Friday, September 3, 2010


MAXMOM here...


Sometime in the year of 1948 a little book was published somewhere in the world. It was a small, hard- covered, children’s picture book called “Toby’s Adventure”. I am sure that at the time of publishing, nobody would have imagined its influence, let alone its effect in time to come.

In 1959, eleven years after the publication of this little book, a little girl was born into an era of racial divides, in a remote corner of rural South Africa. She was a farmer’s daughter and was the “Laat-lammetjie” (Late lamb) of their three children. Not only was she the only daughter but her youngest brother was nine years older than her. She had certainly not been planned!

Although little “Janet”’s parents were happy about the event, the little girl’s arrival served to put strain on an already depleted, household budget. To ease matters her mother lovingly sewed clothes for her new daughter whilst she played with the cotton reels. She was always well provided and cared for.

Although her parents loved Janet dearly, she was usually left to her own devices during the day. She grew up to roam the farm and freely explored the surrounding bush whilst her brothers attended boarding school. By the age of 5 years Janet was fully fluent in the “Sotho” language of the local farm workers.

Her community was a peaceful community of the Lovedu tribe. The farm workers called her “Mabula” which means ‘Mother of rain’. At the time, her name was meant as a hopeful omen for the drought stricken lands which stretched across the Savannah. But she was a lonely child with little contact with children of her own age, so she endeavoured to make friends with the workers' children of the farm.

During "Apartheid South Africa", it was frowned upon to befriend children of a different race but, despite her white skin and with a turned parental eye, "Mabula" was accepted into their ranks. She spent a large part of her childhood hunting grasshoppers and edible ants. She climbed trees and roamed the thick bush of the African landscape. She sat around rustic fireplaces with her friends, moulding thick porridge in her hands and shared their meagre meals. The birds too became her friends and the dogs kept vigil by her side. In the evenings she returned home to the warmth and comfort of her white family whilst her companions retreated to their own clay dwellings.

In the evening after supper, she said goodnight to her little dog, kissed her Dad on the cheek and followed her mother down the dark passage to her bedroom. She said her prayers and then climbed under the cool sheets to listen to her mom's musical voice which had been transformed by words amongst a storybook's pages. Somehow the fluttering candle light made the stories even more magical. 

Janet hadn’t yet discovered the art of reading and writing herself, but she had relished the tales of African folklore. A few of her brother's westernised story books were also retrieved from the dusty shelves of the farm house and her mom would read to her while she struggled to keep her eyelids open. One particular story however took hold of her vivid imagination.

It was a simple story about a little boy who decided to run away from home - just for a day. He was a pretty blonde boy with blue dungarees and a striped, red and white shirt and his character oozed the same freedom which Janet/Mabula herself was living. She loved that book and requested that “Toby’s adventure” be read to her over and over again, each night, whilst she relished the pretty images on its pages.

Janet’s freedom was rudely interrupted one day, when she was sent to school in the village which was reserved for only white children. Her little farm friends were left behind because it was said that education belonged only to white people. Her new environment felt strange and uncomfortable and despite the opportunity of learning to read, she felt a new loneliness amongst its walls.

As time went on, she drifted away from her farm friends and was directed towards afternoon homework and “more appropriate” activities. But the loneliness prevailed. One day, she decided to be like “Toby” and run away. After all, “Toby” had claimed “running away” as an adventure. So Janet made a sandwich, called her little dog Scampi and trudged down one of the isolated farm pathways.

For a short while the little girl was content. She found a place, far from the farmhouse, to mull over her life and her ‘differentness’. She was not the same as other white children and she was not the same as her black friends. She was a “Toby” who had no place to run to.

Like “Toby” however, Janet returned home that day. Her parents however had discovered her solitary pursuits and cautioned her never to run away again. It wasn’t long after that when her favourite book disappeared too. No one spoke about her attempt to run away again and gradually Janet forgot about her adventure.

It was only 62 years after the publication of this little book that Janet found it! The world had changed and had offered the blessings of cyberspace. Blessings included a wealth of cyber-friends, one of which helped seal off her adventure.

The book has been found and soon both the book “TOBY” and her new puppy, "TOBY" will be returned to "Janet’s" home....:)

This story is dedicated, with special thanks to my friend, Mimi – from LOVING FOR A LIVING – for being the amazing friend and cyber-sleuth which you are!


George The Lad said...

What a touching insight to your child hood, so touching it had the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
It touched so much on my childhood, and took me back years.
I won’t go into to much detail.
Mom and Dad where house keepers of a very well off family in Ibiza, we spent a year out there, I was 7 at the time an only child, and like you played for hours by myself in the fields and bush around the house, I had one Spanish friend, we made are own language up. We ended coming back to England just because of my schooling.
So thanks goes to you today for taking me back to my childhood, and yes my name is Janet.

KB said...

That's an amazing story. It lets me see what kind of place S Africa was under apartheid from a child's perspective. Fascinating.

I'm glad that the favourite book was found and that Toby, the cutest golden retriever, is coming home too!

I love your blog because I learn so much from it.

MySpecialDoggies said...

Hi Caryl
Thank you for sharing your life! I'm glad your book was found and that your little Toby will be coming home soon.

Best wishes,
Nadine Apples & Neeli

Emma Rose said...

Awesome story! We are so excited for you that the book has been found!!!

Emma Rose

Milo and Alfie Marshall said...

Thank you for sharing a very moving story of your childhood. Blessings to you.

How Sam Sees It said...

Thank you for sharing! We will have to look up the adventures of Toby too!


Scout and Freyja said...

Caryl, sleuthing is one thing I do best - just ask my kids - especially the times I sleuthed without the internet when they were boys growing up in my home.

As you know, Rusty, a Cocker Spaniel, will be coming to my house sometime next week. I can't wait to hold that book in my hands again. I am sure that it will be a bittersweet time for me - lost youth, parents now gone, the home I grew up in sold long ago. But, I will have that book and I thank YOU for setting me out on your quest to find Toby because in it - I found Rusty and a part of my youth that is so dear to me.

♥I am Holly♥ said...

Thanks for sharing the story of Toby. It sounds like an amazing story. Lots of love, Debbie and Holly

Bouncing Bertie said...

Hi Caryl
What a beautiful and lyrical description of your childhood. In most respects so different from my own upbringing in the suburbs of Nottingham. One point in common though - identical hair styles!
So pleased you tracked down the book.
Cheers, Gail.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

What a treasure to find. You're lucky to have such a good friend help you hunt!

Anonymous said...

Oh Caryl, what a PAWsome story!

We are also excited that your book has been found!!!

Peace, Blu and Tessa too

NAK and The Residents of The Khottage said...

Patience and perseverance strikes again!


sprinkles said...

I thought this story was about someone else because I've always know you as "Caryl." Is Caryl your middle name then?

Very insightful story about your childhood. Thanks for sharing.

Each passing day is one day closer to Toby coming home! I'm so glad you found your book. Maybe you can read it to Toby when he comes home! Not that he'll care, lol!

Golden Samantha said...

What a moving, incredible story. And incredible that Mimi found it... well... come to think of it, not so amazing, for I believe that Mimi could probably find/do/make anything!!! And "Janet's" (you, I presume?) tale is so vividly told - you are truly a gifted writer - I hope YOU write a book - "Caryl's Adventure?"
Hugs xoxoxoxo
Sammie, Avalon and Mom

The Life of Riley said...

We're so glad you found your book. The internet is such an amazing resource for connecting people and things! Enjoyed your story too about the book.

Riley and his mum

~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

Caryl, I have read this amazing story not once, but twice. What a gift you have to write such a compelling story! Thank-you for sharing it with us, and I'm so glad that the way home was found!

Joy said...

Caryl, what a little doll you were... and Toby? Have you taken in a pup? I haven't stopped by in a long time!

Jacqueline said...

I loved your childhood story, related to your "differentness" very much and I've always felt "at home" with my animals :)...So glad your friend found the book for you, that is really exciting and a great omen for the wonderful adventures you will enjoy with your new Toby!...Happy weekend, sweet friend.

Mrs. JP said...

That is such a great story and I'm glad that I got to see those pictures. What a cutie!
Great that the book was found.

Tweedles -- that's me said...

I felt each word you said as you described the longing you had in your heart to find a world that you missed so much. I felt your loneliness. To be removed and taken away, from what you loved was so hard,,, there was nothing else you could do, but go search even it it was for just a day.
I know what its like when trying to find something so important, like a part of you was missing,,,,
that book.
I felt your longing when I read your words in searching for the Toby book.
I am so happy that Mimi found that book again for you.
When you were "Toby" was a moment in time,,,,,,,
so much has come and gone since then, but soon your very own Toby will be sitting beside you.
I am so happy you will name your soul mate puppy Toby,