• Simone Penn

You never forget your First Love

Updated: Nov 24, 2019

Turns out I’m in this on-again-off-again relationship with my birthplace.


Once upon a time a therapist told me that any real, good and true relationship contains five elements: love, like, hate, respect and fear.


How pertinent. How absolutely apt to describe the way I feel about my beloved mama Africa.

I’ve spent 32 years on this earth, living in South Africa with an extreme case of cognitive dissonance.


On the one hand I’ve actually never been that “scared” girl. I leave the keys in my car, the door unlocked, and the windows open at night. On the other hand I’ve always sort of had a ‘plans to leave’ folder packed away on a shelf in my mind.


But today, sitting in my lounge, I’m faced with a challenging and simultaneously relieving thought: ‘What if we simply don’t leave?’

What if we just stay here forever and love it?

What if I’m not actually as cynical as I thought?

What if I’m actually a patriot?


To be perfectly honest my husband and I have always sort of mocked people who describe the weather and the scenery here as top-of-the-list reasons to stay. We thought they were naivety, excuses even. But the truth is these hold a real and inalienable magic; G-d’s workmanship revealed before our very eyes. And they’re not even the reasons we love it here.


How does one begin to describe home? Is it the four walls? Yes. But it’s also more. Is it the furniture? Yes, but it’s also more. Is in the people who live there? Yes, but it’s also more? A home is greater, much greater than the sum of its parts; and certainly its context is outrageously important.


When I was 23 my best friend and I went on, what we called, ‘the break-up tour 2010”. Ironically we left SA just as hordes of tourists were flocking to watch the soccer world cup first hand. The two of us went to London for three weeks to shop away our broken hearts, and then to Israel for two months to heal our broken souls. And I had a hidden agenda.


I had a feeling in my bones that in the coming year my life was about to truly start (and I was right). In 2011 I met, became engaged to, and married my soul mate and now father of my children. I wanted to make one final decision as to where this life was going to take place. The menu: Johannesburg, London, Jerusalem. The three places in this world I have family and history and connection.


London had always held my heart. Perhaps you might say we were in lust. Year after year I had visited family in the picturesque suburb of Hampstead and fantasized about a “grown-up” life of leisure and coffee on the high streets.


Israel, on the other hand, held appeal for spiritual connection, enlightenment, and G-d. True, I had also spent consecutive years visiting and “coffee’ing” on its streets with family. The break-up tour was going to be the equaliser. Israel vs. England, Head vs. Heart.


And do you know what I concluded? There is no holy grail. There is nothing perfect. There is nothing new under the sun.


What you sacrifice in one place you gain in another. A life can be made anywhere; a good life.


The only thing you cannot create is that feeling. That indescribable, familiarity of: HOME. It’s the streets you’ve driven a million times, the signs you’ve memorised by heart, the sites, the smells, the sounds, and the people…


Oh the people.


So here I am nine years later, in love with my birthplace. Sometimes I hate it here and sometimes I’m scared here. But the history and the ethics and the integrity of this land are those I cannot have anything but the utmost respect for.


But most of all, I like it here. I call it home.





©2019 by Mothers’ Nature.