On Saturday morning, I needed some time to think.
To reconnect with many memories. To weave them together. Because today, a precious story must be told.
So I left my home, by bicycle, and headed to the mountains: the famous “Four Passes” circumnavigation.
The route is 134km long, and climbs 1 870m, as it crests and falls.
First, up Sir Lowry’s Pass, originally known as the migrating route of the eland, the Gantouw.
Then down into the verdant Elgin Valley green, up the craggy Viljoen’s Pass down into Vyeboom, across Theewaterskloof Dam, over the winding wilderness of Franschhoek Pass, down into the valley once known as Olifantshoek, up the Dwars River Valley over Helshoogte Pass at Banhoek – named after a priest on a donkey was once attacked by a leopard (“bang hoek” – scary corner) down into Stellenbosch, and finally back along the R44.
Over six hours of riding, alone in my head, I was able to line up hundreds of memories, which make up my story as a Dad.
For you see:
Twenty-one years ago, today, I was dining with the King of Bali (no, really) – on the other side of the world.
I felt a light tap on my shoulder – it was the King’s Royal Messenger. He said (something like): “Sir: You are a father. Your son has been born!”
Somehow my family had tracked me down, from the Southern tip of Africa, via an international criss-cross of landlines. Eventually, our hotel had reached the King’s palace, to break the news.
He was six weeks prem. But an extremely beautiful woman had given birth to our boy. The date: 22-02-2000.
Two-and-a-half days later, I arrived back home. The infant princeling was so tiny, so fragile, I was too afraid to bathe him, even at the nurse’s instruction.
We took him home, in our little Golf Cabriolet – top down, of course, all our children are born with the wind in their hair. Back to our first home, in Morningside, Somerset West, next to a sparkling river.
A year later, we built him a home, further down the river valley. An open-plan living room, two tiny bedrooms, and that was it. Oh, and majestic mountain views.
At sunset, we climbed on to our huge old log, and watched our peaks and crags turn red, before lighting our little fire, on our river-stone braai.
A few years later, he began Grade 000, at the best primary school on Planet Earth – deepening our family’s roots.
And the rest, my friends, is history.
Today, we still watch the mountains change colour at sunset.
We still love the wind in all our curly hair, together, when we ride our bikes.
And, most importantly, by far: we still take delight in our son.
Today, our boy is 21!
He has been blessed in many ways – surrounded by astonishing circles of investment and love, his whole life through. A constellation of relationships treasured.
His first word was “bird”, as he pointed one day to the sky.
So today we cry: Nic, fly high!
As we sing at Somerset House, and as I’ve said to you every morning of your life, since your first day at nursery school: “All three!”
Be Brave! Be Strong! Be True!
“And fill the world with love, your whole life through.”
· That was the story of my ride on Saturday, over 134km, covering 21 years of memories. What a blessing.