This story takes places, where the African continent tapers south into a rocky finger. Where the Indian and Atlantic oceans collide, under brilliant blue skies.
Morning sunshine lit up Table Mountain; as it sat quietly overseeing the city of Cape Town. People hustled and bustled below. The ocean shimmered in the early glow.
Seagulls swooped and squawked. The ocean’s fishy smell mingled with suntan lotion; hinted of summer days to come. Sunburn, sandcastles and sandy sandwiches.
A normal day in paradise; for a nine year old like me.
I slipped into my blue flip-flops and headed out to buy milk and bread. Going to the corner store by myself was my new favorite pastime. I walked earnestly down the road, each footstep filled with grown-up self importance. Or so I hoped.
As I passed the Claridges Hotel, the smell of breakfast hung in the air, like a delicious, invisible cloud. I wiped away a drop of drool perched on my bottom lip.
I crossed the road and walked alongside the grand old Synagogue. My thoughts dripped with images of latkes with sour cream and coconut almond macaroons.
Mr Raji, the tall Indian store owner, greeted me with a booming “GOOD MORNING!”
I pressed my face up against the glass in Mr Raji’s counter; and gazed longingly at the colorful candy on display.
My tummy grumbled; as Mr Raji reached down and handed me the milk and bread.
As I turned to leave, I noticed a large sign with big, bold, black letters saying, “FREE MANDELA”.
My heart raced with excitement; as I turned back to Mr Raji and asked “May I please have a free Mandela?”
His cheerful face darkened and he waved his arms around wildly. “Be off with you! You cheeky young girl!”
Clutching the milk and bread tightly, I fled up the road. My flip flops, flipping and flopping loudly as I ran.
Back home, I breathlessly explained to Mom what had happened. Her smile became a chuckle. She saw the confusion on my face and gently explained what the FREE MANDELA sign meant.
Years later, in 1994, South Africans celebrated as Nelson Mandela became our new president. Free after 27 years in prison, for taking a stand against segregation.
On that historical day, I smelt more than ocean air mixed with suntan lotion. This time I smelt new beginnings; a New South Africa.
I had learnt so much about life and the human race since that summer’s day many years before; when I innocently asked for a free Mandela.