(A family. At last.)
(The original Kalmoesfontein homestead)
(The ceremony outside the cellar)
(The Anne Pienaar choir. Cue: copius amounts of tears…)
(Gorgeous dipped animal cutouts)
(Music is a must)
(Callie Maree and his steampunk smoker)
(Callie. Dishing up…)
(Pork worth waiting for…)
(Coleslaw, pickled and pulled pork slider)
(A long table. The only way to celebrate and commune)
(Cara's traditional koektafel)
(The Funfetti cake and mini meringues. Outside...)
(The Funfetto cake. Inside…)
(Our very special and incredibly generous friends. Adi and Cornelia Badenhorst. A million kisses.)
(Our son. Sebastiaan Sonwabo. Happiness.)
So, amid all the heartache of the last few years, our son burst into our lives. And suddenly every thing makes sense. I now know that nothing happens by chance. He has made me believe in miracles.
On the occasion of his first birthday, I wanted of a farm feast of gratitude and celebration. Our friends made the magic happen.
The Feast of Sebastiaan
Who would have thought that the most beautiful words I would ever read would be written by the Department of Social Development? But they are. In a letter accompanying the adoption order of our son, were the seven words telling us that he was ‘your child as if born to you’.
And indeed he is, this miraculous child who has brought us so much joy.
I did not know such happiness existed. Could not have dreamed that one day I would be woken up in the middle of the night by a giggling baby boy who would blow raspberries on my belly. I did not believe that a child could heal my hurt. I could not have imagined this love.
Sebastiaan’s arrival signified the end of a rather brutal period of our lives. Loss and grief had been almost constant companions. We had been sad for so long. And yet his spirit chose ours. We were where he wanted to be and so he came to us, this smiling, engaging baby, who, along with interrupted sleep, brought us the gift of laughter.
As his first birthday approached we knew we wanted to celebrate his being. We wanted to feast with our loved ones, those who had been such compassionate witnesses on our journey towards parenthood. They had been there for us in our sorrow and now we wanted to share with them in our joy. We needed them to witness our gratitude and love for our son.
Our friends Adi and Cornelia Badenhorst generously offered to host such a party on their farm, Kalmoesfontein, in the Paardeberg where Adi makes his award-wining wines and Cornelia conjures up creative and beautiful events. For years my friends had consoled me with the promise that when the time came, they would throw an obscenely large and lavish baby shower for me. That day never came. But something else did: the chance to celebrate our son’s first birthday, the receipt of his adoption order and his name-giving ceremony. In addition to being the most special of venues, it was also symbolically right that we should celebrate our son on the farm where four years previously at Ana’s Christening, I had wept so many tears and begged God to make me a mother as well. Cornelia has, on occasion, referred to their farm as the place where love and hope merge. And indeed it was so on the day of Sebastiaan’s feast. A day when cardboard cutout animals whipped breezily in the wind and where the large white flags fluttered gently signifying the peace and healing that Sebastiaan has brought into our lives. There was rainbow bunting hung above long tables where clusters of friends and family sat down to eat and brightly coloured lanterns and satin ribbons outside the cellar where the ceremony took place. We had asked that in lieu of gifts, our friends donate to a neighbouring farm school instead, and so some of the children, all regular visitors to the farm, came to sing a hymn and a song they had specially written for Sebastiaan. It was poignant and meaningful and made us all cry. Afterwards all the children ran wild, ate cakes, and played together, oblivious to the differences in backgrounds and economic status. Completely unaware that they were giving the adults a glimpse of a different, better future. Everywhere there was laughter and love: the perfect accompaniment to the foods we had specifically chosen to give thanks.
Upon arrival guests were offered small blue glasses of warm, milky spicy chai and buttermilk rusks. Adi made the chai and Yoliswa Mpazi made the rusks. (Years ago I witnessed Adi teaching Yoliswa how to cook from Mrs Beeton’s cook book. This year Yoliswa prepared the farm’s harvest lunches from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. They are a formidable duo in the kitchen. )
In keeping with the informal festive atmosphere we wanted to create, lunch was a street food vibe, which I love. Callie Louw of The Southern Smoke pulled in his hand built Texas-style slow smoker (an authentically Swartland Steampunk invention) and made the most spectacular slow-smoked pork and brisket sliders, served with a choice of BBQ, mustard or ranch dressing sauces a side of coleslaw and a large pickle. The wine was Secateurs, of course, and like the love that day, it flowed.
Dessert was a lavish old-fashioned cake table, typical of traditional Christenings. I specifically wanted my friend Cara to bake the cakes as I wanted them to be baked with love and I know she loves our son. There was a indulgent multi-tiered chocolate cake topped with home-made truffles and drizzled with caramel, a couple of sophisticated orange and poppy seed cakes and my personal favourite, a delightfully frivolous Funfetti cake, dotted with sprinkles and flavoured with a rose essence that once belonged to Cara’s great-grandmother. I had also asked Cara to bake my mom’s carrot cake which she graciously did, understanding completely that I needed to have something symbolic of Sebastiaan’s Ouma Marie on that table.
In deciding on a second name for our son, Jacques and I wanted a name that would embody all that we wished for him. We also wanted a name that would honour the heritage of his birth mother. And so we named him Sonwabo, meaning ‘happiness’ in Xhosa, because more than success or riches, or a multitude of talents, we wish for our son to be happy.
There is a photo taken of Sebastiaan Sonwabo at the end of the day. It shows the telltale signs of a one-year old who has not slept at all, who probably ate too much icing and who played too hard and too much. His shirt is undone and the cuffs flap around his wrists as he crawls on the grass. He looks directly at the camera and laughs. A boy secure in the love he feels. In this image, now imprinted on my mind, he is the embodiment of happiness.
Sonwabo. Our son.
Contacts of Some Very Important Persons
Adi Badenhorst – www.aabadenhorst.com
Cornelia Badenhorst – www.deliefde.co.za
Cara Brink-Mana - www.carabrinkmans.com
Callie Louw - The Southern Smoke – Email Callie on firstname.lastname@example.org
Maree Louw too these beautiful photographs. www.naturallightphotography.co.za
(This story first appeared in Taste July 2014)