Blanche DuBois, in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar named Desire, memorably depended upon the kindness of strangers. I am more fortunate. I have been deeply touched by the generosity and kindness of Rob’s friends, the open-hearted warmth of their welcome, and their happiness for the two of us. At Bill and Gail’s, on Saturday night, fifty people came to celebrate our engagement with us, and the party which started in broad daylight at 6pm went on till midnight. Each person wanted to talk with us, each individual was interested and involved, it was real and it was fun and it was, at some fundamental level, profoundly moving.
Both Rob and I felt this. There is something about making a public statement of this nature; something about the social rituals of public announcement and public approval, that reminds us how closely we are connected to each other, as social animals and cultural beings. In Africa there is a saying, ‘it takes a village to grow a child’ – and on Saturday night this visiting white African felt a sense of community, of belonging, of some kind of acceptance into the tribe, that marked, I hope, the beginnings of a Canadian education. And, as the evening wore on and people flowed in and flowed out, I began to understand something of what this was saying about Rob: this party was a tribute from her friends, earned over a lifetime, and it told me more about her, in some respects, than I could have found out for myself.