Gertruida likes to tell people that love is like a camp fire. Once you’ve got it going, you have to control it so that you don’t cause a massive veld fire. But…if you don’t add logs, it’ll die down. She says it’s the balance between control and adding wood that defines a successful evening at the fireside. Yes, she does admit – too – that wine is an essential component: no fire, she says, is ever complete if you don’t add a glass (or two) of your favourite vintage. But, she warns, here one must be careful of too much, as well.
Sammie was overjoyed when, two days after his hard work in that garden, Rachel phoned to invite him to dinner. His first thought was of the exam he had to write the following day, but he quickly shunted it to one side and agreed readily. The prospect of spending time with Rebecca outweighed the importance of the examination by far.
It turned out to be a pleasant evening. The three of them now shed the hesitant uncertainty of their first meeting, and soon found themselves happily discussing the subject they all loved: books.
“What did you think of Sense end Sensibility, Sammie? I love Jane Austen, but found the ending most inappropriate.”
“”Why, that Marianne married Colonel Brandon – the suitor she rejected at first? I thought it was rather romantic. It gives the story a happily-ever-after feeling.”
“I don’t know,” Rachel said as she serves the pudding, “there are so many aspects in that book I find offensive. Fifteen-year-old girls get seduced and most of the men have affairs. I don’t like that.”
By now Sammie knew enough of the family’s history to understand Rachel’s extreme sensitivity about infidelity. To steer the conversation away from the touchy subject, Sammy recited the quote from the book he found most intriguing.
“‘The more I know of the world, the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!’ I just love it when she says that – it sums up how often women and men have different opinions about love. She wants to be loved first, then only is she prepared to love in return. And – if you think about it – she is more worried about material security than emotional certainty. So often, it’s the purse in the pocket rather than the devotion in the heart that determines whether love blossoms in a relationship. And that, I fear, I find so sad…”
“Yes, but you must remember that a woman needs that security – especially if she has to spend the rest of her life with a man. Making that choice isn’t easy.” Rachel swept a spoon through the air in mock despair, but went on in a more serious tone. “I’ve told Rebecca a thousand times: you can’t trust men….but I think I overemphasised that too much. Now she’s so afraid of men, I fear she’ll end up a spinster.”
Rebecca went Oh, come on Mom! and the evening lost its easy-going sparkle right there. Sammie decided at that moment his main quest in his friendship with Rebecca would be to restore her self-confidence and self-image. That, he thought, was the noblest thing he can do for this woman who he suddenly realised he was in love with…
He left after coffee, reminding them to hold thumbs for the next day’s exams.
The exams tested his knowledge to the full, but Sammie felt confident enough to phone Rebecca to thank her for thinking of him. “It certainly helped, Becky, I’m so relieved.”
Renecca would remember that call because he used the diminutive form of her name for the first time, Becky…nobody had ever called her that and she loved it. It was as if it provided her with a new identity, leaving the old Rebecca with her fears and prejudices behind. Becky, she found, could be adventurous and trusting at the same time, while Rebecca tended to hide behind an impenetrable wall of cynicism and sarcasm. And it was Becky, as the weeks went by, who realised that her friendship with Sammie was becoming one of the most important things in her life.
“Courting was much more difficult in the days before cellphones,” Gertruida once said, “you either spoke to your love, or you wrote letters. Nowadays young people use BBM, WhatsApp, MySpace, Skype, SMS and goodness knows what else to communicate. You ask me, and I’ll say it makes it too easy to think you’re in love. Love should be hard work, not a jumble of abbreviations and poor grammar.”
Of course, the group at the bar didn’t have the faintest clue what she was talking about, but they nodded sagely anyway. Gertruida knows everything, why argue?
My Dear Becky
Maybe you’ll think it’s strange that I write to you, seeing you’re only four blocks away, But, since I’ll only see you again tomorrow night for supper and our weekly discussion on books and writers, I felt I needed to say something now. Waiting doesn’t come easy under these circumstances.
I’m realising how much you mean to me. Not quite sure how to put it, but you awake feelings I never knew I had. Like you know, I’ve never had a serious relationship before, so I’m finding myself in uncharted waters. I’m not, of course, implying that our friendship is anything more than a very comfortable companionship, but still..
I’ve been reading up on
love serious relationships and came across a letter that Jimi Hendrix wrote.
happiness is within you….so unlock the chains from your heart and let yourself grow
like the sweet flower you are…..
I know the answer—
Just spread your wings and set yourself
Love to you forever
And what about this one by Marlon Brando, to an stewardess he saw but once on a flight. How brave was he!
Dear Lady —
There is something not quite definable in your face — something lovely, not pretty in a conventionally thought of way. You have something graceful and tender and feminine (sp?). You seem to be a woman who has been loved in her childhood, or else, somehow by the mystery of genetic phenomena you have been visited by the gifts of refinement, dignity and poise. Perhaps you cannot be accredited with all that.
Irrespective of your gothic aspects, you have passed something on in terms of your expression, mien and general comportment that is unusual and rewarding.
It’s been a pleasant if brief encounter and I wish you well and I hope we shall have occasion to cross eyes again sometime.
What I find fascinating about these two letters, is that they both reflect adoration and admiration for unknown ladies. (Sometimes I realise how little I know about you, as well.) Both writers want to compliment the ladies, and Jimi – especially – tells ‘Little Girl’ to unchain her heart, grow, and be free. I suppose that sums up my relationship with you – I want you to be free and happy.
Well, I wanted to say that to you, and now I did. I’ll drop the letter in your postbox tonight after work.
What a surprise to find a letter from you waiting for me at the front gate , this morning when I walked out to water the roses you planted next to the lawn. (They’re looking great, by the way. You’ll see them when you come to dinner)
I have been browsing through an old book, when I came across a letter from Robert Browning to his wife, Elizabeth. His words seem apt under these circumstances.
The regard and esteem you now give me, in this letter, and which I press to my heart and bow my head upon, is all I can take and all too embarrassing, using all my gratitude.
Dearest Sammie, you have done so much for me, making me believe in truth, respect and loyal friendship once more. I really feel a different person, as if I’ve been reborn with a new name and a new identity.
I’ll drop this off at the supermarket, so you may receive it before tonight. I do so much look forward to your visit.
Getruida says the problem with camp fires is that you have to make them last, You need the glowing embers the following morning to start the new day’s fire again; so it is wise to use your wood sparingly in the beginning. Otherwise, she says, you’ll discover a cold bed of ashes when you wake up.
Sammie didn’t think about camping when he got her letter. He spent the day watching the clock, anxious for the evening – and the visit with Becky – to arrive. He kept the letter, of course.
He still has it, but had he known about the conversation old Mister Hurwitz had had with Rebecca, he might have thrown it away…