Princesses & other heroes


It is the night before my dad’s birthday and I am unreasonably sad that Carrie Fisher has died. Unreasonably because I never met or knew her, but I’ve realised that though I understand the loss of musical icons, I feel the loss of actors whose roles made my world larger and brighter – an important thing for a skinny, bookish girl growing up in a conservative Vrystaat town in the 80’s. Carrie Fisher was my first feminist icon. She was a sci-fi princess with a light-sabre who could wield words and wit and deftly put everyone in their place: “You call this a rescue?”. If she was possible almost anything was.

But as I sit on the stoep in Pringle Bay on a breathless evening and ponder into my wine that sadness and so many other kinds floating about my awareness my dad comes out for a smoke and to listen.

He nods and taps his cigarette, “Well, tomorrow I turn 67,” he says, “that is older than my dad ever was, and older than my [older] brother got.” He glances at me, “It’s a part of life too, you know.” He smiles and takes another drag and goes on to say how happy he is in this place and how he misses my far-off baby brother (who lives in London-town). Then he dabs the cigarette out, spins its remains into the circular silver ash-tray that was bought to withstand Pringle’s infamous wind, and ambles back indoors to carry on watching (or napping through) his favourite TV shows. He, too, in his own way has been a feminist hero in my world – he was my fierce and loyal defender, he celebrated every report-card, suffered through every ballet concert, and had the strength to leave me, in floods of tears, at Rhodes university seven hours away from home to study and find my way.

And I am now also unreaonably happy that he is so happy here, after all the hard and dark things his life brought him. In Afrikaans we have a saying: “ek gun hom dit”, which I can’t find an adequate translation for in my head. It’s more than being happy for him, and it doesn’t carry the implicit permission of “I allow him that”, it’s much more than that.

In the midst of so much loss of so many kinds it is a tiny glow of joy in the hope that sometimes, in some small corners of the world, things go right for some of the people we love.

And somehow tonight that is enough.


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