I didn’t finish kindergarten; I just stopped going one day. My mother and I were going on a trip to meet my other grandparents, in South Africa. We flew to London first, and stayed for several days with friends of my mother’s, who had two young daughters. I hoped I would get to meet the Queen, and my mother said we might see her, so we three girls practiced curtseying so deep we fell down. In the end, we drove by Buckingham Palace, then played in a park, and then I got on another plane.
In Johannesburg, we stayed with my Aunt, the sister of the father I knew only from snapshots. Her house was at the end of a road at the top of a hill, built into the side of the mountain: the garage was on the top floor, so you drove in from the top, then walked downstairs. The house was immense, and sunny, because all the sides were glass and it was sunny there all the time, even though it was winter. The floors were black, hard, and shiny, and I loved them, because my Johannesburg Aunt bought me a pair of fashionable bright red clogs that made a racket clacking against those floors.
I shared a room with my girl cousin, and we were treated like twins, because we were almost the same age. My South African family showered me with gifts, and when I got a gift, she got one, too: necklaces with our names in gold letters. I got my first Barbie doll from my cousin, an English version of Barbie called Cissy, who was tall and blonde and no longer wanted by my cousin.
In the mornings, we all ate breakfast in a vast sunny kitchen, in a large round breakfast nook, which was not the table where we ate other meals, but no matter which table we ate at, dark-skinned servants brought the meal and cleaned up after us. Everyone was nice to me, and I liked them, and once visited one of the servant women in her room, which was smaller than my Twin Cousin’s and seemed to be the only room in that house without a big window. She didn’t seem to be bothered by me bouncing on her bed and asking her questions, and my cousins joined me there, bouncing on the bed, until finally my Aunt found us all and sent us off to play somewhere else.
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