Two weeks ago, Arthur started Grade 8- the first year of high school, in South Africa. A significant moment in the heart of a mother, releasing her child another step out into the world. I am so proud of my son! Arthur continues to amaze me with his ability to enter into new activities and environments with a positive and confident attitude. I guess the reason I am amazed is that I remember myself as shy and hesitant with new things and new people. Actually, I still am, but I have learned how to appear confident- at least, I think I do!
I suppose Arthur’s confidence comes from both who he is and lots of practice entering new places and meeting new people. Over the past 13 years, Arthur has grown up among many communities of people. I feel the need to write it all out and process a bit for myself- so if your are interested, your are welcome to listen in, or just skip down to the final paragraph….
His first two years, we lived in Pasadena, CA (close to Los Angeles) in a small apartment on the property of Foothills Community Church where his Dad worked. Arthur Paul (dubbed AP by the pastor’s son, Ben) was loved and cuddled by lots of church friends. At five months of age, Arthur Paul joined me at Pasadena Day Nursery (a crèche) where I worked.
In 2000, our family of three became a family of six when we shared a house with the Ramages: Tim, Jennifer and their son Josh in San Gabriel (ten minutes drive south of Pasadena). For those two years we hosted a weekly Bible study group (aka Carne Asada night…wow, do I miss being able to buy pre-marinated flank steak and a huge package of tortillas and chips!) Josh was five months older than AP, and our other good friends, Brandon and Judy’s daughter, Anya was just a few months younger than AP. What fun we had with our firstborns as we celebrated birthdays, dressed them up for Halloween, and took day trips to Disneyland or the beach!
By 2001 when Iain was born, the Ramages had also had their second son, Koby. Our family became eight and we all decided it was time for our families to move apart. We rented a beautiful house in Altadena (five minutes drive north of Pasadena) for the rest of that year. In 2002 we said goodbye to many good friends from around Pasadena and moved an hour and a quarter drive away to Oxnard, CA to join NieuCommunities. There we joined a whole new group of people who became friends- the Grafs, Warkentins & McDonalds, along with Nathan, Jason, Andy, Megan and our new church family at The Bridge.
In May of 2003, a few months before Arthur’s fifth birthday, our family moved to Pretoria, South Africa. Thankfully, God provided an immediate best friend for AP- Kyle Ward, the son of our new teammates. With Kyle by his side, Arthur learned Afrikaans at Kleine Einstein Klueterskool (day care- Kindergarten) so that he could play with a whole new set of friends! At pre-school he learned about rugby, Blou Bulle pride and a few other important things like pre-reading, writing and maths.
In Grade 1 Arthur started “big school” at Northridge Primary. A new beginning with peers, since all of his Kliene Einstein buddies attended an Afrikaans instruction primary school. Thankfully, Arthur and Kyle remained close with lots of fun together at our home away from home, Pangani.
NieuCommunities (NC) gatherings at the 100 year old beautifully renovated B&B called Pangani, consisted of swimming, making a mess in the kitchen and calling it “lemonade,” braai-ing, climbing the wall to touch the electrified fence, DSTv watching, getting bitten by a spider while trashing Oupa At’s records, worship and prayer. During these years in Pretoria, Arthur had lots of extended family- the NieuCommunities staff: Jostina, Bryan & Daleen, Sean & Debbie, Luc, Doug, Sarah, and Barbara. And the 60+ twenty-something, apprentices he and the rest of the Pangani kids, came to know and love over the seven years Arthur and I worked with NieuCommunities (a 10 month Christian life and ministry internship/missional community).
Also during these years, Arthur led his brother and sister in his quiet, confident way as they had opportunities to experience life outside Pangani’s predominantly white neighborhood in Pretoria North where people of color, and home language other than Afrikaans traveled into and out of for work. Our friends Jonas, Valrey, Motlope, Jostina and Caroline invited us into their homes and life in the township of Hammanskraal. AP played soccer with two bricks set up for a goal, ate pap and shaba, walked to the tuckshop for 1.5 liter glass bottles of cool drink, attempted wheeling a full 10 liter container of water from the tap to a friend’s house, and helped to paint said friend’s tin house a brilliant, bright blue!
He also engaged people and explored places such as the Voortrekker Monument, various churches in the inner city of Pretoria, concerts at the botanical gardens in Pretoria and Johannesburg, church and museums in Soweto, rugby and soccer matches, played at the Pret Plaas, game drives through Pilanesburg, swimming at Sun City and life “out in the bush” at the Breet’s house- Pangani Pori.
In July of 2009 the NieuCommunities/Pangani chapter of our family’s life came to an end. AP again led the way forward for his brother and sister, after a weighty goodbye to both peers at Northridge and significant friends who had become close, as family. I was anxious as I watched my kids courageously pack up their lives to move to Fresno, CA, the city we traveled to for weeks at a time over the previous seven years when we came back to the States to visit Grandmas, Grandpas, Aunts and Uncles and friends.
Having turned 11 in August, 2009 Arthur started his third new school and we moved into our eighth house. The city of Fresno, with family and many friends was familiar, but had never been home. Arthur, along with Iain and Mairin, missed life in Pretoria, friends at Pangani and school. At Hamilton Elementary they learned new school yard games, new clothing styles (no uniforms or short hair cuts!), dropped the South African accent and speaking Afrikaans altogether. The kids didn’t have to lug all their books and stationary back and forth from school each day and they were served both breakfast and lunch in a cafeteria every school day- for free!!
Arthur navigated all of these new experiences and people with maturity, admitting, through tears, that he missed his friends who knew him well. Since he was now submerging with another new group of peers at school and a culture he hadn’t lived in since he was five, I was so grateful for the friendships with the Ramages, Shireys, Portelas, and Velez’ kids (and parents) he had established on previous visits. Another significant factor was the love and care of Grandmas, Grandpas, Aunts and Uncles who finally had the opportunity to give their love and attention to Arthur, Iain, and Mairin while living in the same town.
June 2010, World Cup in South Africa! And another new beginning: another new house, a fourth new school and another new culture- Cape Town is a long way away from Pretoria, my bru…a new accent & slang, eating gatsbys and enjoying Halaal hot dogs with Muslim friends. Thankfully, some things never change, Arthur is an avid book reader and there are many libraries all over the city to quench his thirst! And again, the Lord provided a new set of friends.
Now, Arthur has begun Grade 8 at Westerford High School. He has a cell phone and a set of house keys. He walks ten minutes to and from school each day- all by himself! He’s playing water polo, is taking guitar lessons and has joined the choir. He takes responsibility for his homework and making new friends. He is chatting with girls on Facebook and turned his face so I could kiss his cheek goodnight. He gives me “that look” when I am treating him like a child instead of the handsome young man he is. I am so proud of my firstborn!
originally posted here on 26 Jan 2012, but so good that I wanted to put it on our family’s blog. will also appear in our next email update…