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U3A Writing: Conversation

Zelda Margo’s acute social observation and economical style once again presents a telling vignette of life in modern day South Africa.

“I’m Mpho,” said the smart young woman. “Do you remember me?”

Ruth Atkinson looked embarrassed, shook her head.

“I’m Grace Masango’s daughter.”

People were swarming noisily about. Every table at Mugg & Bean taken, a typical Saturday morning at the Mall.

“Mpho,” said Ruth, pointing to a chair, “Hope you have time to join me. What will you have?”

Mpho ordered a cappuccino while Ruth gathered her thoughts. “Yes, of course. Your mother was with me for several years when we lived in the big house. That was about fifteen years ago.”

“Mrs Atkinson, I spent one holiday with my mother. I was about ten years old. You and Mr Atkinson left for America on business. My mother was taking care of Gillian and Mark. Your daughter taught me to swim in your pool. We were of a different colour, spoke a different language, South African children able to be chums for a short while.”

Ruth wasn’t sure if she was blushing, or it might have been the heat despite the air-conditioning.

“Mpho, how is Grace, and what do you do?”

“Mrs Atkinson, my mother is well and lives with my older brother Vusi and his family. He’s a lawyer. Hard to believe, he was such an angry boy. I’m a nurse and work in the Rosebank Clinic. Now tell me about Gillian.”

“Yes, Gillian, she lives in America. You know the gross materialism that America typifies. Her husband is a successful doctor. They work hard, like bees. She is involved with good works and spends a great deal of time at the gym. They have two girls, my beautiful grandchildren. I don’t see them often. I hate flying and they are always busy, busy, busy.”

“And Mark, Mrs Anderson?”

“He lives in Austria with a girl not of our faith.”

“Does that bother you?”

“I hate to say it, but yes, it does. He is overplaying the differences from his parents.”

“Mrs Atkinson, do ask Gillian and Mark if they remember me. I’m pleased that I recognised you. Sorry I have to run, I’m on duty today. Thanks for the cappuccino.”

“Mpho, give my good wishes to your mother. She’s a lucky lady. Goodbye.”

Ruth Atkinson ordered another coffee, and sat thinking that it was possible to re-arrange one’s prejudices.

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