The Pot of Porridge

by Amanda from Belgium

One day Rika said to a young couple facing financial struggles and expecting their first born” “With each baby comes a pot of porridge.”

And we still eat from that pot, which has since grown to two! And we still have enough porridge.

As we closed gates behind us and set out to unlock new front doors, we somehow found these pots of porridge in the new kitchens. The pot is never empty.  Dad always talked about “pap for a bazaar!” And we stand astounded and in awe.

Since Handsome and Dolla were born, suitcases filled with clothes previously worn by cousins were passed on. And beautiful stuff indeed! We seldom needed to go shopping for clothes – that is until Handsome decided that his taste for clothes has evolved to a next level and labels became a must for picture perfect. Dolla on the other hand prefers to walk naked: because clothes are for mothers who dress little girls because they must.

Dolla cannot talk, but she can laugh. Her whole being is slow, too slow, even up to today. At the Baby Therapy Centre in Lynnwood,

Tshwane (then still Pretoria) a person who chose to remain anonymous, paid that she could receive free speech and occupational therapy. A year later the beautiful Korean speech therapist and her daughter approached us when we helped at a course in Worcester. Can Dolla be a friend for her little girl? And thus Dolla was taught by this friend how to use a potty. A remedial teacher Rosa, when taking a 6 month sabbatical, gathered friends from our congregation to compile a special programme for Dolla and all these dear people committed to each take an hour session playing and doing repetitive work with Dolla – five mornings a week! Dolla thrived on all this personal attention because people make her alive! Slowly, very slowly, Dolla learnt one thing: this was about a huge spoonful of porridge from the pot of porridge.

When we emigrated to another country, we somehow again found these pots of porridge in the keuken (kitchen). Handsome had a hard time because at school he was bullied because of his foreign accent. But one Mevrouw at school believed in him, had compassion and laid down strict guidelines. She assured us that he will once again land on his feet.  He still remembers her with a lot of gratitude, as do we.

Because our visas had restrictions, Handsome was not allowed to do holiday work as his friends at school could, earning loads of money. But a South African business person offered him holiday work and paid him “holiday money” from his own pocket.

A couple of years ago friends of us gave us a car. We had one car and I said thank you, but it was unnecessary. My husband wisely said that maybe we should consider this gift carefully. We kept this blue gift which duly became the “church car”. A couple of months later Handsome got work a long way away from home and this church car then became his work car.

We got caught up in ever being busy, running from one appointment to the next, saying “yes” to everything, because busyness is the right thing to do to silence the ever yelling little voice of shame and not being enough. But it was then that Dolla reminded us of the pot of porridge.  She is never worried about tomorrow, nor even the following moment. She lives in the now. As long as we are around, she is happy. Tomorrow is someone else’s problem. She does not even know what it means.

After many years’ visits Dolla paid to doctors and therapists, we decided that enough was enough. Our general practitioner carefully enquired whether we would not perhaps like to know her diagnosis, and more doctors’ visits followed. They were curious and Dolla enjoyed the attention. The sweet professor at Menslijke Erflikheid asked if she could be part of a research programme of persons with her challenges.  Blood was drawn. Genetic tests, chromosome tests and months went by. Eventually, after 20 years of research, a diagnosis emerged. Everything on this journey was free because of the research programme!

Bella Dog has been and is a huge help and a huge spoonful from this pot of porridge. When Dolla, especially in the mornings, bites, hammers and beats her fists out of frustration, Bella quickly makes an appearance. She jumps on Dolla’s lap, barking or fetching her playing rope, chewing it on Dolla’s feet. Quickly Dolla’s mood changes to giggles and loud laughter.

My husband often wrestles with “what if” about the future. But the Voice of Reassurance comes, feeling like a belly filled with delicious porridge: “But do you not remember? I looked after you when the desert sand was thick, the sun blazing and the water scarce. Don’t you think that I will do this again? Actually I have never stopped caring. I will never let go of you!”

And we realise that our two pots of porridge are always with us and every day we dish out huge servings. And there is always enough porridge. The pots do not get empty. Lovely porridge, mealie pap with cream and tomatoes!!

Originally published in My Child and I, Autumn 2017

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