THE ‘NETTIE EFFECT: Summer time not the same
By Antoinette Connell | Tue, May 01, 2012 - 12:00 AM
TINY HANDS worked feverishly on the pieces of wood, sanding them to a smooth finish. Back and forth, back and forth went the hands over the wood with a coarse piece of sandpaper.
My cousins, siblings and I were busy at work and, in between, we daydreamed about how we would spend our hard-earned money. Granted it was a small amount, but for us it was a windfall.
It was a labour-intensive assignment, but my uncle, bless his soul, had dangled such a sweet carrot before us that we forgot that it was supposed to be hard work. Uncle was a jack of all trades and really still is. Along with this day job, he built furniture on the side. Instead of allowing the little hands around to get in the way, he fashioned an assembly line and kept us out of trouble during the long vacation.
From time to time Uncle would pause what he was doing to inspect our work and advise us accordingly.
The pieces of wood were eventually heaped into a pile in the little workshop on the main road waiting to be transformed.
Then one day we would turn up to see the pile of wood assembled into a beautiful living room or dining room set, with that last coat of varnish bringing to life the hidden beauty of the wood.
The real treat for us, though, was to come: payday.
On that day hands were eagerly held out, and in true capitalist style each man collected his/her pay. The more money-conscious among us had long-term plans for the cash; the less pragmatic thought only about “Browne’s” supermarket around the corner. Depending on the time we received the money, that evening we would have Bata shoes or a mound of sweets with money to spare.
Summer vacation is not the same these days. The young ones are now privileged to travel, hold down jobs and attend demanding camps.
In most cases, they see it as a right.
The effect is that the extended family unit has been disrupted almost beyond repair. The traditional pastimes are in danger of dying, save for the tireless efforts of a few diehards.Children need a blend of work and play before both Jack and Jill become dull.
There are some things that are more easily learnt at the hands of grandmothers, aunties and uncles.
The extended family taught us some things that not every camp will. You had to share with the others – and on that note, you also learnt to be grateful for whatever bit came your way.
From that little stint with the furniture-making business, we carried away the importance of earning and saving money. Some of us made being miserly an art as we waited to see whose money would go first.
But it made us appreciate the value of earning our keep, and at the same time we learnt something about the craft of joinery.
Today children are rewarded for passing exams and getting good grades, which I thought were the rewards. Nothing wrong with that, but that is such an individual thing that it does not really call for cooperating or bonding with others.
The effect is the same as with the cellphones and iPads and laptops. Young people are locked on to these devices to the exclusion of those around them. They end up losing or never even acquiring the ability to interact with others. A pity.
• Antoinette Connell is Daily Nation Editor.
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