Jessica arrived as Jessica Gambushe, her name give to her by her Tummy Mummy Tembi Gambushe. Tommy arrived as Tommy Ngobese, his name given to him by the local magistrate.
When their adoption papers came through – wonderful papers with “legally they are asof uit u gebore” written on them in black and white! – we started to arrange new birth certificates, passports, etc at home affairs. We loved their names, and kept them, naturally; We also decided to keep their surnames as middle names, so Jess became Jessica Gambushe Swanepoel and Tommy became Tommy Ngobese Swanepoel. But Tommy’s had a twist. Much as we loved his first name, Aitch suggested we name him Thomas and then he could decide to be Thomas, Tom or Tommy in time to come. He has loved that. He was Thomas at school and formal occasions, he prefers Tommy at home.
They were both too young to argue, so although we consulted them formally, they just looked at us with a Can I Have Some More Cooldrink? look on their faces.
Years later, a different story. They had now been subjected to pale schools and their middle names had undergone scrutiny by pale people. Why is my middle name Gambushe / Ngobese? Change it if you don’t like it, I’d say, I still say. Go to home affairs, fill in a form and get it changed, don’t moan.
Back when Aitch was around I’d have to ignore a slight eyebrow arching in the background as madam overheard this. She had heard that story for many years when she would moan about her name Patricia! I would say . . you guessed it: Go to home affairs, fill in a form and get it changed, don’t moan. Lead balloons have soared higher.
Who are you!? What you want!? Be off with you!? Go find your own Sugar Daddy!
These thoughts or something like them wafted through Jessie’s brain as she charged at Tiger and made to push him; he ducked behind his new Mama’s leg, wondering what was up with this fierce child.
We fostered Tiger from six months old to a month past his first birthday. You can imagine the birthday party! Aitch’s first child’s first birthday!
Then he got adopted by Mr and Mrs Buthelezi. She a schoolteacher, he an entrepreneur. His first return to visit us was two or three months later – pre-Jess – and he didn’t know us! When we went to greet him he hid in his new Mom’s arms!
This visit was a lot later and so it was like all new to him again. So the fiercely protective action from Jess musta surprised the poor fella, who name was now Owethu (‘ours’) Buthelezi.
Aitch gave him a gift and that didn’t help either! Where was HER gift!? And just WHO is this intruder again? And why is he in MY house? We called the episode ‘Tiger Enters the Lioness’ Den.’
Jessie’s Tummy Mummy Thembi became a good friend thanks to Aitch and her conscientious follow-up and ‘adoption’ of Thembi.
Aitch nurtured her and encouraged and empowered her. She arranged classes such as computer and sewing courses; she had her teeth seen to and hugely improved by the state orthodontists at Addington and King Edward hospitals.
Once a month she would take Jessie – and me and Tom sometimes – to meet for lunch with Thembi when we would also take her supplies and goods to sell; Jessie loved those lunches. She and Thembi would gossip and giggle and point at people walking past commenting on their looks, dress, gait, whatever. Scandalous! They loved it!
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Once we took her back to Port Shepstone so she could show her Mom and Gran that Jess was fine.
Thembi met a guy who was very good to her and was very happy but tragically she then contracted AIDS; Aitch pitched right in and arranged to meet the chief HIV / AIDS doctor in charge at King Edward. She saw to it that Thembi got her treatment on time. She sickened rather quickly though, and grew weak.
Jess wrote to her when I visited her in Addington:
She died in Addington hospital. I took her boyfriend and her brother Dumi in the kombi to buy a coffin and then to fetch her body; then arranged for them to get her remains – and themselves – to Port Shepstone.