Just a small contingent of the clan
My mother is the eldest of 10 children, my father the third of four siblings.
Collectively, my extended family numbers close to 70… and I know each one personally.
Now, one of the absolute BEST things about descending from a clan of such colossal proportions is the stories.
Oh, the STORIES!
Some date back to well before I was born – like the one where Oupa Marius spent an entire morning in the ocean, trying to evade the long arm of the law for harvesting ‘alikreukel’ (or was it Oysters?) without a license in Tergniet. Sure, it was illegal, but he had been doing it for so many years that, really, what did a piece of paper really mean?! Besides, it was only one Checkers bag full of delicious contraband – I mean, come on!! Ah, it’s such a great story – wish he were still here to tell it (but my uncles and dad do a pretty good rendition too).
Others, I witnessed with my own eyes – like the time our young mothers decided to have a spontaneous race in Betty’s Bay’s botanical garden and unwittingly triggered a collective abandonment panic among their children. I remember not knowing whether to be horrified or amused as I watched my tiny cousins leave whatever they had been playing with and set off after their mamas – hair and tears streaming, sobs and yells echoing.
Another of the stories I witnessed myself involved my enigmatic cousin, Fi and a nonchalant phrase that slipped off her little girl tongue and right into the canon of classic Van der Spuy family (my mother’s maiden name) stories. In my mind at least.
It goes something like this:
Thinking about your King Suit
One day when I was somewhere between the age of 6 and 10 and Fi between the age of 2 and 6, our family went to visit their family in Saldanha Bay. It was close to the end of the year and there was much excitement about a Christmas play she and her older sister, Lea would be taking part in.
Now, Fi was especially thrilled about the fact that she had been given the role of a king (aka a wiseman). I don’t think she really cared about how significant it was that she had been promoted beyond the generic angel choir. Or that she would be getting more attention than many of her little friends.
There was only one thing that made this achievement truly exceptional to her, and that was the costume she would be wearing.
If memory serves, she even had the royal garb on display for us.
Anyway, as the evening progressed, so did Fi’s excitement and at one point it reached some sort of dubious fever pitch that got her sent straight to the bathroom to think about what she had done wrong.
My brother, Lea and I sat around, wide-eyed, waiting for her return. Would she blame us for her behaviour? And in that case, what communal punishment would our parents possibly dream up.
Our fears were soon stilled when Fi waltzed back into our company completely unperturbed after being released (about 10 mins later). There were no tears, no cross looks. The only difference was that her previous exhilaration had now melted into a transcendent serenity.
Noticing the far too slight change in demeanor, my aunt Fiona posed the question:
“So, Fi. What did you think about while you were in the bathroom?”
I’m sure she was fully aware of the fact that she should have said something like: “About how sorry I am for having been so naughty, Mamma.”
But instead she opted for honesty, and replied:
“Oh! I thought about my King Suit!”
There was a moment of astounded silence… and then a peel of giggles from us kids, followed by fully-fledged laughter from the adults (probably led by my dad).
It was such a silly little moment in the grand scheme of things, but something about it just stuck.
So much so, that “thinking about my king suit” has become a regularly used phrase in our nuclear family.
And the more I think about it, the more wise these words become. If I had to give it a bit of a pop psychology twist (which I love doing with EVERYTHING), I’d say it’s probably one of the most profound things we can do to live a happy and balanced life.
Well, in this world, we’re constantly being told how we should really be striving for more, how we can improve ourselves, what we’re doing wrong and how we simply aren’t good enough just yet.
We get sent to the proverbial bathroom on a daily, nay hourly, basis to think about our various sins and shortcomings – with every ’10 ways to be a more successful (fill in the blank)’ article that pops up in our Facebook feed, every television advert that renders our brand of washing powder inferior to the one that washes so much cleaner, every magazine cover that nullifies the beauty of our unique body shapes.
We get so caught up in what we lack and where we’ve gone wrong, that we forget about all the things that are so good and right and delightful and within our grasp already.
Our proverbial King Suits.
Sure, we aren’t exactly where we want to be yet and we do get a lot of stuff wrong. We’re human, it’s to be expected! But that does not mean that we have to constantly beat ourselves up about these things! Right? I mean, there’s always room for growth!
So, whatever your King Suit may be – whether it’s a talent you’ve just started coaxing from its slumber, a holiday you’ve been dreaming of or just a really good relationship that makes your life sweet – I challenge you to think about it next time you’re tempted to lock yourself in the bathroom and sit in sackcloth and ash.
Come on, let’s make a pact! If you dare to think about your King Suit the next time you’re expected to think about your naughty, naughty wickedness, I’ll do the same.
How about it?