Lesley Perkes
Lesley Perkes

Will not waste it

Long time ago, when he was far too young to understand, I took my son to Robben Island. It was me who wanted to go. He didn’t care — he just wanted to go on the big boat ride and find seals and laugh and shout and say did you see that one with the hairy face? Hey? Mom? Mom look!

Through his inevitable though sadly unforeseen boredom on the site of the jail, we took the tour, though neither of us could contemplate what we were doing, his little big self kept tugging at my legs, whining for food and fun and, of course, the boat ride home.

I had been foolish for a change. He was only five years old. I thought I would go again another day on my own and take him back once he was a bit taller.

When we finally made it onto the ferry back to Cape Town, I turned to look at the island. My son was holding my hand tight as he could as the boat came down hard on waves that marked the beginning of a storm, both of us soaked in salt water, tasting high drama on our young lips.

As my eyes took in that strange piece of land growing smaller as we moved away from it through the sea, it dawned on me that we would not have been allowed to be a family without Nelson Mandela. We would never even have met. Let alone gone together on a boat ride.

So to the real heroes of the struggle, and especially to Mr Mandela on this beautiful winter day: Your humanity gave me a love that does not die. I will not waste it.

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