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Author: Colleen Butler, Childhood, Endings, Trauma

Colleen Butler

I was a mere twelve-year-old girl when it happened. My cousins and I were picking gooseberries and duinebessies in the veld opposite my grandmother’s house. Then we heard an adult shouting: “He is coming! He is coming!”

I ran to investigate who she was referring to. My heart skipped a beat and gave a hard throb when I saw who it was. By now everybody in Salisbury Park knew who this man, going by the name of Mr Ferreira, was. A large white man dressed in a brown suit, with grey hair, who walked upright.

My twelve-year-old being could not grasp what was happening at that very moment. He entered my grandmother’s house and I could hear her sigh, her protests. My heart felt sad and weak. I ran as fast as I could towards our house to alert my brother Anthony.

An hour later the same man came knocking on our door. The smell of toast was still roaming the air as I hesitantly headed to open the door. There he was. Standing tall with his file clutched under his arm. I invited him in reluctantly and showed him to the lounge area. He asked if he could speak to my parents.

My father was enjoying his breakfast. Bacon, eggs and toast. After finishing his coffee, he ventured down the passage. My father, who was always the height of sternness and pride, walked down the passage with his shoulders sagging. He taught us to be upright and not to ever lower or cover our heads when we walk. This time I noticed something that made me shudder. My father, my father was not his old self!

My mother emerged from the bedroom and they entered the lounge, closing the door behind them. My whole being was shivering. All that went through my mind was questions. What on earth is going to happen? Why is everybody so afraid of this man? This man that has all of the people in Salisbury Park, who are usually so serene and God-fearing, on their edges.

I entered my sister’s room that was adjacent to the lounge and eavesdropped by the door leading into the lounge from her room. What I heard sent anger and deprivation through my body. What does this “supreme race” of our country think? Who do they think they are? How can they do this to us?

How can the adults of Salisbury Park just give up? Behaving like Jews being led into the gas chambers or pigs being led to slaughter. I wanted to cry out and put him out of the house but had to suppress my feelings for fear of being heard.

I ran outside and only came to realisation when sister Margaret of St Dominic Priory asked me what I was doing so far from home. Without realising it, I came to a halt amongst the trees near our school that bordered the St Dominic Priory. I did not even answer her. I wanted to tell her what I thought about her and her race! It burned inside me to tell her, but I had to control myself.

What are we going to do? How can they tell our parents that our area has been declared whites only and that we had to move to an unknown location? An area without trees and plants. How are we going to survive?

My family enjoys nature and the great outdoors. Now, we must move to a place with limited space and no trees.

Apparently we will not be allowed to keep livestock. What is going to happen to my mother’s chickens and my father’s pigs? What about our rabbits?

My heart goes out to our neighbours, Oom Gossie and Aunt Mary. How is this going to affect this adorable, kind-hearted, elderly couple? I do not want to experience hate and dislike, but what the government is doing to us now is really uncalled for!

What about Anthony? He has his own gym for bodybuilders.

During that year, 1971, most of the families had moved out already. Our school ran empty and our grade seven class ended the year with only 15 learners. My mother had to discard all of her antique furniture.

When the day dawned that we had to move, I was not at ease. I tried to avoid this painful journey to the unknown. My grandmother still sent me to buy bully beef and a loaf of brown bread. She made sandwiches for us and I referred to it as our last supper.

The carefree living that I experienced in Salisbury Park shall live in my memory forever…

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