She used to freeze water in old Energade bottles in summer, so she could have icy cold sips as she read in her bed before bedtime. Summers were hot in Stilfontein, just as it became really cold in winter. She hated winter. When the sun was out in wintertime she would seek out the warmest spot in the house and sit there, reading. She’d always say:” Ek soek son op my lyf” (I want sun on me). Mom made thick vegetable soup in winter with little “vetkoeke” – a memory I cling to every winter I make vegetable soup with little “vetkoeke”.
Mom was named Marésa, but her nickname was Résie. She was loud, fun and sometimes hard to live with - but she was never boring, dull or uninteresting. Her world revolved around us – her only children. My sister Natasja and I were sent to Varsity 200 odd kilometres away from home despite her wanting to keep us near. "Because", she said, “ek gun julle die beste” (I want the best for you). She was our biggest fan, our most avid supporter and also our filter and peacemaker when we fought. She built our little three-woman family into a unit of strength and a “mean team”, as mentioned by the reverend that lead her memorial service six years ago.
Living without Mom is a mixture of yearning, seeking for advice non-one else can give and happy memories. And also very sad ones. Especially as this was a big year for me, personally. A year where I particularly would have loved to have her around. So many great things happened this year, and I missed her bitterly. Standing on stage getting my PhD conferred; standing in front of the altar marrying a man that I know she would have loved – these are two prime moments that I wish she could have witnessed.
Myself and sister Natasja at my graduation:
I got married in May - a very small service at a beautiful place (Cathedral Peak). Natasja and I joked a lot while planning the wedding, because Mom had this way of saying “Ek stel voor...” (I suggest...) that drove us wild. We used that phrase a lot this year when picking colours, choosing a dress and deciding on flowers. I guess it was our way of feeling she was there – like lighting a candle for her.
If Mom was still around she would have done my wedding make-up. She was very good at that – a talent, fortunately, my sister inherited as she took over that job and did it extremely well. There is a lot of Mom in my elder sister. As Natasja grows older she reminds me more and more of Mom. I don’t think she realises it. It could be the way she smiles, her pride or the way she expresses her love. I guess when mom passed away she left a lot of her in both her girls. Mom loved classical music but also bouncy songs, which Natasja loves, too. She was arty and sang beautifully – my sister got a lot of that from Mom. I inherited her stubbornness, her deep love of Barbra Streisand and her face.
Mom would write long poem-like letters filled with beautiful words and love – my sister writes prose and I poetry. I hear her big-hearted laugh in my sister’s mirth; I see her dark eyes and prominent brows when I look in the mirror. Her dedication, loyalty and strong work ethic are alive in both of us: we are both academics - Natasja is a professor at a large university. Mom would have loved to brag about that – her pride in all that we achieved was embarrassing at times. She could be very strict and tough on us, but then again she was the only one that could heal a broken heart or mend a shattered dream. She’s still someone I want to call when good or bad news comes.
Mom passed away on December 23rd, 2005. I know she’s “in a better place now” after suffering from cancer for years. I know we are supposed to move on and forget the pain and longing. It is not so easy – I miss her so very much, especially around this family time of year.
Merry Christmas, Résie. We love you.
6 months ago