It was 1993. Eighth grade. Potchefstroom. Mrs. Spies’s math’s class. The final subject of the day. For some reason she took a seat at the desk behind me, not saying a word. The bell rang and with great enthusiasm we all began packing our bags to either go home, or in the case of the boarders, back to hostel. As I rose to leave, she gently placed her hand on my shoulder, asking me to stay behind once everyone had left. I was a good student, so I knew I wasn’t in trouble, yet I felt a bit nervous nevertheless.
Now, before I get to the crux of this entry, you must know that at the time I hadn’t been in the school long. I had made a few friends, but the move from a co-ed to same-sex school was an enormous adjustment for me. Claire Baines, our class prefect managed to reduce me to tears one afternoon for having taken off my shoes and unbuttoning my top button and loosening my tie – something which was quite normal at the co-ed school I’d attended before. I had nightmares for months about being a “lady”. I wasn’t a “lady”, I was a thirteen year old tomboy, who had been forced into a school I pretty much hated at that stage, simply because it was the only one of two English High Schools in the town. The other one was Boys’ High School.
My hair was a touch greasy, and I looked somewhat unkempt. Nothing unusual. She was gentle in her approach, and while I don’t exactly recall her words verbatim, it basically boiled down to the fact that she saw that I may have been in need of a few things, and that if I did, that I should ask. I thanked her, went home and didn’t really give it much thought. About two weeks later I went to her and with tears brimming in my eyes, I asked her if she thought my parents couldn’t look after me, and she immediately said “No”. It was simply a case that sometimes children would like to have something they need, but they know their parents have other priorities. I understood that. Dad was working at a project two hours away for months on end and mom and I were alone. There was someone watching the house at night too, so mom was very stressed. I asked her if I could have a new pair of takkies (sneakers). She agreed, giving me some money, telling me to go and buy myself a pair and bring them to school to show her. I did. They were canvas takkies, navy blue with white soles, similar to today’s Tomy takkies.
You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you a story about something that happened twenty two years ago. Well, the wheel has turned – and I’m so excited to share this story with you all. Had it not been for what happened yesterday, this memory would never have surfaced.
Last week I had my annual performance assessment at work and one of the things I put down to discuss was that there is proof that exercise improves productivity and because of this, I think it would be a good idea to get a challenge going between the two divisions’ staff (both floor and management) to do the local parkrun at least once a month. After all, it’s free, it’s fun and it will build a bit of morale. My bosses gave me the nod and so “Project parkrun” was born last week – I drew up a poster and it elicited an expected response. I can’t wait for the first one, which will take place on the 26th of September.
One of the factory ladies mentioned to me that she would love to take part, but that she doesn’t have takkies. As she is a mom of two, I can understand that takkies for herself are most likely not very high on the priority list. She asked me if I had an old pair she could have, but turns out we’re not the same size. Then yesterday afternoon, between work and making my afternoon tea, I felt the urge to ask for a donation for shoes for this specific lady. I went onto a group on FB and put the word out. To say I had an overwhelming response is an understatement – complete strangers have opened their hearts and at this stage I have 11 pairs of second-hand takkies I need to get from Cape Town to Mossel Bay. I promised the donors that I will find good homes for each and every pair. Two ladies were even kind to donate money, so a new pair of takkies can be bought for the lady who came to me yesterday, and the balance remaining, if not enough for another pair of takkies, can be used towards the transport costs of getting the shoes shipped. I am in awe…