Twenty years ago today, 1st April 1998, you died Dad. We never had any warning. Only a big, bad April Fool Surprise.
Twenty years ago today, and I still can’t find the words in me to write about you.
Loving, scary, clever, weak, brave, complicated you.
When I heard this song, it stuck with me. And the lyrics of this song are all I can use to tell you that I miss you.
All credit to Lukas Graham – his song (sorry dude, I had to change a word or two here and there!).
You’re Not There
I only got you in my stories
And you know I tell them right
I remember you and I, when I’m awake at night
So give it up for fallen glory
I never got to say goodbye
I wish I could ask for just a bit more time
Every step I take, you used to lead the way
I was terrified to face it on my own
You’re not there
To celebrate the children that you made
You’re not there
To share in our success and mistakes
Is it fair?
You’ll never know the people we’ll be
You’re not there
Though I know that you’re not there
I still write you all these songs
It’s like you got the right to know what’s going on
As I struggle to remember how you used to look and sound
At times I still think I can spot you in the crowd
Every step I take, you used to lead the way
And I was terrified to face it on my own
You’re not there
To celebrate the children that you made
You’re not there
To share in our success and mistakes
Is it fair?
You’ll never know the people we’ll be
You’re not there
Time can heal your wounds if you’re strong and standing tall
I’ve been doing all of that, it didn’t help at all
They say, “You’ll grow older, and it’ll get better still”
Yes, I will, but no, it won’t
They don’t get it’s cause
You’re not there
To celebrate the children that you made
You’re not there
To share in our success and mistakes
Is it fair?
You’ll never know the people we’ll be
You’re not there
Stanley Knapp, born 31st July 1939. Died 1st April 1998.
By the time October draws to a close, life has become quite overwhelming for most people … it has been a long year, nerves are frazzled and tempers are short.
We therefore eagerly counted down the days until we could leave town and head to the Overberg region – this time our destination was the Olive Tree Country House. Situated on the old “Glenfruin” farm, it is nestled at the entrance to the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, and its increasingly popular wine route.
As usual, we were lucky enough to be able to leave just after school let out on Friday and with bags packed, we piled in the car, with snacks for the road and loads of anticipation.
The directions given by the owner were clear and precise and we arrived at the arranged time to find the agent waiting for us at the property, ready to give us the keys and show us around. We were so pleased to find that the house was all that we anticipated and more. It’s very well designed, with the living areas to one side and the bedrooms on the other, separated by a spacious entrance hall.
With a double garage offering direct access to the large kitchen, ease of living is guaranteed. The kitchen is modern and equipped with everything you could possibly need, including a dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer, microwave oven and naturally a fridge and stove as well. Plus, it’s fully equipped with every kind of dish or utensil you may require during your stay.
The kitchen has direct access to the cosy dining area which has a formal, yet comfortable feel to it.
We made our way to the four bedrooms, all of which are spacious and offer luxurious beds, soft and warm bedding, and ample cupboard space for all your belongings.
The master bedroom has French doors opening onto the pool area, and is light and bright with windows on every side. It has an en-suite bathroom with a bath and fabulous shower, as does the additional family bathroom.
The remaining three bedrooms consist of a queen size bed, two three quarter beds (combined to form a king size bed), and one with two single beds.
Before we unpacked and settled in, we decided to all take an impromptu swim in the pool. The owner has graciously made provision for a large amount of towels – a very thoughtful gesture. At this time, the temperature was rapidly dropping and I was beginning to change my mind. The boys all jumped in and to their great surprise, I managed to get myself into the water. Although the air was quite chilly by now, the water was divine and refreshed us after our long drive. Needless to say, we didn’t stay in long before hopping out and deciding to have hot baths and showers.
We started the braai fire (wood had been thoughtfully provided), unpacked and settled into our home for the weekend. Once the food was ready, we ate outside on the comfortable patio furniture, enjoying the sounds you never get in the city … the chirping of night creatures and the gurgling of the small river that runs along the boundary of the property.
Settling down later on the comfortable sofas, we lit the indoor fire and snuggled down to either watch some cartoons (the four year old) and YouTube (the teenager), taking advantage of the available Wi-Fi. Later that night, we all cuddled up in the luxurious beds and slept soundly until morning, when we were awakened by the sounds of what seemed like hundred or more birds outside……what a way to wake up!
After cooking up a full English breakfast, we decided to pop to the local shops for some yummy goods to eat. There are a wide variety of little shops to discover, from eateries to craft shops, all selling everything that your heart desires. At the entrance to Glen Fruin sits ‘At The Village Stall’, which is home to restaurants, coffee shops and art and craft displays. It is truly stunning and I had to drag myself away. We took our treasures back to the house and lounged around some more, with the kids swimming, playing ball games on the rolling lawns and exploring the river.
For some reason, by 11:30am we were famished. I attribute this to the fresh country air, as well as the fact that we were spending much more time outdoors – as opposed to being at home in the city, where we would be glued to any and every form of technology.
We decided to take a short drive to Hermanus to find a great restaurant for lunch, where we could order something delicious that would suit both adults and kids. After a long, leisurely and very delicious lunch, we drove slowly back “home” intending to relax a bit more. This isn’t always possible with kids, but this time we were lucky and they all kept themselves busy, mostly outdoors. The adults were able to enjoy great wine and good conversation. We even had an extended visit from the neighbours’ two friendly dogs, who came to say hello and spend some time with us!
The joy of having a tumble dryer available for our use was evident in that we didn’t have to endure wet towels all over the place. It’s a convenience that makes holiday life that much more enjoyable.
After a full day of being outdoors and in and out of the pool, everyone slowly drifted indoors to once more light the fire and settle down to watch old home movies that we had brought along especially for the occasion.
We had a wonderful evening, with the patio doors opened wide to let in the lovely evening, with its beautiful sounds, all the while cuddling down on the extremely comfortable sofas. Not wanting the magical evening to end, we stayed up as long as possible, but eventually shut the doors and once again settled into our divine beds for the night. We were all asleep within seconds.
We woke the next morning to birdsong yet again, but were loath to leave the warmth of the beds. As is tradition, we had a huge breakfast, once again outdoors, agreeing that we would most certainly be back to stay in this beautiful home. The owner, Chris, has done a wonderful job with creating a luxurious, yet homely feel to the house. It’s a beautiful home, with superb surroundings, all of which contributes to an amazing experience.
All that was left to do was throw our clothes back into our bags and wait for the agent to arrive to collect the keys. She arrived on time and we handed over the keys, regretful to leave our little piece of paradise.
We firmly agreed that we would most certainly be back, and we drove away, heading home, having thoroughly enjoyed our stay.
Please note that this review was done for Rooms for Africa. Please visit:
I wore black for other reasons. I wore it because I feel anger, disappointment and most of all fear.
Our once beautiful country lies in near ruins, downgraded today to Junk Status. The words “Junk Status” saddens me immensely. It seems to fit what is happening to this beautiful land of ours.
I wore black today because I am angry. Angry at the fact that our school system is failing our children.
South Africa had an excellent education system, one of the highest in the world! Our doctors were sought after all over the world. Medical professionals were sent to our hospitals to learn. Today, South Africa has one of the worst levels of education in the world. In a report by The Economist it was stated that South Africa ranked 75th out of 76 in the world. This was in a ranking table of education systems compiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2015.
Unbelievably, South Africa’s school results were worse than even poorer countries in other parts of Africa!
I wore black today because I am angry that South Africa has an extremely high crime and murder rate. We have an average of 40 murders a day. Our farmers are attacked and killed at an alarming rate. Since 1990, 3393 farm attacks were reported, with 1824 murders. South Africans are being murdered for a cell phone, a watch, a pair of shoes, or simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I am angry because our beautiful country has one of the highest rates of rapes in the world. 40% of women will be raped in their lifetime. Our nation’s babies, barely out of their mother’s wombs, are being raped. Our children are taken from us, raped, murdered and thrown away to die under a bush somewhere.
I am angry that my children can no longer play outside at will. That they can’t walk to the shop to buy an ice cream. That they can’t cycle to a friend’s house. That they can’t play tennis in the street, or soccer at the park without an adult present.
Black was my choice of clothing today because I live with disappointment, deep in my heart, on a daily basis.
I am disappointed that our government did not deliver on its promises to the people who believed in them and voted for them. It is heartbreaking when I see mothers begging on the street, while their toddlers play in the dirt, on the traffic islands, balanced precariously between two lanes of speeding, reckless drivers.
I am disappointed that every single happening in this country, becomes a racial issue. Whether it be a comment about a break-in on our local neighbourhood Facebook page to two angry parents fighting over their children at the Spur. I’m disappointed that after almost a quarter of a century of democracy, we still argue over race.
I am deeply disappointed that our government seems to think that history can be erased and changed at will. When reading my child’s school textbook, I was appalled to discover that large portions of our country’s history have just been left out. Statues are removed and hidden away. Street names changed.
I wore black today because I live with fear.
Fear on a daily basis. Fear that my teenage son will be murdered at school. School – where in the past, you could leave your child, knowing that they were safe and being taught skills and knowledge. I fear that some angry child will bring a knife to school and during a petty teenage disagreement, my son will be killed. I fear that my husband will be driving his car, accidently bump a minibus taxi and be shot dead for his mistake.
I fear that I will wake up one night with strange men standing over our bed, having broken into our house to steal, rape or kill us.
I am all of the above – angry, disappointed and fearful, that I will one day have to leave my beautiful country. Simply because I cannot see a future for my children in South Africa.
And so I wore black today.
Not for you Jacob Zuma. You are not worthy of my choice of clothing.
I wore black because I am South African. We are South African. And South Africans should and must stand together to bring our country to the greatness it deserves.
Bette Davis once said “If you have never been hated by a child, you have never been a parent”.
Bette, as most of us know, is an icon. It’s only natural then that anything she says be taken as gospel.
Aside from Bette making that statement, I had heard it ages ago. I’ve said it to myself so many times over the years….when one of the kids were in a sulk and not talking to me, because I, in my not so infinite wisdom, had dared to say no to a request.
When little R wants to have some Coca Cola at 7am in the morning – Mommy says no.
When teenager K goes to hang out at a friends’ place and then suddenly decides to call me to ask if he can stay over – Mommy says no.
I read in a magazine once that as a parent, you should say “yes” to your child as often as possible.
Sometimes, when one of the boys comes up with a seemingly outrageous request like: can I go to the shops with you and wear my Batman cape, my Spiderman mask and be t-shirtless like Hulk, my first instinct is to say no. But then I think – why the hell not? In fact, why not wear your swimming goggles and snorkel as well. Why can you not dress that way for a trip to Checkers? (This request came from little R, not the teenager!). To these requests, the answer is yes! Go for it.
When teenager K decides, at 10pm on a Saturday night that he is absolutely starving and will simply die if he does not eat something….”Mom, can I fry bacon and eggs”? My answer is – yes, absolutely, go crazy.
Saying YES is a way of life in our house. But when the time comes for a NO, it tends to be a very firm no, because it is not said with ease. When we decide the answer is no, then it will stay that way.
No answers only happen where there is a concern over safety, uncomfortable situations arising (for the teenager) or any instance that just doesn’t “sit well” with me. Yes, maybe all the friends will be there and it will be so much fun…..but what’s that you say? No parental supervision? Well then….NO.
So as much as I would like my kids to always “love me best”, the fact remains is that I am not their friend. I am their mother.
One thing I tend to say often to them is this: If you don’t hate me sometimes then I am not doing my job as your mother.
When they are old enough, I do not intend to hit “da clubs” with them (I would not know what to wear anyway).
I will be their mother, there to guide them whenever they need assistance navigating this sometimes cruel world. I hope to raise two strong young men, who will work hard, be good people and maybe one day be good husbands and fathers.
So Bette Davis – I can truthfully say that I have been hated by my children many times and can rest easy knowing that I have earned my title of parent!
As much as I would love to be that, and I say LOVE, with capital letters here, I am so NOT a Yummy Mummy.
First off, there is no way I can spend so much time on my appearance. Even if I could, I don’t think I would. I would far rather flop on the couch with a piece of cake and a cup of tea, reading a good book than buffing my heels or shaping my brows (although as I sit here, I can tell you without a doubt that they both need some attention – urgently).
Maybe the yumminess comes naturally to a few moms. Alas, it does not for me. One mom at my little boy’s educare has beautiful thick, lustrous hair that swishes as she walks – seriously, how does a woman get her hair to “swish” so naturally? Another mom seems to wear very little make-up and yet she looks ever so glamourous.
I crawl out of bed strongly resembling something that has awoken in a crypt after a thousand years. Obviously, in order to look anything like a Yummy Mummy would take hours of work for me. As any Mom would know, we simply do not have the time for this behaviour in the morning.
Most mornings, when I am rushing around like hell on wheels, preparing for the school run, I have an allotted ten minutes to myself for “glamming up”. In my world, in an allotted ten minutes, glamming up, entails a face wash, teeth brushing, quick swipe of blusher and mascara if I am lucky, and then quickly pinning my wild, untamed hair into a fairly presentable bun. I don’t even check my hair in the mirror – I do this in the car, where to my horror I discover that my hair looks even worse that I could have imagined. Thank heavens for the “sunglasses atop the head” look. That hides a multitude of bad hair days.
When it comes to clothing, I have and am in the process of nurturing my attitude of: wear whatever you want to wear, regardless of colour, style and occasion. So what if you wear a pink camisole under a bright orange t-shirt? I love both pink and orange. Why not wear them together?
The only heels I can wear are wedges…..if I could find my perfect pair, I would wear them with everything. Until then, its flip flops for me.
My sister sometimes lives in her track pants and t-shirt. When she glams up, she sometimes tries to wear almost every jewellery piece she owns. Alright, I exaggerate somewhat – she owns way too much jewellery for that lol.
Another friend of mine rocks the “I’m me” mom look. Jeans is her style of choice and I think I have only seen eyeliner on her once in all of our years of friendship.
The point I am trying to make, along with all of this babbling that I am renowned for, is BE WHO YOU WANT TO BE. Dress in the way that makes you happy and comfortable. Why waste time to try live up to insane expectations? So what if your kids’ don’t think you are cool (when do they ever think that anyway)? And so what if a few of the population look at you sideways?
Wear all your jewellery at once. Or wear none at all. Make your hair gorgeous. Or don’t even bother to brush it before pinning it up. Wear insanely high heels. Or wear flip flops.
So alas, a Yummy Mummy I am not. I am slightly plump (hey, I grew two human beings, I’ve earned my current shape), with not so great hair and brows that are mostly not perfect. My dress sense is questionable: At the moment I have on faded black tights, an orange Old Khaki top with a small hole in it and a pink pashmina because the wind is a bit chilly. My hair, despite all my plans of making it look “swishy” today, is actually curly and a wee bit frizzy and is wrapped in it’s normal position of a bun. To this I have added a small flower.
All this because I love the colour and feel of the Old Khaki top, my pashmina is pink which I adore and it also keeps me warm. The flower in my hair simply makes me happy.
Don’t get me wrong, if you are classed as a Yummy Mummy, then thumbs up to you. You look amazing and you should rock every ounce of it. I am in awe of your yumminess.
But for all the Sporty Moms, the Boho Moms, the Glam Mom’s, the I’m Not Sure Who I Am Yet Moms, you are no less fabulous. Thumbs up to you!
Whatever your “look” is – rock it….. live it….. love it.
So I may not be a Yummy Mummy, but that flower in my hair sure is pretty.
My mother. She is a woman of many, many talents. She is a woman of infinite wisdom and all who know and love her respect her tremendously.
She has taught my siblings and I so many life lessons – below are a few that have stuck with me.
Work hard, money never comes to you freely.
My mother worked for a large part of my childhood. She has never had a cushy job in her entire life. She left school early, as was the norm in those days, and began work immediately. She worked long hours, 6 days a week. She used public transport every day of her working life. Not for her the luxury of a lift to and from work. She arrived at the train station at 6pm, had about a 20 minute walk home, whether it be rain or sunshine. She arrived home, cooked supper, helped us with homework, listened to our problems, fixed broken clothes that were desperately needed for the next day and then still found the time to play board game after board game with me. She never had the privilege of a washing machine. She washed all four children’s clothes by hand and did all our ironing on her own. Because of her example, each one of her children grew up to be hardworking adults, providing well for our families.
You can be soft hearted and a spitfire, all at the same time.
My mom is a gentle soul. I can’t remember her ever shouting at us. Even when we made her extremely angry. She never had to spank us. You could just see on her face when you had gone too far and even then, we loved and respected her far too much to bear upsetting her. When we did, our hearts hurt and we were ashamed that we had upset our kind and gentle mother. But if anyone dared to hurt or threaten any of her children – the spitfire reared its head. This petite Mama would march right over to that person, be it the neighbour or a teacher at the school and they would have to endure her wrath. Mom always came out tops. When Spitfire Mom was roused…..run. It’s no coincidence that my sister and I are exactly the same…..do any wrong to our children – and our mother for that case – well, sorry for you, is all I can say.
Never keep quiet when you see another being treated unfairly.
I’ve seen my darling mother go up against men bigger and far stronger than her, to protect someone. When nobody had the courage or care to stand up for a small person that was being treated badly, I witnessed my mother go up against a room of yellow-bellied adults and tell everyone exactly what she thought of them. This incident stuck with me forever and I admired my mother with pure, shining pride on this day. My superhero. This is one lesson from my mom that I especially took absolutely to heart. Unfortunately, coupled with a quick temper and this trait that I inherited from my mom, mostly gets people to dislike me and gets me into trouble quite often. Ah well.
Children CAN be spoilt, without them turning out be awful people.
We were spoiled as children. It’s no secret that we had a difficult, sometimes underprivileged childhood, but my mother made sure we always got just what we wanted for our birthdays. I don’t know how she did it, but she scrimped, saved, begged and borrowed, but we always had good clothes, sometimes made by her own very skilful hands. I always had the latest doll and the most fashionable Barbie. Many times, we even got breakfast in bed. However, mostly we were spoiled with love. The total, all-encompassing love of a mother, who you knew loved you totally and unconditionally.
Stubbornness can be your downfall, but it will also serve you well most times.
My mother is the most stubborn person I know. As she embraces her golden years, this stubbornness has increased dramatically – sometimes to the extent that we want to pull out our hair (don’t hurt me when you read this Mom – it’s true and you know it!). She has always been stubborn. When she decided something, no person would sway her or make her decide otherwise. This stubbornness has been inherited by her children and has mostly served us well. We are all stubborn to some extent – possibly me most of all. It has been my downfall at times, but mostly it has proven to be my saviour. I will not give up on an idea, no matter how many people tell me that it will never succeed. I’ve failed sometimes, but like my mother, I get up, dust off and that stubbornness re-asserts itself. My mother will sometimes shake her head at me and sigh, but what can she do – I learned the skill from her!
Your children come first.
Mom has the opinion – quite rightly – that you put your children first. Most certainly before a man. She was the mom that went without so that her children could have. She would not eat until we had eaten. When one of us were ill and couldn’t eat, she herself could barely manage to swallow a bite of food. If there wasn’t enough money for a pie at the shop for all, she would go without. I can unashamedly say that she raised children who are great parents – I look at my siblings and am proud of their parenting skills.
Birthdays are exceptionally special and the birthday girl/boy needs to be celebrated as much as possible.
Birthdays were a big deal in our house. In those days, there was no such thing as ordering cakes. My mom baked each child their favourite cake. We buzzed around her like flies, fingers in the cake bowl, super excited for the next day’s present. As I said before, I don’t know how she did it, but she always managed to get us exactly what we wanted. I can’t remember any birthday that she didn’t try her best for us.
Ditto for Christmas.
But oh boy, did she make us work for this holiday! A week before Christmas the work began in earnest. Walls were washed, curtains taken down, decorations were put up. She did lose her mind a little when it came to decorations……the lounge itself looked like a Christmas tree! She cooked a huge lunch – everything was perfection and made by her own beautiful hands.
A woman is quite capable of changing a plug, lightbulb, making a fire – the list goes on.
Let’s just say that if my Mom had to wait for my father to do anything, it wouldn’t get done lol. She is tough. She taught her daughters especially to have the mindset to not wait for someone to do something for you. God gave you a brain and two hands – get it done.
Your legs are there for a reason – use them.
When we were growing up, we weren’t blessed to have a car all the time. We used public transport or sometimes had to walk. Up until a few years ago, my Mom used to walk everywhere she needed to go. If she needed something in another suburb, she would simply walk there. Her stubbornness came to the fore once again. If we couldn’t take her at the particular time she wanted to go, she would shoulder her bag and use her legs. There was one time when we simply couldn’t find her anywhere. Bless her heart, she always forgot to charge her cell phone (or simply forgot to put it on). We were panicked, driving the streets looking for her. Just after 5pm, she casually waltzed in the door, smiled and said “Hi!”
She was grounded for a week.
Never wear underwear or vests with holes in them.
This was a cardinal rule. If you were at home, this was fine, but if you ventured out of the house, you put your “good underclothes” on. Imagine if you were in an accident and taken to hospital. What would the nurses think if you had a hole in your undergarments? Shock. Horror. To this day, I can truthfully say that no nurse has seen me in anything other than “good underclothes”.
Always treat everyone the same.
My mother would talk to the homeless guy in the street, the fruit seller on the corner and the school principal the same way. No person was deemed to be better than another, simply because they were more educated or had better clothes. Alright, to be honest, she did use her posh voice for the principal, but he was treated no differently. Actually, thinking back she probably spoke to the fruit seller (his name was Chillie, for some reason we knew him pretty well!), better than she spoke to the principal. In her defence, our high school principal was a total schmuck.
Be a parent, not a friend.
My Mom was first and foremost my parent. She was old school. We never spoke about the birds and the bees. She never tried to dress funky, or tried to go to clubs with us. She was our mother, not our buddy. She provided love and guidance, and didn’t try be friends with our friends. However, today she is our best friend and today we are “buddies”. We can drink a shooter together and we can tell her dirty jokes. We can swear like troopers together. But that’s today. When I was a kid and needed a parent, she was one.
Nothing beats a cup of tea.
Ah, this is one of the best gifts she gave me. At our house, as kids, anyone can tell you, there was always a pot of tea on the stove. To this day, I drink tea when I am happy. I drink tea when I am sad or worried. I drink a cup of tea for any possible reason. The first thing my Mother and I offer each other is a “cuppa”.
My sister. The heroine of my childhood and the best friend of my adult life.
We are five years apart and I am the younger one. Simply by saying that will ignite a fast “remember when….” from her. It was one time, one time (!) that I was mistaken for the older sister. We were shopping for the material for my wedding dress and the sales lady (who must have been inebriated, high, or blind as a bat), asked me when my younger sister was getting married. Sixteen years later and my sister still brings it up. Sigh.
My sister Karen and I are truly one of a kind. For as long as I can remember, she has been there for me. When I was little, I looked up to her with awe. She was a star student in school and never gave our folks a day of worry. Her long legs beat out all the other girls on sports day. I remember watching her run in amazement. I, on the other hand scraped through each exam, refused to go to school and was not very sporty. Karen loved me anyway.
When we were in primary school, she was regularly called out of class to comfort her baby sister, who was (once again!) crying because she hated school and wanted to go home to Mommy. When I fell on the playground, I screamed until they fetched her to clean and dress my wound. Nobody else was allowed to do it. I still have the scar – she clearly didn’t do a very good job.
It’s no secret that my siblings and I didn’t have the easiest of childhoods. We lived with fear and disappointment on a daily basis, but we also had love in abundance, and for every bad memory we have, there was a beautiful and magical memory as well. Because our brothers were older, they left the house as much as possible, which left my sister and I to cope with things. Mostly she had to cope with it, because I was too little. Looking back, I don’t know how she did it. She was 12 years old when I was seven, yet she seemed so capable to me. I never doubted for a second that she could keep me safe. Needless to say, freak that I am, I followed poor Karen everywhere. When she was bathing, I would stand at the door, calling through the keyhole for her to let me in. She eventually relented, on the strict instruction that I was to face the wall at all times and not peek at her in the bath!
We shared a room through all her teen years and most of mine. I was terrified of the dark and I insisted that our beds were pushed together so that she could hold my hand during the night. Sigh, my poor sister!
She was an absolute neat freak, whereas I……well let’s just say I was not neat and leave it at that. There was a reason my sister was a teeny bit obsessive though. The rest of us siblings were like wild animals, with no respect for using her hard-earned goodies. She was ever so slightly OCD and would “stage” her possessions, setting them in a specific position, so that if anyone touched them, she would know immediately. I got my own back on her most days though…. she never staged her clothes, so when Karen was away, I happily wore her clothes when I visited my friends, being super sure that I had packed them back neatly before she came home.
My sister has been a dedicated person throughout her life. She got her first job at 14 (the little deviant lied and said she was 16), she got exceptional grades throughout her high school career and then landed an amazing job at a financial institution.
Karen married her childhood sweetheart 9 days after her 21st birthday. Naturally, her little sister was her bridesmaid. To this day, I can truthfully say that I have never seen a more beautiful bride or a more beautiful dress. She looked breath-taking.
When my matric dance came around, my sister was by my side. I think she was more excited than I was – she was a huge fan of organising things. The big evening dawned and she took full control of my make-up. By that stage, she quite fancied herself a professional make-up artist. I mean, she had a huge flip file and loads of colours. My dress was black and purple and naturally my makeup had to match. Purple. Look, it was the early 90’s…..we can’t really be blamed. We all thought I looked The Bomb. A few years down the line, when we looked at the photographs again…..well, not so much The Bomb, but more…..Carol Burnett. In fact, that’s what she calls me sometimes. To get my own back, I warn our nieces NEVER to allow her to do make-up. Ever again.
After I matriculated, I looked for a job tirelessly. No luck. Until my sister, aka Wonder Woman, came to my rescue and got me an interview with the HR guy at the financial institution where she worked. By that time, she had worked herself up to a great position. Unfortunately, I totally blew that interview. I mean, I’m surprised the guy didn’t have me escorted by security out of the building.
I got the job. I’m not ashamed to say that they hired me purely because of her reputation.
Karen then gave birth to her beautiful daughter after a difficult pregnancy. I had the extreme honour of being chosen to be both her Godmother and her Guardian. I cannot explain what this meant to me…. that my beautiful strong sister thought that I was up to the job.
When the love of my life finally agreed to make an honest woman of me, Karen and my mother charged to the fore and totally took over my whole wedding. I loved it. They arranged absolutely everything. All I had to do was steer them in the right direction sometimes (they wanted me to wear a tiara for goodness sake) and all was well. My chief role was to show up on the day. I had learned from my first experience and this time, I hired someone to do my make-up. I was not looking like Carol on my wedding day. Although my hairdo looked like I was wearing a helmet on my head (yes, you can have too much hairspray), my wedding was beautiful and I credit my sister for this.
As the years went by, and I had my boys, my sister was my daily go to person throughout. When my firstborn was ill, she was the first call I would make for advice. We used to speak to each other every single day. It’s gotten a bit less now that life has gotten so hectic, but we still speak so often that our husbands have to tell us to get off the darn phone.
As we have grown older, our rolls have merged, reversed at times and become more equal. We both have very similar mothering styles and agree on most things when it comes to raising our kids. We are both extremely vocal when we feel the other is making a wrong decision. We also have no problem saying “I told you so” to one another (we do this very often actually). She is also the Godmother to both my boys as well as their guardian. My sister is the one person I will trust unfailingly with the upbringing of my children. They both love her dearly and her home is their second home. Our children accept that either one of us could step in and correct each other’s child at any time and give them a verbal dressing down. But they know that they can also absolutely depend on their Aunt to defend them if we feel that what their Mom is saying is unfair. We also are slightly hypocritical and will not, under any circumstances, allow anyone else to do the same thing to our children. There is not a soul on earth who will dare criticise our children. If they do……well, they should be aware that world of pain is heading their way.
Loving my sister as much as I do, I can tell you quite frankly that she can be somewhat of a stalker and really cannot take no for an answer. She simply cannot accept it. She has mellowed a bit over the past few years. She calls so often that I am ever so grateful for caller identification. I can tell you this, because it’s nothing that I haven’t told her to her face – almost every day. She also does not get the hint that sometimes I cannot actually talk at that moment. Ok, it’s more than a hint, it’s more of a “I cannot talk right now, I am about to go into surgery”. Her response is “tell the Anaesthetist to hold on, I really need to tell you that my parsley is not thriving in its current position”. Ok, I exaggerate a wee bit, but you get the picture. She’ll call me as I am about to leave for a braai at her house for a huge conversation. She is not even offended when I tell her that this chat is boring and unnecessary as I will be at her house in seven minutes.
When I don’t feel like talking (which happens frequently) she understands when after the 10th unanswered call, I eventually answer and say “call you tomorrow”. It really annoys her I am sure, but bless her soul, she doesn’t phone again!
She sometimes has a very questionable sense of style. It has taken me and recently, her daughter to gently guide her to the right path. Alright, this is a blatant lie. There is no gentleness involved. We will simply look at her, shake our heads and say “hell no”. In the same way, I know she will tell me precisely which outfit makes my bum look big, or if hair seriously needs an oil treatment (she told me this just last week).
My sister and I have each other’s backs unequivocally. Mess with one, you mess with the other. If you upset her, I have to be held back from calling that person immediately and letting them know exactly what I think of them. She is more reserved and will wait for the correct opportunity to voice her opinion. I let out my emotions; she keeps them in. But she feels hurt just as deeply. She just hides it better. I see exactly what goes on her heart and I love her even more for her strength and civility.
She is the only one – aside from my hubby – that knows how I feel on basically everything. In turn, I am the only one that she confides in.
We can trust each other absolutely and completely. No secret we share is ever revealed and we will carry each other’s confidences to the grave.
This beautiful sister of mine drives me to absolute distraction. She is demanding, sometimes unreasonable in her requests, domineering, persistent, stubborn and downright annoying. But she is also understanding, fiercely loyal, kind, hardworking, beautiful, an excellent, mother, wife, sister and daughter and simply a wonderful person.
She is strong in every way and will not bow against the wind. She will swim upstream if she must and eventually, force the stream to change direction in order to suit her!
I see beneath her strength to the soft and gentle heart she has. I see the sister that protected me when I was too young to protect myself, the sister who was and still is the keeper of my secrets. I see the sister who advised me and helped me when I was struggling with pregnancy, who took me to the emergency room countless times, who was by my side when I lost my babies and who celebrated with me when my boys were born. I see the sister who walks alongside me now and who pulls me when up when I stumble and who allows me to pull her up when she flounders.
I see my sister who is my best friend forever.
As I finish this blog…. Oh shucks…..horror…. it’s 9:57pm and there goes the phone. It’s her, probably to chat about the parsley again. Shall I ignore it? I’m going to pretend I am sleeping. Please don’t tell her!
Here I am. 42 years old. It was my birthday last week and I was once again blessed to spend it with those I love most.
As with most people, when every birthday comes around, one tends to take it as an opportunity to reassess where you are in life. What you have achieved, what you still want to achieve. How has life been so far? Are you happy?
For my last two or so birthdays, I haven’t had to ask these questions.
However, from about the age of 35, I had started to ask those questions of myself. Let’s face it, before then you think you have all the time in the world to figure things out. You are still “young” right? Suddenly you realize – whoa….time is ticking and you STILL don’t have all your shit together. Shouldn’t you know all this stuff by now? Why are you still searching? And what are you searching for? Is there anything missing? How do you know if there is?
My life has been a rollercoaster (it’s no coincidence that I suffer from motion sickness – the way my has been over the past four decades it’s no wonder that I am notorious for throwing up!). When I become too stressed, my body lights up with warning signals and I eventually have to say farewell to the contents of my tummy. When anyone in my family hears that I have spent time hugging my toilet, they start to panic. The next thing I know, my mother starts to stalk me…. my brother will phone me, asking what’s wrong. I’m not kidding here, one day he showed up at my flat because my mom sent him – she couldn’t get hold of me for a whole FIVE hours. Shock, horror.
My family could rival Carte Blanche for its investigative reporting – news spreads like wildfire between us. It’s so hard to convince them that honestly, this time it’s just a tummy bug!
I may have mentioned before that I am known in my family as the “drama queen”. I can’t control my mouth when I feel someone or something is wrong. I tend to speak quickly and let you know exactly what I feel. On the other side of the coin, I am very sensitive and easily hurt (although I never let this show through my ever so carefully fabricated thick skin!).
At one point, after a particular roller coaster of a ride of almost two years of hurts and betrayals, I had reached the end of my emotional rope. To this day only my sister and my husband know what my true feelings were as I decided to take time away from everyone and made the decision to close myself off from hurtful people and situations. In this way, I would not open myself to people, thereby not risk getting hurt and as a result, protect my heart from anyone who could harm it.
So I spent a while just being with my hubby and my kids, no socializing. These three guys are my safe zone and on them I showered all my love and affection. I think I needed that. A time away for my bruised emotions to heal. A time to re-assess things. Honestly, it was a wonderful time for us as a family, we closed our doors, declined invitations and spent every spare moment together – just us. It was a therapeutic time and I will forever remember it and hold it dear to my heart. My guys knew what I needed and they gave it to me in bucket loads.
I can’t remember when it hit me…. After a while I realized that I was ok and I should not guard my heart so closely. I realized that by denying my true personality, by closing myself off, I was doing myself an injustice.
I love my family and my friends. I love people in general. I love to talk and laugh with anyone (this literally kills my husband – he just wants to pay and go, whereas I can spend an hour chatting to the lady in the biltong shop). When I am along, going to our local shopping center is not a quick exercise. I’m great friends with the lady in the biltong shop and the lady in the bookstore. The bookstore lady – I don’t even know her name, but I know her life story and she’s an amazing, generous soul. The biltong shop lady has been around since my teenager was three years old. When her husband died, I cried in my car when I left the shop. When I fell pregnant with R, she jumped up and down with happiness, knowing all the troubles I had endured previously. She had my biltong ready every week because she knew it helped me with nausea.
I discovered that closing myself off was not the solution to happiness. And so I slowly knocked down my walls. I opened up to people and to experiences. Yes, I still get disappointed and hurt by people. Everyone does.
And so, the last few birthdays have been different. I have come to terms with myself. I am who I am. I am happy in my skin (ok, I’d be happy if my skin was wrapped around a size 8 body, but hey, what can you do?).
I am blessed to have shared over 24 years with a man who loves me unconditionally and whom I love back in just the same way. I have the two most amazing children and I am literally surrounded by love.
I’ve also finally learned to do what my mother has always told me to do – don’t hold onto that grudge. It hurts you more than the person that you are holding it against. My mother – a truly wise woman, why didn’t I start listening to her years ago?
So I may have a heavy and bruised heart sometimes, but that’s living. I may go to sleep, having annoyed some people because I disagreed with them and told them so. And I may go to sleep a little bit sad because I have been disappointed by someone I love.
But it’s ok. I will also go to sleep knowing that I am true to my soul. To who I really am. It may have taken me a few decades to realize and embrace the amazingness of me, but I hopefully have a few decades left to enjoy it (although with my luck, I’ll fall into a sinkhole tomorrow on my way to work).
So …… bring on the next birthday. No more questions. I have everything I’ve ever dreamed of when I was a little girl. I have my fairy tale.
I see the total and awe inspiring happiness that I have in my life. I feel it. I’ve earned it.
I’m sure many Moms have experienced the competitiveness that flares up from the minute you give birth (sometimes even from the moment you announce your pregnancy!).
With my firstborn, K, I had it pretty easy. Apart from the normal childhood illnesses, he was healthy, he reached all his milestones ahead of time and never gave me much to worry about. He sat, crawled, walked and talked right on cue. He was toilet trained at age three and never had one accident at night. He was always a healthy weight and “normal” (I hate that word – there is NO NORMAL!).
But the Competition Monster is always there, just around the corner, waiting to pounce. K slept in our bed until he was at least four or five. Even after we convinced him to move to his own bed in his own room, he still climbed in with us during the night, every night. We were happy with this arrangement – why weren’t others? What’s that you say? Your child has slept in his own room since birth? Wonderful! That’s fabulous! My child doesn’t.
It was during Grade R that the competition began to get serious. First it was the reading phase. If your child could read at four years old, that is truly lovely. I’m happy for you. K couldn’t. He wasn’t interested in sitting with a book. He wanted to make mud pies and dig for worms. He was discovering how deep his sand tunnel could be before it collapsed, figuring out how high he could stack stones, trying to see just how fast he could race his scooter down the passage.
My hubby A shared this little gem with me: Yes, he/she can read at four years old….guess what, K will be able to read in a few years…..then they will all be able to read – race over!
We developed a motto then – we’ll get there when we get there.
Once formal school started – oh the race had begun in earnest! Every term when report time came around, it was a flurry of messages “how did K do?”. Some Moms would want an exact rundown on percentages that K achieved for each subject….why? What does it matter how my child did in a formal exam? And so it has continued for seven years – each and every term! Early on, no matter if K did excellent or not that great, I would simply say this: he did fine and we are happy.
When R was born four years ago, the competition appeared to be in full swing very early on. R was not an easy baby. He was born with a tongue tie, which meant he couldn’t feed properly and was therefore underweight. He had surgery at five months old. He was also lactose intolerant and after many hospital stays and tests, was confirmed to have one Cystic Fibrosis gene and is a carrier of the disease. My gorgeous baby was also extremely sensitive to light, sound and touch. He cried a LOT and didn’t like to be held by anyone except Mom, Dad and brother K.
R was behind on almost all of his milestones. He crawled late and only walked at 18 months. He never spoke any legible words until he was three years old. Only those close to him could see the incredible intelligence he had, how he developed a sense of humour very early on and how he understood everything he saw or heard. He is thin and small for his age. Throughout the very difficult period, when we ourselves lived with a constant fear that there was something we were missing, we were constantly asked…. “isn’t he walking YET?”, “when is he going to talk?”, “why is he so small?”. We are judged constantly because once again, we chose to co-sleep.
R is still in nappies at age four. He simply refuses to use the potty or toilet. We continue to coax him, but we decided very early on with R, our attitude will be: he’ll get there when he gets there. Just to annoy people I often reply to their nosy questioning with a sarcastic retort: as long he is sleeping in his own bed/out of nappies by the time he starts high school, I’ll be ok with that!
I’ve often thought that this constant pushing of children to “perform” and be better than the rest is sometimes more for the parents than for any real benefit of the child. Obviously, you are thrilled when your child excels in something. It’s only natural to want to share your joy. I’m the first one to do so – any achievement from anyone should be shared and praised.
Please don’t get me wrong: I am not an expert in any form, I’m simply a mother.
A mother who believes that children should be children and allowed to develop at a rate that suits them. And any mother whose child is not reaching their milestones as determined by the “experts” is bound to be concerned. Don’t add to that concern by making her, or even that beautiful child, feel that they are lacking in some way and need to “be better”.
At the end of the day, each child is an individual. They have their own timeline.
They’ll get there when they get there.
As R continues to struggle with toilet training and as he learns to articulate himself better each day…..as K writes his final exams for his primary school career, when their reports are brought home, I will say exactly the same thing as I always do.
We all have them. Friends. People that we have grown up with, people we have met through others, work colleagues who become friends….the list goes on.
I have been blessed to have all kinds of friends, from all the different stages in my life. And I’m lucky enough that we all have the kind of relationship that, even if we don’t see each other for months, or even years, we can pick up exactly where we left off.
Let’s break it down a little….
The work colleagues who have become friends. I have so many of these. Literally, A LOT! Of course there is one that I cannot think of fondly, no matter how I try. Picture this: age 19 and at my first “real job”. Eager to impress, I worked my butt off and was liked by most people. Except “Mrs In Charge of the Department”. Oh, don’t get me wrong, in the beginning, when I didn’t know a filing cabinet from a fax machine, we were besties. But once I became competent, got promotions, she turned on me like a rabid dog, frothing at the mouth, snapping at my ankles at every turn. After years of making my life a living hell, the powers that be finally caught on to her and she was demoted to the basement of the banking institution we worked for (the basement department in a bank is where people “disappear” from sight lol). I will be totally honest with you and say the revenge was sweet when I slid effortlessly into her position (maybe I am actually reprehensible?).
But I digress…..The many that I consider friends, I keep in touch with, mostly through Facebook, but a few meet me for coffee now and again and it’s so great to see how far we have all come and how we have all branched out into different fields. At my last position, I made wonderful women friends, a truly unique group of dynamic women, who supported each other with none of that bitchiness you often find. We were a great team and still support each other, through shared work opportunities and in our personal lives.
The childhood friends. Again, Facebook is a wonderful way to stay in touch. It’s been wonderful to stay abreast of the lives of my best friends from school. We were quite a close knit group, boys and girls, coming all the way from primary school together, all the way to Matric.
Recently, we were devastated to lose one of our childhood group. Our wonderful, beautiful friend with the kindest soul, who took her own life last year. This was a shocking loss to us, but it brought us together again and it was wonderful to find that we still had so much in common and we hadn’t changed a bit.
The friends you randomly meet along the way. I have only one of these and if she reads this, she will know who she is lol. This bestie started out working with my then boyfriend, now husband when we were all just out of our teens…..I really didn’t like her at first, because she had a thing for my man. But as time passed and many clubbing nights later, we became better friends than what they were and we have supported each other for over 20 years. We’ve been through countless men, all hers (!), and she has been there for me whenever I needed her. If anyone does me or my boys wrong, I know I can make one call and she will show up with a baseball bat. She has my back in every way and I cherish her for it. In November, 19 years ago, we went to her 21st party…..in three weeks’ time, we are going to her 40th party!
The family friends. By this I mean, my sister, my sister-in-law, my cousins and my nieces and least but most certainly not last…..my dear mother. I’ve left the boys out, because you know boys….they are so nonchalant.
You know what they say about family….you may argue and irritate each other beyond belief, but if you mess with one, you mess with all. Should any outsider make trouble for any one of us, we close ranks immediately. We will literally freeze anyone out instantly. We’ve done it before and will do it again. No second thought! My mom is a far kinder, but push her buttons about any of her children and she transforms from a sweet old lady into Attila the Hun. It’s actually quite a thing to see. My sister is the one person, aside from my hubby, that I can call up, or even show up at her door, anytime of the day or night and she will listen, support me and take my side, no matter what. I would do the same for her. We’ve been through so much together, we keep each other’s secrets and I can say honestly, that without her in my life I would be lost.
At this point, I must be a little negative and talk about the fly in the ointment….the toxic friend. We all have them. Everything starts off great….she’s amazing. Until you start to notice things…..how she puts you down “are you carrying that baby in your bum?”….. “you really look ugly today”…… “did you even brush your hair?” …… let me slip your husband another drink after you’ve asked him to slow down. All little things to undermine you. They start freezing you out of your own family occasions, oh so subtly though! One day you start to realise…….they are not really your friends. They may pull the wool over your eyes, but not for long. Funnily enough, my sister alerted me to this long before I saw it for myself (she’s one perceptive woman). Now, having been raised to respect myself, I would not put up with this. I choose not to have people like this in my life. So we cut them out of our lives. My hubby A and I made the decision that they were toxic and no good for me, us or our relationship.
I choose to rise above the lies that have been told about me in the attempt to “win”. I bear them no ill will and wish them absolutely the best in life. But I can honestly say, life is sweeter knowing I stood up and refused to accept being treated badly.
Ok, back to positivity! The friends you meet through your children. With K, who is now 13, I met some amazing women and we all have so much in common. Some of us have photos of our boys in the same crèche and they are still friends today – even going to the same high school next year. One friend, M and I, became really close. We had our second boys very close together and over the past 13 years have been lucky enough to have an extremely solid friendship.
But the best friendship I have ever had is the one I have with my husband, A. We met when I was seventeen and he was eighteen. He has been “my person” from the minute he held my hand for the first time. I would have literally run away with him to Siberia in a heartbeat if he had asked me to! Through all the years, although like all couples, we have had our ups and downs, he is the one person that I turn to with absolutely everything. I knew the turning point in our relationship had come when he was the one I wanted when I was ill. Before that, I wanted my Mom….at the sign of a sore throat, she was the one I called immediately for sympathy. When I had a tummy bug, I wanted her to stay by my side. One day, it simply became him. He was the one I needed. When I’m sad, I call him. When I am happy, I call him. I call him first with every single thing. When he walks out the door, I miss him after 2 minutes. I’m never totally at peace unless he is with me.
So at the end of the day, cherish the friends who cherish you. And move on from those who don’t.
And I can honestly say this: “The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it”. Hubert H. Humphrey.