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Song for Sarah, LESSONS FROM MY MOTHER
SONG FOR SARAH
LESSONS FROM MY MOTHER
JONATHAN JANSEN with NAOMI JANSEN
ISBN 9 781928 257295 9
Generalisations are by their nature very unfair, often hurtful.
Social commentator and academic Professor Jonathan Jansen teams up with his sister Naomi to explode the myth about the crude Cape Flats mother - chain-smoking, vulgar, unkempt looks and, despite the pregnancy, the ubiquitous cigarette in hand.
This is not the picture of their mother, or the many hardworking women who have been overlooked in the rush to paint this stereotype of the Coloured mother.
Their mother Sarah worked as a nurse almost all her life. From her early years in Montagu, where the family, like many others not white, suffered the indignity of forced removals, Sarah’s life was set - school, marriage, kids, church … with no time for anything else in between.
It is under her roof that Jonathan, the First Born, learns how to rise above his circumstances. A Coloured boy of his generation and background, stereotype has it, grows up to a life of drugs, drinking, careless sex, gangsterism, jail and death.
But it is typical of Sarah’s influence that Jonathan and his siblings know from an early age that their lives could be different.
She works hard, her fingers through the bones as she was wont to remind her brood. They had a duty to repay her, in her view. And the only way to pay her back was to be model children, doing only good as their parents instilled in them.
Like many mothers raising children under the conditions designed by Apartheid South Africa for races not white, she rules the roost in her home. Her husband is almost like the older boy, seen but no heard. He is there but invisible.
The head of the family is Sarah.
She works. She cooks. She prays. She leads.
Even outside the family she takes it upon herself to lead other women towards the path of goodness, raising their children well. Those of the children in the neighbourhood who miss the teachings of their parents often fall foul of Sarah, who dunks them in water to bath them should they have the misfortune of straying into her home.
They could be poor, she tells her children, but they can also be decent.
She mends their tattered clothing. Even as they step out into the streets, the hard-worn clothes are neat. The Jansen children live on hand-me-downs, from the oldest children downwards.
It is not unusual for them to wear over-sized shoes to school because the older sibling has outgrown them.
It is almost a given that children thus raised would appreciate the privilege of opportunities presented to them to make something of their lives. It is no wonder that they excel at school.
Jonathan, with a string of degrees, rose to be head of a university.
His siblings did not turn out bad themselves.
Many who read this book, who did not grow up with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouths, would see parts of themselves and their mothers throughout the pages of this book.
To deny this generalisation of the drunkard Cape Flats mother is no doubt the biggest compliment Jonathan and his sister Naomi have paid their mother.
And the many mother harshly judged by a convention that sought to paint them all in one tainted brush.
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