The last touch: how jam-filled cupcakes keep me connected to my friends

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The last touch: how jam-filled cupcakes keep me connected to my friends

A parting gift from friends who had become like family, these jam-filled cupcakes remind Sam Woulidge of the trans-continental bond that will last forever

Seb and Jackson first saw one another at Sibongile’s coffee and hot chocolate stand at Davies Pool in Onrus, and instantly became friends. I think they were drawn together because, in addition to both being six-year-old boys who loved their bikes and their dogs, they also didn’t need to explain anything to each other or answer complicated questions: like why neither of them looked like their parents, why Jackson had two mothers and no father, what being adopted felt like, and why it wasn’t okay for strangers to touch their hair. Ever.

For three years’ worth of weekends, they cycled around the seaside Overberg village, held dance-offs, compiled playlists, played Monopoly, built Lego, swam in the sea, ate British bacon butties for breakfast and competed for the “last touch” every single time they said goodbye.

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I knew that Jackson’s mothers, Carol and Jo, were kindred spirits when I texted them after a playdate at our home to say that, should Jackson arrive home with some dodgy dance moves and singing “I’m just a sweet transvestite”, they should know it was our slightly wild friend Jocelyn who had thought it appropriate choreography for six-year-olds. “So do we,” was their response.

Ours was an effortless, undemanding friendship. The best kind. Weeks and months went by when only the boys had playdates and we saw one another briefly at The Milkwood, Carol and Jo’s restaurant on the beach. But then we started gathering around our dining tables to share great food, stories, laughter and tears. We talked about politics, books, sexual identity, feminism, compassion, patriotism, being South African, being foreign and an outsider but also feeling passionately connected to your adopted country. We spoke of family dynamics and complicated histories. We laughed kindly at one another’s foibles. Carol introduced us to her favourite music and Jo taught us that “No” is a complete sentence. Jackson taught Seb not to fear sushi and introduced him to the joys of Radyn’s corner café, where they could buy sweets.

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We spent Christmases together, celebrated Halloween and ate the delicious cakes that Jo baked at Easter. But now Jackson and his moms have left Onrus. Carol is Irish and Jo is English, and after living in South Africa for 16 years, the time has come to return home to the UK. And we are all sad. So very sad. Totsiens, we said. Till we see one another again. Hamba kahle. Go well. And Carol created a WhatsApp group called Teaghlach go Deo, which in Gaelic means family is forever, because sometimes, if you’re really lucky, your friends do become family.

When they left, Carol made me a playlist that is quite possibly one of the most meaningful gifts I have ever received. She hugged me and whispered in my ear: “I know you sometimes think that you are going mad, but I want you to know that you aren’t. Those other ones; those people who live seemingly perfect lives; those ones who don’t suffer; those who don’t question; they are the mad ones.”

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And Jo gave me her recipe for delicious jam doughnut cupcakes, which are filled with home-made jam and dipped in cinnamon sugar. I like the fact that I make mine with apricot jam for traditional South African flavour and that Jo makes hers with blackberry jam or something traditionally English. Same same. But different. Last touch. Because connection is everything, especially when you’re far apart.

Find the recipe for Sam’s jam doughnut cupcakes here. 

Sam Woulidge Article by: Sam Woulidge

Cape Town-based writer Sam Woulidge is a regular TASTE columnist, blogger and author of 'Confessions of a Hungry Woman'. Follow her on Twitter @samwoulidge

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