A Woman named Bertha

Oct 1, 2020

Strong Legs, Lipsticks & Sunshine

A Name that Means Bright

A Name that Means Bright                                    

In a world filled with millions of things that occupy our minds, we often long for moments of complete silence, so we can think, so we can feel, so we can remember.

In these moments we remember those people who we can learn from, even if they are no longer with us. Their memories stay with us. If you take the time to remember them exactly as they were, you discover that they, unknowing to you, shared many valuable life lessons, for you to unlock, when the time is right.                                             

This is what I learned from a woman who was bold and bright. From Bertha.

I remember the room where ouma lived so well. It was more than a room, but to me it felt so small. It was a corner apartment on the second floor of a pretty dodgy building in Potchefstroom, a small town in South Africa. Overlooking green oak trees and a busy street, bustling with students and locals, who visited the corner shop below.

Bertha was not a rich woman. She did not have luxuries and extra money to splash on extravagant things. That being said, she liked to have nice things that didn’t cost a fortune! I remember her shoes often having a sparkle, her earrings being bold and bright. If my memory doesn’t betray, she even had a brooch of a sparkly frog that she wore like diamonds! Above all else, I remember her lipsticks! I remember they were bright, pink and happy. The little girl in me learned that money does not have to make you feel pretty and that there is a lot that a bright lipstick can fix!                                                     

Her apartment was always cool, and inviting. Almost like stepping into her past. What she had was neat and tidy. Her pieces of inexpensive jewelry neatly displayed at an antique dressing table, surrounded by those lipsticks and lotions that smelled like summer.

Her apartment had a tropical feel. Perhaps because Bertha liked the sun! I remember indoor plants and a porch that was turned into a tv room. Bertha would sit over here, completing a crossword puzzle, drinking a cup of tea, watching her soaps or listening to the radio. The younger me learned about being quiet, content, comfortable, unpretentious and caring.

Her eyes told that she had seen much harder times in her life, hiding a sadness that she had not forgotten. A time where Friday’s paid the rent, but Monday’s reminded her that the fridge had little left to offer for an entire week ahead. Where a simple plate of “melkkos” was served as a luxury treat when the food cupboards held no more than milk and flour. Where she treated her children to homemade sweets, because even sweets were too expensive at times. Where her heart was deeper than her pockets when she decided to adopt a child, she found next to the road wearing very little clothing. The mother in me, learns how unselfish she must have been to take this bold step. How hard it must have been to hold things together when they so easily could fall apart. How strong she must have been in a world that can be cold and cruel                                                                                     

I remember Bertha’s strong legs rising from her sparkly shoes! Not many people remember their grandmother’s strong legs! My mother once told me when she met my father’s parents, Bertha was mowing the lawn one summer’s day. Was it that she loved the sun? Or the neat lawn? Does it matter?

 What I learned was that a strong pair of legs, most likely belong to a pair of hands that never say no to a challenge. That if you want some things done, you have to tackle them by yourself. That life waits for no one and that you are in charge of what surrounds you.                                                                                              

Thank you for teaching me so much by just being you. By never trying to teach.

Today as we celebrate your beautiful name on a label, I will always remember you as bold and bright Bertha.

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