– By Sunel Veldtman
A while ago I mentioned to my husband that I didn’t like the taste of lamb cooked on our gas braai. I prefer the smoky flavour of lamb done on a real wood fire. And so, the ‘kruiwa’ was born. (Kruiwa is the Afrikaans word for wheelbarrow.) He pulled out an old kruiwa from our store room, filled it with sand and wheeled it onto the middle of our lawn. We arranged our camping chairs around the fire. And we cooked the lamb on a real wood fire and sat around and spent a wonderful afternoon together talking to each other.
Then the kruiwa became our thing. We started having a kruiwa braai every Sunday night, after an afternoon working in the garden and a busy weekend, we would light the fire, pour a gin & tonic and watch the sun set. It became part of our routine. As my husband posted regular pictures on social media, people started asking for an invite to a kruiwa. Some of our friends began to invite themselves. They knew that, at a certain time on a Sunday night, there would be company around a fire in the middle of a busy city.
Sunday nights were not ideal for late nights and preparation for the week, especially not for our kids. We then moved kruiwa to a Friday night. Our friends know, that, come the end of the week, they can come to have a meal, to wind down and above all, to share the stories of their week. We don’t entertain. We open our home for a communal meal. Yet, somehow every Friday night, there is a feast. Someone pitches with meat from a favourite butcher, a new salad they’re trying out or occasionally a homemade pecan pie.
Sometimes we have many friends and loads of kids running around the garden. And other times, one couple pitches and we share an intimate evening. We now look forward to a Friday evening. If we’ve had a hectic week, a challenge or just an important story to share, we know there will be a time and a place. Conversations drift from politics or women’s rights to parenting or career challenges – our losses and our gains in the world. We have roared with laughter and we have cried, silently wiping tears from the corner of our eyes. We have celebrated life together and found a new appreciation for friendship. Our kids have become close and now beg their parents to pitch on a Friday night.
Our kruiwa nights have become an experiment in human connection in our time and place. Some of our friends have never accepted the standard, open invitation to arrive and join in. Some friends are keen and don’t want to miss out. Many around the kruiwa were strangers to each other but have gained new friendships over the year. They have become engaged in each other’s stories.
Kruiwa has become synonymous with connection. Somehow sitting around a fire with a few rickety camp chairs and blankets wrapped around us against the Highveld winter chill or fighting off mozzies in the summer, has created a space where people can connect. We have seen some friends beginning to heal from devastating loss and others’ stress uncoil slowly.
Adult friendships, especially for those in the midlife, can be a real challenge. Somehow sadly, our friendships are last in the line of priorities. We are starved of friendship time. Yet, there is so much research showing that we need connection; that it is the most important contributor to wellbeing. But, somehow, we neglect friendship and community. Somehow the stress of midlife careers, teenage children, changing physical realities and the world we live in, compels us to hibernate, to head in the opposite direction – away from people and connection. We have come to believe that alone time is the answer. Of course, there is a need for alone time, but not to the exclusion of community.
Our kruiwa has become a priority, a weekly non-negotiable diary inscription. We have learned that heading in the direction of people is healing and invigorating and uplifting. We have become friendship addicts.
Ps. If you’re a friend, know that you are invited to our kruiwa on a Friday night.
Pss. Alternatively, start your own version – any fire, even a candle light – whatever will bring community back to your world. I would love to hear your stories.