On my hike down memory lane, I stumbled across this gem……….


Great loves have been romanticized and well documented. Romeo and Juliet, John Legend and Chrissy Teigen, Jackie O and Onassis, and of course, Princess Di and Dodi Al-Fayed, but nobody knows about my mother and father’s story.

 I only learnt this week about an amazingly romantic and grand declaration of love from my dad to my mom. As the story goes, my mother was leaving town to return to her parents’ home, where she lived in Johannesburg.

She had boarded a train in Pretoria and said goodbye to her family and her handsome suitor, in a tearful and heartbroken farewell. Dad was a hard-up farmer, working for a minimum salary while depending on the magical, but usually imaginary, yearly bonus. Mom was the daughter of a rich man. Sounds like the theme to so many novels, or songs, doesn’t it?

My grandfather worked as General Manager for the Gold Reef Mines and raked in big bucks as such. My mother was a Joburg socialite, who had never worked for a cent in her life, apart from one occasion when she spent an entire day employed as an assistant in a hat shop.

The reason her employment was so short-lived was that when my grandfather saw how many hats she was buying for herself, instead of selling to the clients, he realized he would go broke within a month, paying off her account. So, it was back to home for Edna, and socializing with the rich and famous of her day.

How these two deviant paths met at the same fork in life, at the same time, must have been the work of a couple of angels who, having consumed a sip too many of the communion wine, had then set about handing out paths for their humans to walk through their lives.

I imagined a room filled with teeny-tiny humans and sitting on the floor in the middle of them, the two celestial beings, taking turns swigging back the communion wine, with the conversation going something like this.

“Hey, Luce! Let us take this guy. He is broke, got one and a half legs, so let us, wait for it, wait for it, let us match him with, HER! Huh? Huh?”

He was, of course, pointing at happy little rich Edna, who was, at that moment, bestride a donkey, riding it in circles around a scraggly thornbush. She was dressed for the occasion though, wearing a pair of jodhpurs, as did all good equestrians. Admittedly, these pants were a bit raggedy and had a rip in the seat.

With her hair casually tied back by a bandana, she was riding her mighty steed around and, around the thorn bush.

She was looking anything but the rich little Daddy’s Girl that she was, holidaying on her uncle’s farm. A farm which was in the same area and under the same jurisdiction as my father, who was the local tobacco expert. So, it was a chance meeting, designed by the best practical jokers of all time.

The joke was on the drunken angels though, and their version of divine comedy. Mom and Dad met and fell in love, and that was that! Edna Gray’s holiday became one of, romantic nights under the stars, with days of dreamy sighs and stolen kisses.

Sadly, the day came when Mom had to go home, and she was escorted to the railway station by her family. Everyone said their fond farewells, including Dad, who gave her a chaste peck on the cheek. He stood watching the carriages pass by, carrying away his new love, who was waving at him, leaning as far as possible out the window desperately trying to drink in his image for as long as possible.

At last, as he saw the red taillight disappear around the bend, he shook his head, and as though coming out of a trance, made for his car. He climbed into the dusty old Model T, but instead of starting her up, he sat for a while.

He had never met any other woman who affected him as much.  He loved playing his banjo, gazing deeply into her starry eyes as he serenaded her. He loved the way she laughed at his corny jokes, how she listened to the stories he told of his life and generally brightened his day when she was around.

Edna Gray had become the love of his life, and he had just watched her boarding a train carrying her back to the frivolous, superficial life she lived under her indulgent parents’ roof.

“Not a damn!” he muttered.

Edna Gray was a cracker of a woman. A bit of a firecracker, but a woman he could see walking beside him through life. Turning the key and starting up his trusty old Ford, with a great roar of the engine and spinning of wheels. He sped out of the parking lot and drove hell-bent for leather, down a road that he knew would take him to the railway line and oncoming train.

Now, one must remember this was in the 1930s, a simpler time when life could be more-easily shaped to one’s own liking. Nothing was going to defeat the determined, young Kenneth Griffith in his quest for a happy ever after.

He drove alongside the massive locomotive, blowing the horn, and waving at the driver and his fireman, signaling for them to stop the train. Unbelievably, the driver, possibly thinking there was a life and death emergency, blew the whistle warningly, and applied brakes, bringing the entire seven carriages to a screeching, metal on metal, ear-splitting, halt.

Dad jumped out of his car and shouted,

“Edna! Edna Gray!”

Heads popped out of every window. There was great theatre happening, and everyone wanted to watch.

“Edna Gray!”

The engine driver jumped down from his perch and marched towards the young lothario who had caused such a dramatic happening. He wondered what emergency had brought it about.

Dad urged Edna to throw her luggage out the window and then, leap into his arms before the conductor caught them.

Laughing at their derring-do, Dad and Mom drove the rest of the way to Johannesburg, happy in the knowledge that the road they were taking was going to lead them through a long life together.

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