Excerpts from ... (Spoiler alert: Snow-White.ca)
The ecstasy, dangers, agony and rewards of falling in love with
Christmas, 1971- Summer in the S. Hemisphere ... "Encounter with a Mermaid"
 

(Paintings by world-famous artist Jonathon Bowser, recreated from actual scenes & photos, plus the mermaid's tail)  

Mermaids - those beautiful (mythical) sea creatures renowned in folklore for luring mariners into the deep with their irresistible siren songs, are generally considered gentle romantic figures, interested only in fostering devoted pure love. Though they have been known to try and romantically capture royalty (The little mermaid, which didn't end happily) most often they choose seemingly unimportant people - mariners or men who just happen to be walking on "their beach". The ensuing romances are satisfying, enduring, legendary. A good place to meet Mermaids is at the seaside, and that's exactly where I met her ... the Mermaid who stole my heart - and then took me on a fast-paced round-the-world adventure!

When Jen and I first briefly saw each other, it was because her mother insisting that Jen's dad stop their white Mercedes on their way back from the beach ("X marks the spot" in the pic below). She offered me a ride back to the park. As I had been walking from the beach, to escape the hot African sun, I gratefully accepted. The passenger-side back door opened for me from within and climbing in, I found myself sitting next to a beautiful young girl, probably 16 and still in her bikini from her day on the beach - but only for a few minutes, as the car quickly traversed the remaining distance to the park. We were not introduced (her mother kept me talking) neither did we exchange any words - only the briefest of glances.

Many years after it was written, I illustrated this poem (which recounts our summer-romance, from my perspective) and presented it, again, to Jennifer, on one of our frequent tea-dates - and learned something that I just wasn't prepared for! You see, after re-reading my poem, for the umpteenth time, this time Jen suddenly smiled mysteriously, gave me a hug, made some more tea, and beckoned me to sit down and prepare myself for a "little surprise". As I sat there smiling at her, over my tea-cup, prepared to listen to my elusive Mermaid, she related what really happened that day. So let's put these perspectives together, Jen's in purple, mine it black. Imagine my surprise, at discovering all of this so many years later.

1971,TURNING the clock back to just after I was given a ride, sitting next to her, in Jen's dad's Mercedes: Still a little flustered ... I had that instinctive feeling that something very momentous had just happened. I could not stop myself from thinking about this young woman I had shared the back seat of that Mercedes with for those brief few minutes. There was something  unusual intriguing about her - besides the fact that she clearly was gorgeous! It felt very different - clearly this was something other than my teenage hormones - the effects of which I knew and understood all too well by now. So after lunch I decided to walk about the camp and look for that white Mercedes. "Perhaps" , I thought, "I would meet this young woman again and, well, I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to do or say once I located her - but I do remember that I felt compelled to try! So, around the park I walked, searching for that white Mercedes. It was Christmas time, summer holidays, and Siesta was a veritable maze of Campers and RV's - but no white Mercedes to be found. Red ones, Black ones, Silver ones - but no white ones. "Strange", I thought, "Perhaps they were just visiting someone else and were now gone again ... or maybe I just missed it"? Extra content: At exactly the same time that I was walking around trying to find her, this young "mystery woman" - whose name I did not yet know, was walking around that same park (not exactly sure why she felt compelled to do so) ... trying to locate me. (I only discovered this many years later) ... go figure! Well, having failed to find her - back I went to be with my family and, having failed to find me - back she went to her family. "Mom", she said, "I'm going to take a walk to the "Duka" (Swahili for "store") Mr. Nixon (the owner) has some used paperback books there that he loans out and I feel like relaxing in the shade with an interesting book". And at exactly the same time: "Son", my mother said beckoning to me, "Could you please go and buy me some milk at the Duka, we have none left". "Sure Mom", I replied taking the money from her and heading out on that fate-filled short trip - and of course, the rather pivotal poem, "Summer Love", which follows, and which appears at the end Jon's 2nd. novel (though he did change it slightly) describes what happened next. You know, I never appreciated the power of poetry enough. In 57yrs I've only written one poem, of note, and did so at a most critical point in our young lives. It sure seemed (to me) to be taking it's time to show any effects, but years later it was evident that, while unbeknownst to me for almost 2 years, it had indeed changed our lives and turned the tide of battle! Here's the original version of "Summer Love" as it flowed from my heart so many years ago now - but the quip about being blissfully ignored by mothers and enjoying "protection from above", was added in 1994, with the benefit of hindsight, as was the part about me "knowing that one day she'd be my wife" - I was not brave enough to admit that much then ... and realistically, with Jen 18, half-way through Gr-12, that may well have had the exact opposite effect than that which I was hoping and praying for.

Summer Love ...
( Remembering 3  Splendid Summers ...'71,'72,'73 )

 

As I walked into that little store,
I turned ... our eyes met ... she smiled,
She transfixed me to the core ...
This beautiful young woman  ... with the face of a child.
For there she stood, smiling ever so softly at me ...
Her eyes fixed upon me in a most disarming gaze,
This lovely young mermaid from that wondrous sea ...
She whom I'd seemingly lost in that relentless maze,
Reappeared to me as through swirling ocean mist ...
Chestnut golden hair cascading around her shoulders bare,
I simply had no choice ... speechless, and quite helpless to resist,
I stood there motionless ... enchanted ... held captive by her stare !

Gracefully she now moved towards the sun ...
and following seemed the most natural thing for me to do,
My legs regaining movement - trying hard not to run ...
With her smile beckoning, out we went,  just us two.
Of course, I had completely forgot what I should get,
As we left both through that door,
Somehow it seemed required that again we'd met ...
There in that dear little store?
You know,  it felt I'd known her all my life,
and as we walked on down to those streams,
Somehow, I just knew it then ... she'd be my wife,
That most beautiful of love's most lovely dreams !

 

 

 

 

 

True love at first glance is very rare indeed,
And I could not explain it ... here by the sea,
For it felt like all of Heaven that day had decreed,
That such a love should happen ... all at once, to me.
So there I was, stung by cupids many arrows,
Perhaps all twelve of them in my heart,
Caring little about love's possible sorrows,
Simply thinking "Oh what a beautiful start"!
Beside me was this most enchanting of young women,
And once again upon this day our paths had crossed,
So, "surely", I felt, "this must be love's omen"?
For just hours before ... I'd given her up as lost.

 

 

 

There on the river's bank we sat and talked,
For quite some time  - both pleasantly at ease,
Later, quite unforced, we held hands and walked,
On the many paths past all those countless trees.
With the milk money still in my hand,
We now made our way upon that bank,
And there upon the river's soft pleasant sand,
Our hearts knew that Heaven we should thank!
Later, that night under the moons soft pleasant light,
We would dance ... and danced and danced and danced,
There where true love's jazz band played all night,
A mermaid cast love's spell on me and I was entranced!

 

 


On we swayed, gently on our dancing floor,
Holding each other closely - tight,
Till my 16 year old heart could take no more,
Then out we went -  into that African night ...
There amongst the swaying palms we walked,
Accompanied by distant strains of the tenor-sax,
There Jennifer and I stood and softly talked -
The warm sea breeze now at our backs.
Colorful Hibiscus flowers grew freely there,
On the moonlit banks of that dark stream,
And our love we felt we had to share ...
We shared such a lovely dream !

The glowing moon shone bright above,
As we first kissed under that tall palm tree,
Knowing our young adult summer love -
Was good and clean ... and free!
I remember well ... as our eager lips drew near,
Our teenage hearts now beating fast ...
That I gently touched her ear ...
We made that moment last!
In the distance the dance band was playing our song ...
Jennifer looked at me - moonlight gleaming in her eyes,
Again we kissed - but now with passion burning strong,
Passion that must burn on ... a flame that never dies!

 

 

 

 

 

We left that night by boat,
From that our first of many a dance,
gently down the river we did float,
So thankful for love's chance!
We hugged, we kissed, we bade goodnight,
Beside a small dark tree,
Under the moon's now gentle light ...
Just Jennifer and me.
As I lay there later in my bed,
My heart felt strong and warm,
Soft music still playing in my head,
Jennifer had taken me by storm !

 

 

 

 

 

I slept that night a happy sleep,
Amid her siren's song,
In my heart it had found a home to keep,
And it's never sounded wrong.
Awakening ... all my dreaming done,
My heart overflowing with love,
I rushed to greet the rising sun ...
And my little turtle dove.
Again we sat ... we walked,
Happy and carefree,
We kissed ... we talked,
Just Jennifer and Me.

 

 

For days we walked and talked - always holding hands,
We swam and romped there in the bubbling waves,
And ran and played along the beach's sands,
Then dried and dressed amongst those rocky caves.
There, sheltered by the dunes we huddled,
Just us two - on nature's turf,
There too we kissed and cuddled,
While overlooking that endless pounding surf.
We were quite oblivious to all others,
I suppose that's perfectly normal for those in love,
And blissfully ignored - even by our mothers ...
Now we know we had protection from above!

 

 

 

In a canoe we paddled daily up the streams,
Along the cliff's sheer side,
Tropical jungles seeing our tender dreams,
Had helped us there to hide.
Brightly colored birds flew overhead,
While we drifted there ... all alone,
White Arum lilies surrounded our floating bed,
Sweet Heaven's nature there did us own.
Two lovers ... cradled in our little shell,
My heart had wanted to shout ...
"This match was made in Heaven, Not in Hell"
... Of that I had no doubt!

 

 

 

 

 

For only could Heaven have sent ...
Such a sweet angel to me,
A helping hand it had us lent ...
Then set our Spirits free!
Two lovers ... floating amongst the flowers,
Both entranced ... in "Cupid's spell",
And I held captive by her powers ...
Oh, She knew her part so well !
Sighing we left each other's arms,
And I started out to row ...
Still dazzled by her many charms,
The blazing sun now fast dipping low.

 

 

 

 

As the sun sank behind the jungle's hills ...
Africa's night was fast starting now,
Menacing shadows dancing upon the water's frills,
We knew we must get back somehow!
Arriving on familiar banks again,
Our families we there did meet,
And amongst the noise of drinking men,
Our suppers we were given to eat.
But really, we had no need for food,
For we could have lived on love alone,
And for sweethearts still in such a dizzy mood ...
 Beside the river waited our lovely throne.

 

 

For at the edge of that watery trench,
At the meeting of two streams,
Upon our favorite gray old bench,
We shared so many happy dreams!
The remaining days went by too fast,
For two sweethearts in that pleasant land ...
 Wishing our dream could forever last,
We pleaded for time quite still to stand.
But alas, soon back home we would be going,
Summer love now forced to wait another year,
My heart broke ... it's sadness showing,
 ... as it cried a little tear.
  

(C) 1974 Ian Eloff, all rights reserved.
1994, Illustrated as a surprise for Jen, with minor revisions.
 


 


Canoe trips up into these pristine canyons from that busy seaside, afforded us total privacy.
It was time to get to know each other - just  the two of us, nature, beauty, birds and flowers.
So, every afternoon, while parents slept, Jen and I would disappear upstream, in our canoe,
into these mountains and Jungles, and talk happily, for hours, as we guided our canoe through
tranquil waters, reluctantly returning only as sunset loomed, for supper with our families again.
There we'd disappear into a beautiful world of our own, where only love and happiness existed.
We rarely encountered anyone else - it seems they all wanted rather to go to the sandy beaches.

And just when you cannot go any further in the canoe, this real treat awaits the 2 lovers ... their very own private "Mermaid's-pool"

Far from civilization, amid exquisite beauty, surrounded by White Cala Lilies (Aurum Lillies) & the Knysan Loeri, in their native habitat,

Three glorious summers ... then suddenly it was all over.

Jennifer and I, being young sweethearts and living at opposite ends of the country, just had to settle for the few times we could see each other ... which was the 3 weeks over Christmas in each of the summers of 1971, 1972 and 1973 when our two families paths crossed during summer vacation.  But that soon changed. Upon graduating from high school, I was drafted into the air-force - South Africa was at war! As a result I knew that I would likely not get to see her during that time at all. For the next 2 Summer holidays (Christmas holidays, in the southern Hemisphere) that she and her family spent at the Wilderness  - I would not be there! It was naive to think that other guys would not want to take advantage of my absence, in that most romantic place, with a Mermaid so desirable, so I kind of panicked! I mean really ... In the time I was to be away at war, she was a 17 year old absolutely gorgeous (and passionate) Mermaid, just entering Grade 12, to be followed by her freshman year at University. She would thus be turning 18 and 19 ... and with me nowhere in sight! For me then, these were not exactly great odds to be facing in the game of love! Realistically, most  people would agree with that. And, right on cue, I discovered her mother had "jumped the gun" and engineered an introduction to a rich school-friend of Prince Andrew, and he lived just a few miles away from Jennifer, in a MANSION, complete with Dad's chauffeur driven Mercedes, fancy cars and Penthouse at the seaside in Cape Town. Even worse, he had free-license from her mother to pursue Jen's heart. It seemed that our Summer love story was destined to be just one of those beautiful memories, a precious part of our childhood - one that was destined to live on only in our fondest memories, but not in reality. There was no email or Cell-phones back in 1971, and Long-distance calls and air travel were very expensive.

"The End" of our 3-Summers-long  love-story.

To even the odds a little, I traveled down to Cape Town (with some money I had saved) just before my 18th birthday (when I was to enter the air-force) so that I could at least be with Jennifer one last time. Her parents let me see her for just a long-weekend, during which time she showed me her home town and we romanced each other, this time on her turf. We were, as always, sweethearts, best friends and Soul mates. But a few days go by so very very fast when you are in love ... way too fast! And then, "just like that", it was all over. Had it all been just a dream? The brutality of adult life had abruptly ended this beautiful chapter in our young lives. For Jennifer the last half of grade 12, then university, lay ahead, while the isolation of being drafted to be part of the wartime effort had effectively sidelined me. My youth had ended and Jennifer's was fast drawing to a close. These were indeed formidable obstacles to our love at a very crucial juncture in our young lives. Now our once peaceful colony was showing signs of tumultuous change. Realistically most agreed then (and now) that "The End" would not have been a totally unexpected outcome for our Summer romance ... the complications of adult life were upon us, and these had "kidnapped" our youth! So it was that Jennifer and I, lost contact - not that I did not try! Today, Jennifer is still chauffeur-driven everywhere in Mercedes Limos. I could not afford those. Well, life's not always fair, but it does often afford us precious moments that we should never ever forget, for if we do, we become hardened, and lose our humanity. We have to take the good with the bad, the happy with the sad. However, as in every Fairy-tale of note, surprises are allowed and then we find that little glimmers of hope (sometimes) creep in where only despair seems to live. But always, if there is to be any happy ever-after, that tiny, fragile, flickering flame-of-hope, simply refuses to die!

You see, simply put, I loved Jennifer ... I always have, and I always will.
The problem was, I did not manage to find a way of telling her exactly how I felt about her,
until it was too late for her to be able to reply - and even then, events (and her mother)
further conspired against us and our young love, ensuring that there was to be no reply.
This was
41 Christmases ago now, and clearly Jennifer is still my "magnificent obsession".

Trivia
: (1) The Power-boat that ferried us to (and from) Romantic dances on the river-banks (pic above) was called "Jabula".
Imagine our smiles when, eventually, some 40 years later, we found out that "Jabula" is the Zulu word for ... "Happiness".
(2)
Also, back in 1971/2/3 this area of South Africa was just a beautiful Holiday (and Honeymoon) destination famous for it's
Beaches along the warm Indian Ocean, as well as it's Lakes and Salt Marshes, it's mountains and it's rivers. It's the native home
of the magnificent Calla Lily (Aurum lily) as well as to abundant birdlife. Back then few people cared about the upper-reaches of
the river, the preferred to water-ski on it as it damned up just before entering the sea. Well, some 2 decades later it was all
made into a National Park, Power-boats were outlawed on it's river, and to preserve it's natural beauty, only Canoes allowed.
Couples travel from all over the world (Back-packers and honeymooners, most often) to enjoy the Beauty and Romance of it all.
Jen and I could not be happier! This place, that was so pivotal to our young love, is going to do the same for everyone that visits.
As you have read, it's an experience we will never forget as long as we live! We encourage other young couples to explore it too.   

And apparently, they do ...

Click on these You-Tube videos to experience a little of the Canoe adventures:

(1) Short, grainy and jerky - but the color and sound is  fairly good

(2) Longer, more professional and detailed, but the colors are off, not green enough.

(3) Nice overall, well narrated and includes Beautiful footage of a very "Romantic Hideaway"

Fantasies can come true ... it could happen to you.


Pictured here celebrating (candid photo of Jen savoring a sip of Wine) at a dinner-dance on the night of her wedding to me, 7yrs later.
Against her Mother's wishes, Jen returned to Africa from N. America (and she was ultimately disowned for that) and we were married.
She was given no support for her wedding - not even a wedding dress, but none of that mattered to this lovely lady ... True Love did!
Here's a photo from Jen's (1st) African Wedding, one of her 3 official weddings on 3 continents. Now there's an intriguing story to tell!

Once upon a time, before this Wilderness jewel was a National-park, more often than not, we had it all to ourselves - or maybe it would be more accurate to say: "This magical place had Jen and I all to itself for 3 summers". Either way, we built up so many beautiful lasting memories here, in this, our special place, and we fantasized that one day, we would be able to live in a place like this. Well fantasies almost never come true - that is, until 7 years ago, 34yrs after first meeting. Ironically, exactly because of Jen's birth-mother's relentless attacks on us and our family, we simply belatedly eloped, we all just ran away and disappeared, Now  we're living our fantasy ... our fondest dreams finally fulfilled, 41 years later, together, still madly in love, surrounded by awesome beauty in a Pristine Jungle in S America, in a gentle land of "far, far away", happily ever after!
What's left to say ...  But that we are both quite sure it's all a case of: "Regallo de Dios"  ... for which we are indeed truly grateful!