“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou
I have to admit I don’t believe that people will forget what we said or what we did. I do hope they remember how we made them feel.
We never forgot what Verna, one of our closest South African friends, said or did. She came into our life like a sunbeam, spreading warmth and wit and joy, and making us feel so comfortable and “at home” in our first foreign country. Her accent still lingers in our memory with a smile. Her home was like a refuge in a storm, for our new life was filled with challenges and stress. Just being with Verna and her family made us feel as if we could make this glorious country our new home.
When people ask us, “Which country was your favorite of all the countries you lived in?” we always, always answer, without hesitation, “South Africa,” not just because it was beautiful and glorious. It was because of the beautiful and glorious people we met. We don’t always recall just when we met certain friends, but their kindness has stayed in our memories forever.
Verna was the one who invited our children to come and play at her house with her Great Dane dog and her daughter Celeste. She even volunteered to babysit for us at her home in Old Year’s Night while Jim and I partied and danced at the annual Goodyear party. Yes, she gave Jeff and April a night to remember.
She introduced me to her butcher, and drove me into the big city of Port Elizabeth for tea and crumpets on the beach. She begged me for my American recipes and shared her South African recipes. Her words of wisdom about everything in her life was my culture education. Most of what I know about South African people I learned from Verna.
Twenty-five years later, when Tony and Verna came to America to visit their eldest son in California, they purposely flew out of Boston that summer so Jim and I could spend a day with them. When we stepped off the elevator into their hotel and into their arms, we simply picked up where we had left off on a sunny day in Uitenhage, where we sipped our ginger beer in their lounge, then reminisced until the sun went down over the Charles River, proving once again, as life has a way of doing, what a small world we live in.
Verna’s crustless milk tart
4 cups milk; 1 ½ cups sugar; 1 tsp. baking powder; 3 eggs; 2 tsp. butter; 1 cup flour; pinch salt.
Beat melted butter and sugar together. Add the egg yolks with ½ cup milk. Sift flour and baking powder and salt together and mix it into the butter, sugar, and egg mixture. Add the rest of the milk slowly, beating well. Whisk egg whites until stiff and beat into batter mixture. Pour into well-buttered dish and bake until firm to the touch. About one hour in a 350-degree oven. Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.