By Anne Blackwell
By the time I was three years old I had already had two white nannies. One broke her neck diving into a swimming pool and the other was German who taught my twin sister and me to ‘Heil Hitler.’ My father came into the nursery one morning and we both threw our arms into the air and cried, “Hi Hidler.’ That nannie was fired on the spot.
Then, like magic, Pie slipped into my life. Pie was coloured, which in South Africa meant a mix of black and white. In the pecking order of racism, coloured people were slightly superior to the blacks. I had no idea of what Apartheid meant until I grew older and saw what it was doing to Pie. It was something that crept under my skin as a small child, but it was never talked about openly. It simmered silently in the background and, as I got older, left me feeling confused as to how I should react to Pie.
From the first instant I adored her. My love for her was very intense and demonstrative, with lots of puppy like behavior such as climbing and rolling all over her, hugging, kissing and sucking her face and folding myself into her soft body and being completely uninhibited. One day my mother walked into the nursery looked at my sister and I playing with Pie and her whole body went ridged and her face turned red.
“Carolyn,” she said, “don’t let the twins do that to you.”
Pie got up slowly disengaging herself from us and said, “What Madam?”
“Letting them climb all over you like that and . . .” The atmosphere in the nursery turned cold and, even at four years of age, I could feel that change but I was not sure why.
“Now let’s sit down at the table and show Pie what good manners we have,” my mother said, leading my sister and I to a small table.
Pie was a mother to me, my constant companion; my security blanket and I loved her deeply. I remember her smell, it was a mixture of coconut and cinnamon, I think it was whatever she put in her hair, the feel of her soft body, her crinkly brown face and her soft voice with its thick Cape accent. She got us up in the morning, fed us, scolded us, read us stories, and played with us, and put us to bed again at night. In the evening we were taken into the lounge to say good night to our parents and my mother would say,
“That will be all, Carolyn. We will ring for you when it is time for the twins to go to bed.” My mother sat in a comfortable chair looking gorgeous dressed in a silk jade dress. I watched Pie leave in her white starched uniform and cap back into the kitchen.
When I was nine years old, I stole a box of chocolates from my dad to give to Pie on her birthday. They were in a golden box with a lovely red ribbon and I was certain my dad would not notice. My mother had already left the house, so I met Pie outside the front gate and gave her the chocolates, as she left for her day off.
“Oh, Miss Ann, where did you get these?” She asked shocked.
“One of Dad’s patients gave them to me,” I lied.
She looked at me in a funny way and said, “Thankyou, my precious, but I had better hide them or someone might steal them on the train to Soweto.” She tucked them inside her coat.
On Monday morning Pie did not turn up to make my parents tea at 7am. My mother raged about and her cries of “where the hell is she? And ‘they are utterly hopeless’,“ echoed through the house. My stomach churned and I could not eat my breakfast. I was terrified someone had happened to Pie.
At 11am the front door bell rang and standing on the veranda was a white police officer.
“Is this your servants Pass Book?” He asked.
“Yes, is there a problem Officer?” My mother asked.
“We found her beaten up at Soweto station last night and she has been taken to the native hospital. “ He replied.
“Oh, My God, is she alright?”
“Yes, I think so,” he said. “But we found this box of chocolates hidden under her coat. You can’t trust any of these kaffirs, they steal everything.” He handed mum her Pass Book and the chocolates and walked down the driveway.
I fell to the floor yelling.
“I stole the chocolates, I gave them to her.” I was heartbroken and filled with rage and blubbered on. “Oh, please, it wasn’t her.”
My mother put the chocolates under her arm and turned and looked down at me and said, “Get up at once, Ann, and stop being so silly. When Carolyn comes back these chocolates are coming off her wages.’
“But, please mum, I did,” I cried. But she walked past me and was gone leaving me feeling humiliated, guilty, angry and completely helpless.
Pie returned a few days later and I could not look at her. She came into my bedroom and said, “Thank you for the present, Miss Ann, but don’t steal for me,” and left the room with my laundry under her arm