This is Grace

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She is not Grace Kelly who died back in nineteen eighty-two and never got to look this old, and obviously not androgynous singer-songwriter-model Grace Jones. This is just Gracie, who ‘did’ the books for fifty years in the back office of the hardware store in Observatory, and who worked behind the till on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Gracie inherited her mother’s lovely tea set but married ‘beneath herself’. She never became that doctor “even though she had the brains for it”. She never fought in the apartheid struggle – hell, she hardly knew it was happening because reports of it were banned from being published in the Cape Times.

Gracie wants to know what legacy she will be leaving behind when she joins Sam who died eight years go, and for whom her finger joints ache all day long. And all night too.

So together we prise open the karmic bank account in her heart and peer inside. Despite the faint interior lighting, the whole place glimmers with fragments of diamond dust. We don’t see Princess Diana tiara-sized jewels created from opening the hearts of thousands of people in single moments. Grace’s mounds of karmic accrual glow gently, enormous piles that grew slowly out of daily deposits of diamond particles and opalescent pearl grains. The deposits grew each time Gracie smiled at a customer, fed the street dogs or stopped to ask the loiterers in the street to help her with her shopping bags. There is a tiny diamond for every time she looked at her babies Billy and Joan and knew that they were hers to love as best she could. We see opalescent beads that formed when she supported their emigration to Toronto and Perth respectively, taking her grandchildren with them. And rose quartz for the care she’s taken each time she made me a cup of tea with her tired hands.

There’s also a seam of liquid gold that runs from Gracie’s heart through her blood stream. It formed out of the stubborn integrity that nearly caused her to lose her job in the eighties when in an entirely apolitical move, she refused to pay Johan, (nineteen year old, bubble gum chewing nephew of the owner), more than Koos, who knew all his customers, knew about building and painting and what products to use for which jobs, but was ‘non white’ with a standard eight education. Gracie knew her right from her wrong, and she was righteous that way, although it caused her sleepless nights for weeks. She eventually threatened to leave and her boss only relented because he couldn’t do without her. Gracie's sense of the rightness of things extends to saving plastic bags religiously and taking lukewarm showers during the drought because it takes so long for the hot water to come through. It belongs to caring for her petunias even when she's tired and endlessly rehashing the past with her elderly friend Dot who lives on the opposite side of the road and whose memory folder deleted today's world. 

Grace also made withdrawals from her karmic bank account during her lifetime; killing mosquitoes without a second thought, smoking in her bedroom even though she knew it was bad for her, getting irritated as Billy and Joan pinched each other when they thought she wasn’t looking, clenching her jaw at Sam for occasionally spending his wages at Kenilworth race track, bickering about the noisy students in the semi next door to her home in Arnold street.

This is just Gracie with the bountiful legacy and the engaging smile.

Amy Mongie