A Woman named Bertha

Bertha Bezuidenhout

Strong Legs, Lipsticks & Sunshine

A Name that Means Bright   

In a world filled with millions of things that occupy our minds, we often long for moments of complete silence, so we can think, feel, and remember.

In these moments, we remember those people we can learn from, even if they are no longer with us. Their memories stay with us. Suppose you take the time to remember them exactly as they were. You’ll discover that they, unknowing to you, shared many valuable life lessons for you to unlock when the time is right.

This is what I learned from a woman who was bold and bright. From Bertha.

I remember the room where Ouma lived so well. It was more than a room, but it felt small. It was a corner apartment on the second floor of a pretty dodgy building in Potchefstroom, a small town in South Africa. Overlooking green oak trees and a busy street bustling with students and locals who visited the corner shop below.

Bertha was not a rich woman. She did not have luxuries and extra money to splash on extravagant things. That being said, she liked to have nice things that didn’t cost a fortune! I remember her shoes often having a sparkle, her earrings being bold and bright. If my memory doesn’t betray me, she even had a brooch of a sparkly frog that she wore like diamonds! Above all else, I remember her lipstick! I remember they were bright, pink, and happy. The little girl in me learned that money does not have to make you feel pretty and that there is a lot that bright lipstick can fix!

Her apartment was always cool and inviting, like stepping into her past. What she had was neat and tidy. Her inexpensive jewelry pieces were neatly displayed at an antique dressing table, surrounded by those lipsticks and lotions that smelled like summer.

Her apartment had a tropical feel. Perhaps because Bertha liked the sun! I remember indoor plants and a porch turned into a tv room. Bertha would sit over here, completing a crossword puzzle, drinking tea, watching her soaps, or listening to the radio. The younger me learned about being quiet, content, comfortable, unpretentious, and caring.

Her eyes told that she had seen much more challenging times in her life, hiding a sadness that she had not forgotten. A time when Fridays paid the rent, but Mondays reminded her that the fridge had little left to offer for an entire week ahead. A simple plate of “melkkos” was served as a luxury treat when the food cupboards held no more than milk and flour. Where she treated her children to homemade sweets because even sweets were too expensive at times. Where her heart was deeper than her pockets when she decided to adopt a child she found next to the road wearing very little clothing. The mother in me learns how unselfish she must have been to take this bold step. It must have been hard to hold things together when they could easily fall apart. How strong she must have been in a world that can be cold and cruel

I remember Bertha’s strong legs rising from her sparkly shoes! Not many people remember their grandmother’s strong legs! My mother once told me when she met my father’s parents, Bertha was mowing the lawn one summer’s day. Was it that she loved the sun? Or the neat lawn? Does it matter? I learned that a strong pair of legs most likely belong to a couple of hands that never say no to a challenge. If you want some things done, you have to tackle them yourself. That life waits for no one, and you are in charge of what surrounds you.

Thank you for teaching me so much by just being you by never trying to teach.

Today as we celebrate your beautiful name on a label, I will always remember you as bold and bright, Bertha.