Glenda Kemp Snake Dancer ©: Autobiography
The three in one read: Oliver Twist, Cinderella’s sister (gone nude and scandalous) and Pilgrims Progress. Three themes entwined in this autobiography that make it more striking than fiction!
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Extracts from my book. (before it was edited). These extracts will be deleted when the edited Final version appears on Amazon and kindle.
Index to extracts from Glenda Book“Religious women formed barricades with their bodies to prevent me and the snake from reaching the premises. Courts and High Courts and suspended sentences could not stop me and the snake. I burst through like a meteor off course and turned a conservative country upside down.Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going to?The first puzzle piece of this mystery is in your hand. Watch for tell-tale signs as you read about the first seven years, of the beginning of a life, that later made a country sit up and take note. “
Here is a journey I remember well. A bit like Pollyanna’s train trip to her aunt but there was no rich aunt waiting for me on the other side. I received a number on arrival at the orphanage. I was number 16 out of 31 in the dormitory. Wonder what had happened to the previous no 16?
The departure at Johannesburg station was deeply engraved in to my soul and repeatedly replayed throughout my life time. I was inside the slowly moving train going to Potchefstroom to join my sister Joan and brother Dirk in the orphanage. My mother was hanging on to me through the window and running along the moving train. Her sobs were tearing both our hearts out of our bodies. My mother did love me.
You put a diamond in a milkshake and you can shake all day if you like but the stone will not be part of that milk shake. Or what did the man from La Mancha sing? Whether the picture hits the stone or the stone hits the picture, it is going to be bad for the picture anyway. I was the picture.
Planet orphanage. The only recognizable thing on this planet was my sister Joan. Dear and wonderful Joanie. Joanie who made my bed and fixed my cupboard and carried my toiletries back to their place. Joanie who scrubbed my floor and kept me protected from the Gestapo. Joanie who saw to it that I was dressed and where I should be at the right time. In case you don’t know; I come from a life of movies and dreams and a place where the word ‘rules’, and time did not exist. I had a method of astral travel only known to me. My freedom was in my head and no one knew where to find it. As for schooling and those other real things, I still refused to negotiate on it.
I was repeating standard (6 – grade 8). The homework time enforced upon me in the big study hall gave me wonderful space and time to write my own stories. My imagination took flight. The pied piper looked stupid next to me. The little children from other dormitories became my audience. I drew them up in to my world of make believe. I took them in to places that surprised me. I would get to a spot where I had no idea how the main character would get out of the situation as every door was closed. I would change my voice, make my eyes big, give pauses and then … the words and the solutions would flow. Sometimes they had to come back the next day to hear what happened next.
My protector, Joanie, was in her last school year when I came to the orphanage. She wrote her matric and was ready to go in to the big wide world – leaving me behind. Only then did I realize just how much she was carrying me.
Punishments came fast and furious. My unforgivable crimes: Late for dinner; left my toothbrush in the bathroom; did not straighten the blankets on the hollow bed; my wooden floor was not shining; late for line up…… The few cents we got for pocket money was permanently taken away from me and I was always on the receiving end of whatever punishment was handed out. I was never rebellious and never mean or nasty. I had great respect for my elders; it was just that I was not made of material that fits in to an institution
One afternoon I went in to the mealie fields, as I often did. Nature had this secret attraction to me. This was my stage. The mealies were my audience. I danced and acted and basked in the wind’s applause. By the time I went ‘home’ there was an inquisition waiting for me. I had to explain where I had been and whom I had met in the mealiefields. No one understood my language so I was severely punished and humiliated as I had no interest in the obscenities I was accused of.
I met another new enemy – hunger. Suddenly I was always so hungry. I am sure the food was sufficient but somehow the growing body and starving soul could not be satisfied. The kitchen lady kindly provided dry crusts at night and our taste buds ate them for cakes.
My nick-name was ‘Porcelain’. The kids called me ‘the porcelain doll’ because they said I thought I was better than they were. I know I did not fit in, but I did not think I was better than them but I was so different from them. One of the kind staff there once told Joan and me that we had more ‘class’ because the first years of our lives had been happy.
But God in His kindness has provided one wonderful friend for me. It is strange how I have always had one wonderful friend. A soulmate. Even now, at the age of 60, Eliza is my wonderful friend and soulmate.
I never was a quitter. The school organized a big walk. It was really a very long walk. The girls all had to be picked up by car on the way there. I walked all the way there and all the way back. My feet were bleeding and my cheap shoes stuck to my skin but I never give up on something I start. Once I give my word I never go back on it. I was the only one from the orphanage to finish. Then I still had to walk back from the school. I do remember the lonely feeling as I entered the orphanage gates. Somehow I wished for a hero’s welcome but no one was interested.
I saved a girl’s life – I did. The orphanage kids had a day out at Potchefstroom dam. I saw a girl in trouble in the water. I was not a good swimmer. My swimming consisted of pretending to be a beautiful Pharaoh’s daughter bathing in luxury, or some other story. But when I saw this girl’s panic I jumped in from the little concrete island and swam towards her. She clung to me. I swam my ‘frog stroke’ as best I could, but felt her weight together with my weight and the island seemed to move further and further away. I never gave up. When we got near the island an adult took her from me. Everyone crowded around the saved girl. No one looked at me. That night when we got home it was the same thing once more: I again wished for a hero’s welcome but no one was interested. I know it did not matter as I held these things in my heart. And it was good.
The custard pudding the orphanage gave us once a month, dosed with castor oil. Oh, the terrible tummy pains it gave me. I would hide in the toilets at school vowing I would never have children if it was as sore as that.
The time I was so cold, as the snow we played in melted and my clothes were wet. It was so cold that I cried. The winters were always very cold. We were allowed to warm a stone on the big stove in the kitchen and carry the warm stone in our pockets on the way to school. (Like your Word warms my heart, Jesus.)
Once, my Maths teacher was so nice to me. She asked me to take some money to the office for her. I felt so wonderful to have someone’s trust. I loved her even though I did no school work for anyone. By now I was so far behind that I would not know how to build without a foundation.
There were many sad moments like my gripping on to the burglar bars in front of the little windows where I pleaded with God to forgive me for my sins and take me back to my mother. I pined for her. My mother was very good to me and my sister while we were there. She sent us a parcel every month. Receiving a parcel with biscuits and sweets was like receiving a Mercedes. The other children regarded us as being rich and very lucky. Their parents had forgotten about them.
One day my mother, brother and step father came to visit me at the orphanage. They were allowed to take me to the dam for the day. I was beside myself with joy. I wanted to hold on to my mother and brother and never let them go. They asked permission for me to go with them for the night. Permission was refused. When the car drove out of the orphanage grounds I was hysterical. If I had known what God’s plans were for me I would not have fallen to pieces that day. I have since learnt that nothing can happen to us which God does not sanction. All things work out for the good for those who love Him. But then I did not know it. I could not bear to go back to the room with the burglar bars and to being number 16. I did not know it but I was scratching my face and left long bleeding marks down my cheeks. The pain inside was so severe that the outside pain went unnoticed. I wonder how it is that we don’t die when pain is so severe.
I have no idea when this happened or how I felt. It must have been round about this time that I got the news that my father had died. I did not know this man. Since the day I tried to walk in his footprints I had heard from him once. He told me he wanted nothing to do with me because I chose to stay with my mother and stepfather. Did this man not know that I had no choice? The news got worse: He had committed suicide. I decided to put that information in to the bag with all the other secrets that are never to be told or thought about.
Big event! The orphanage was to present a concert! All the staff had to present an item along with the kids. I auditioned for everything and got chosen for everything. The night of the concert there was not one item without me in it. Ok, the minister’s daughter sang an operatic song. I had nothing to do with that.
Aunty Ricky had lots to do with the concert. She was a dear child of Jesus who had a special place in her heart for Joan and me. I think it was she who said we had ‘class’. She still is in Joan’s life and I saw her at my sister Jean’s funeral and with Joanie’s sickness this year 2010.
“God our saviour, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to know the truth. For there is one God, and there is one who brings God and mankind together, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself to redeem all mankind.” 1 Timothy 2: 4 and 5
Before the concert I have just described, there was a major happening in my life. This was the event that changed my entire life and gave it a new dimension. This is the point where I started living. This is what everything was working towards. My Father in heaven was about to introduce me to Jesus. I had no idea Jesus was real. I had no idea that a person could have a relationship with Jesus and then because of Him, with God. I knew lots of religious people. Very religious, horrible people. A minister who would judge us orphans in church. A minister who taught us about a very angry God who was going to rip us apart because our parents were bad. A minister who hit us on our hands because we did not learn our catechism verses. These religious people did not know Jesus at all. They also did not know that Jesus was colour- blind. He loved the black people just as much as the white people. He loved the poor just as much as He loved the rich. I was so excited about Jesus. Where did I meet this Jesus? He is everywhere but He arranged a special meeting place for me. Somebody (I have no idea who and why) paid for me to go to a Christian camp. I was chosen out of the whole orphanage to go to this camp. I must have been so happy to be away from the rules. How do I explain when things happen in the Spirit and you see the Creator of creation? And He sees you.
At this camp I went in to a little tent and poured out my heart to God. He knew all about me and He loved me. This is like no other love. It fills the emptyness in your soul. This is the only love that fits in to that hole. Nothing can separate us from God’s love.
By the time I went back to the orphanage I was ready to live for Jesus. I wanted nothing to do with the concert and I wanted everyone to know about Jesus. Auntie Rietjie explained to me that we could be in show business or any business and do it to the glory of God. So there I was, in every act of the concert evening. I made such an impression that some unknown person sponsored me to have drama lessons. Once a week I went by bike to the other side of Potchefstoom to go for drama lessons.
Then one day soon after this an old Ford car pulled up in front of the orphanage office. A grey haired couple in their 60s got out. It was Oom and Tannie Baumbach! My ship had arrived. My bags were packed. God had good plans for my life. This old couple fetched me and took me out of the orphanage for good and I ended up on a farm that was to become my idea of heaven. God is good!
My brother Dirk Kemp
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