Author: Emmaleen Kriel
Publisher: Oshun Books
Cape Town, 2007
Soft cover, 13x20 cm, 288 pages
Following on the success of Close the Door Softly Behind You, Emmaleen Kriels’ memoir of how she came to spend four years cooking, cleaning and caring for European aristocracy, comes Jam Every Other Day - the memoir of how she raised six children on little more than love and good intentions.
Emma and her husband wanted a warm, busy house, full of laughter and muddy footprints ... and, under the leafy oaks of what was then ‘rural’ Constantia, that’s just what they got. Geese, ponies, dogs, an Oldtjorrie and a rag doll called Giblet completed the already remarkable family.
After a mutually agreed separation Emma took her brood to the Knysna forest, where they continued to live the rustic lifestyle, this time without even running water!
Written in Emma’s distinctive, quirky style, the charming tale includes insights from her own childhood in Holland during World War 2. Along with the delightful chaos of her family memoirs, come gems of caring advice to modern moms (like her own daughters).
Cook, carer, author and mother of seven, Emmaleen Kriel has touched the hearts of South Africans with the warm, honest accounts of her extra-ordinary life. Jam every Other Day is her second book and, in many ways, a prequel to Close the Door Softly Behind You.
CHANDA: eldest daughter
MERCEDES: second daughter
PIA OR POP: third daughter and first twin
BJ0RN: second twin, fourth child and first boy
JOCASTA OR BOO: fifth child, fourth daughter
SEBASTIAN OR BASJE: second boy, sixth child
EMMA OR MOUSE: Mother
ERIK: brother of Mother
YVONNE: long-standing friend
HERBERT: Yvonne’s father
GIBLET: cloth doll, friend, confidant and conscience
If it’s a juicy tale of sex you’re after this book won’t appeal to you. My advice is to put it neatly back on the shelf where you found it. You’ll find no fleshy thighs or surprised nipples here. Between these sheets, I mean. There’ll be no heavy breathing, plain brown wrappers or groping teenagers. Not even an intimate moment between husband and wife. So there’s no need to read the whole book and be disappointed, because I’m telling you right now there is none.
Do I see a crestfallen face? Downcast eyes?
Then wait! Before you do put it back, I might be able to muster up a tiny bit of sex for you. After all, one could argue this book is very much about sex.
How’s that? you might ask. Why the sudden change of tune?
Well, the book is about six children. And how else are they begot but by youthful romping, banging and not a little groping - be it in the back of rusty cars or on windy dunes.
It’s about an era when having children was still spontaneous. When we didn’t worry too much about birth control, because another baby was only a pleasure and we knew we would manage - somehow. Education was excellent and cheap, so was food and ... well, I was good at cooking, knitting and sewing, wasn’t I?
So here I stand before you. As if unclothed. Blushing, not a little. With living proof I ‘did it’ at least six times. A fact I cannot deny. But, seeing as this is a documentation of the youth of those six brothers and sisters (and a seventh child later) and will, no doubt, be read by them and theirs, you’ll be relieved to know I will spare you the biological details.
No one wants to hear how their parents did it, on windy dunes I mean. We adults know where children come from, but how those kids think they were begot I’m not sure ... and they’re not saying anything.
My seven children are mostly in their thirties. They are attractive, successful, funny, healthy and excited to be part of this world. Some have university degrees, others are sporty. This one is more ambitious than the next, that one friendly, that one not as much. There’s a spiritual one over here, yet the other one couldn’t be bothered with philosophising.
We have two who are passionate about art, an academic one, and there are those who have suffered real hardship in comparison with the others. Two go to the gym regularly, one loves theatre, the other one is so crazy about horses she gallops in her dreams. Some spend more time in the kitchen, fussing with food, parenting with pleasure, mothering with pride, and there are those who do it with reluctance.
Except for the youngest, they all have a family, having made their choice to marry at an early age, as I did. Although all seven like living in the city, a few dream of wild places, therefore, as a compromise, they climb mountains or garden; some have large grounds or a pool or horses - some have all three and others none.
They chose their partners, took on the responsibility of property, found a lifestyle and a community (or not); two are divorced with great sadness, yet good parents they have remained throughout, and I delight in watching them. I delight in watching them grow into adults and find their place within their own families and society, taking over from where we left off. They are as diverse as would be expected from such a large, vibrant bunch, and yet similar in many ways.
Coming from the background they do, and having experienced the upbringing they did, they are suprisingly average, some perhaps a trifle more eccentric than others. They have the confidence that sooner or later they will have most of what they want, which isn’t only of a material nature, and suffer no undue envy.
They bring up their children as modern parents, sending them to good government schools, or a private school based on alternative principles. Blend that with a touch of how they themselves experienced childhood, and you have a semblance of what their parenting is all about. They know they cannot relive their own carefree youth and don’t try to.
Over the years, there have been times those brothers and sisters drifted apart, moved overseas one by one, working the pub beat or the labourer’s trade. One found love and married there, the others returned home with full, curly mops of hair or rough beards: all heavy laden, all finding their niche in one way or another. Yet, as the romantics would expect of a large family, they’ve retained a childhood love for each other and an enviable closeness, even from afar.
Individuals they may be, but two things stick out as a common denominators. They all love to laugh, loud and long, from the bottom of their beings. They laugh at themselves, at silly jokes, at life, at me, and at circumstances they find tougher than expected. Laughter, as a clan, comes easily.
The other thing that binds them is their love of tea. They share endless, full pots of tea, lingering for hours over conversations, preferably out in the garden for the whole afternoon. I’ve often been asked to write about the children. How things were in those days, why I had so many... how I coped. Having published one book, I couldn’t ignore the call any longer. When I was a young mother with my six children in tow, I thought there wasn’t much in the child-rearing arena I didn’t know something about or had an opinion on.
Now, being older and wiser, I feel I know nothing. With the help of the children themselves, and the memories of their childhood, I have written a simple memoir which I hope will do them justice. It’s a bit risky for a mother to write a memoir, for sure. How often have I been told. That’s not how it was, Mom ... you only remember the good bits.’ True. But I have Giblet to keep me on my toes and, believe me, he does. […]