All the old familiar places
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Friday: We were met at the airport by my friend Fiona, who had graciously offered to have us stay at her house for the weekend. Fiona and I were friends for two years in high school before I left South Africa. We were 13 years old when we met and have only seen each other once since I left in 1990. I visited with Fiona in 1995 when I traveled to South Africa with my mom to attend another friend's wedding. Since 95, Fiona has gotten married and had two children.
After being picked up at the airport, we headed to Benoni, the town where I grew up, so I could show Joe all the "old familiar places." We went to my primary (elementary) school, high school, drove past old stores we used to shop at, and then went to see my old house. I was determined to go inside, or at least see the backyard, but we could see no way to ring a doorbell. Since my last visit, the owner of the house has installed a large security gate from one side of the property to the other, thus removing any access to the front door. While I was speaking with the neighbor, who agreed to allow us to peek over the wall from her backyard, Fiona and Joe managed to get the attention of a renter who is living in a small add-on flat in the front yard. She spoke with the maid who somewhat reluctantly let us into the house. I explained to her that my family used to live in the house when I was a child and when she saw me burst into tears (once I was inside), I think she felt ok that she'd allowed us inside.
Being inside the house was very overwhelming. It felt smaller than I remember, but then again, I'm sure I'm bigger than I was when I was 15! Not much had changed, which was nice to see. I was expecting to go in and explain to Joe what it looked like, but for the most part, much of the house was the same. The same tiled floor, the same kitchen cabinets, counters and tiled walls, the same light fixtures. It was nice. We went outside and I saw that some things were different; the new owners had added a fireplace in the living room and built a canopy that covered the entire patio area. I will always remember playing in the yard and was glad to see that the yard I remembered is mostly the same.
On our way out, I pointed out that the security gate at the front door was the same and how I remembered having to jiggle the key to unlock and lock the door. The maid laughed and told me she had to do the same thing.