort things and take away and bath.
I'm honing my leg muscles, at the gym but more on the hills of Durban. The sidewalks are broken up in many places, but where there is concrete, there are ridges etched like a terraced garden, but without steps, for traction. The slope to Sammy's house is about 45 degrees.
I'm learning about "Durban dust". It's a gorgeous shade of rust, like Georgia clay but dry and the winds blow it across the sidewalks and up into windows. It clings to the walls sometimes and is always on my shoes, which I take off when I get home. When I think I've cleaned enough, the mop still comes up rusty. Floors clean, I hope, I decide to take a walk to the hardware store.
I have been imagining this car-less lifestyle for a while, everything within walking distance. This also involves learning on a grand scale. The sidewalks are paved in a patchwork of concrete patterns marked, I imagine, by the artisan's style. The sidewalk rises from the gutter, almost a foot and then becomes somewhat level, until the next intersection dips down again. Durban is pretty hilly which is great for the views but some routes are especially challenging. I’m headed five blocks from my flat to the Glenwood Mall. The hardware shop is also a full-scale art supply. They have easels at the front door beside the racks of shelf liner. Inside are every paint or pencil I could wish for and full sheet watercolor paper, in three weights no less.
Today I can mosey, examine, discover new items. They have a full range of cutting mats at great prices and those darn-near incredible headless match sticks that I saw in the dinosaur tray this morning at Sam's nursery school.
I’ll walk upstairs to the Haberdashery, One Stitch @ a Time. The name itself is inspiring, and I can buy sewing needles, DMC floss and yarn. Back downstairs are a health shop, the town library and a super market, to mention only a few. On my walk home, I’m carrying my purchases, one bag in each hand. I could get distracted by what I've bought, but must keep my head down and notice the cracks and age-old tree roots growing from the sidewalk. I might like to look up, but I'm learning.
There’s a faint insecurity to not knowing so much, having to give willful thought to even the simplest tasks. This list hasn't even scratched the Durban dust. (I'm also learning that I have to fit in my stitching around all this learning.) There is also a joy to the newness of not knowing and an aura of freedom that comes without deadlines and only promise.