I was conceived on the dark continent of Africa by a dark, handsome, suave gentleman and a beautiful, very fair, copper-haired, elegant lady. Their love story although not keeping to the fairy tale of a prince charming, a fair damsel in distress with a fire-breathing dragon thrown in for good measure, it had similarities. My father Harold George Lorenzo, my mother Elizabeth Maria Dodgen and her mother Maria Annie O’Connor (Dodgen) were the characters of this true to life story.
At the time when they first met my father was a baker-cake confectioner and my mother a nanny. She had to travel from Crawford to Rondebosch that entail a journey by two busses, and the connecting point was in Mowbray. My father lived in Observatory, which was the next suburb to Mowbray in Cape Town, and he and his friends use to roller skate between the two suburbs on weekends to visit one another. Their favourite past time according to him was zigzagging in between the young women that walked the pavements going about their business. Some he said found it annoying, others though thought it amusing, and it was those that were chatted up. There was one copper haired, slightly freckled fair one who always breezed past them in an elegant manner with haughtiness about her, and her cool disdain of them left no doubt to leave her alone, which they did.
My father had relatives that resided in Rondebosch, which was the next suburb to Mobray, and unbeknown to him my mother was a nanny for a well to do family that resided in the same street. Their paths were destined to cross, but not how it eventuated to his unexpected delight. The other family knew his relatives and they were on a friendly basis to the extent that invites to each other’s family functions were extended. One such was a twenty-first birthday party at the other family’s home to which my father for the first time went with his cousins. My mother was on nanny duties with that family’s younger children for that night, and because they were allowed to stay up until the blowing out of the candles and cutting of the cake, which they had been promised before going straight to bed, she was in their company. My mother was quite surprised to see him there, and so was he when going forward to accept a slice of the cake that she was helping to distribute to the guest. In the mood of the occasion she was been extremely cheerful to all, he though also noticed her effervescence in the decisive manner of not only handling the children but also the other minor duties she was performing. She wasn’t assuming an air of superiority then as when his friends and he had caused her to be, she was instead unpretentious in her mannerisms. She was quite bashful too when he had the occasion to approach her before she saw the children off to bed so as to introduce himself and ask her name.
Harold and Elizabeth after the children were settled down and asleep sat and talked the rest of the night away much to the amusement of his cousins and the encouragement of her employers. She though had made it quite clear from the onset that there was no way in him seeing her home when he asked, and that he would also be unable to call on her as her mother was very strict on her having a boyfriend. She didn’t know my father, who on his telling was a bit of a ladies man, and there was no way he was going to let that be an obstruction or for her not to become part of his life. He wasn’t going to push it for he knew the situation would be different the next time they met on the street on her way home. The eventuality of that also surprised his friends for he hadn’t told them what had transpired and when on them seeing her approach and skating away from her my father made straight for her. They were unbelievable surprised on seeing her actually smile, stop and greet my father, and when he waved them away as the two of them walked towards the bus terminus, they stood in stunned disbelief. From there they both journeyed on the bus the distance to her home, and that became a weekly occurrence. He was then also visiting his cousins in Rondebosch more frequently and they would meet there after her nanny duties were performed. The romance blossomed but her parents had no idea what was occurring, until my father been the gentleman he was saw her to their front door one day so as to make her parents aware of their friendship. Of course all hell broke loose from my grandmother on seeing a dark skinned person with her fair daughter. My father been English speaking and although also understanding and speaking some Afrikaans couldn’t understand a word my grandma was shouting at him in Hochdeutsch, and she actually physically chased him from the door. My mother from then on was been watched like a hawk, but love overcomes many obstacles and my grandmother was one of them.
My dad whom my grandma called a zwart jongen (Dutch = black boy) was because of his olive complexion due to his parents being Portuguese and Jewish. My mum was very fair with freckles and copper coloured hair brought about through both my grandparents being of English, Irish and Dutch ancestry. My mum also told me that when my dad came a courting he had to bear the brunt of my grandma’s derogatory sarcasm, and my mum had to bear her hair been yanked when she was forcibly pulled indoors by my grandma as they said their goodnights. Nevertheless, my dad and mum overcame those differences and her consent for marriage by having me. What was a revelation about my grandma though, when I was older and able to better understand why she was the way she was, was when she related stories of the families past to me, and also the hardships endured and overcome by both her and my mum.