I spent last weekend in Jozi, running around and celebrating my niece’s 4th birthday and my aunt and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary, and showering twice a day. On the morning of my departure I had to go through a big cardboard box that had been lying in my brother’s storeroom since my mother’s passing. I needed to try and find copies of my university certificate, otherwise I would never have gone through the daunting task.

My brother left me with strict instructions. Take, leave stuff to do with him, bomb the rest. I picked up a letter at random. It was a letter to me from my mother during my first week at UCT, Feb 1983. I held the thin blue airmail paper between my fingers. I looked at her curly writing. I started to read. I stopped. This was never going to work. I tossed the letter into my suitcase. Next I held up a yellowed, musty smelling piece of newspaper – the classifieds. Two sentences underneath the headline CHORITZ announced my birth. Next was a photograph of my grandfather and my father and his sister; both small children in home made Tarzanesque swimming costumes.

A love letter from my boyfriend who was on the border. At least a hundred letters from a Cape Town friend writing to me in Joburg after we met at Habonim camp. A review of the first play I was in after graduating in 1987. A script of The Dibbuk, a play we performed at the beginning of my second year at UCT, when I met my long time bestie Rudy Nadler-Nir – we have been friends for 34 years now. Two photostats (at least I found them) of my university certificate. (No idea where the original is).

Photos of me as a child in swimming costume and hat on a Seapoint beach. My brother and I with swollen mumps cheeks. 

Me and a friend in a school toilet, smoking. Me smoking in lots of university and after photos. The boy I lost my virginity to. Pictures in tents, on hikes, at school, on stage, with friends, at matric dances. Pictures of The Harbour Cafe, where I was the bouncer. Me in costume, often in costume.

I dumped everything I could into the suitcase. I was feeling lightheaded and upside down.

With every spare moment this week, since being back home, I have gone through the stuff. Reading the letters, looking at pictures of nothing but veld taken out of a car window and searching for the where, when, how of it, and sharing one or two with the people who are still in my life. I am still feeling funny. In a way sad, and in a way relieved. I don’t know why.