Every Wednesday afternoon my son and I have lunch with my mum and stepdad in their flat in Fish Hoek.
And every week I watch Jack run ahead of me along the corridor towards their door, knobbly knees and legs in fallen-down socks. He runs as fast as he can, calling “Ghee! Ghee!” That’s been his word for Granny since he was about two years old. It’s no coincidence that it rhymes with glee, a simple word that sums up their relationship.
They’ve had a strong connection from the time he was in a swaddling blanket. When he was six weeks old, Joel and I went out for our first, much-needed date night and my mum held him in her arms for three hours and watched him sleep. (Of course, he woke up and cried for ages when we got home.) On our return, she looked up at me, awestruck, and said, “He’s so beautiful.”
His regular visits to Ghee and Ghampa are a highlight for him. He’s always begging to go for a sleepover there, and comes back with all sorts of things he’s picked up from their rich treasury of wisdom: how to make himself burp, how to pea-shoot in a restaurant, good French swear words, the right way to punch (they’re both karate black belts), and how to talk to a girl.
We’ve been coming here for lunch since Jack was an unsteady, chubby toddler. Once a week for the past six years, we’ve walked along this grey, drafty corridor towards the entrance of their flat.
As he runs ahead, I look past him to where my 70-plus mum and stepdad stand: my mum leaning on the balcony parapet like my gran used to do in her flat in Yeoville; my stepdad standing by the door, chin thrust out, staring into the distance as he likes to do.
I flash back to all the months and years before, watching Jack toddle ahead of me into his Ghee’s waiting arms. I flash forward to a Wednesday when there will be one or two vacant spots by their front door.
Today as I walk behind my son towards these two dear people, the damp air from the recent rain making me grateful for my woolen jersey, I feel as though I’m straddling time. Yesterday, today and tomorrow melt together into this one simple moment.
And my awareness of how fleeting this is, how we only have a finite number of Wednesdays left, only makes this moment, this walk along the corridor behind my son towards my mother, sweeter.