My mother and I arrive from the maternity home. Lanie is a toddler of two. “Watch your sister”. Lanie runs to the room and fetches her most precious possession, her toy iron. She wants to give it to me. A gesture that shows her love and acceptance. She was never jealous and shared everything with me all my life, without ever complaining about it. My elder sister is such a selfless “giving person”.

I sit cross-legged on top of the kitchen cupboard. My lower lip trembles. Our mother started working full day again. I miss her and the sob is in my throat. I am too attached to my mom for a child of eight. Lanie comes into the kitchen and with one swoop she picks me up from the kitchen cupboard. I ride piggy-back from room to room while she sings and runs and neighs like a horse. The silliness makes me laugh. Then she puts a half-melted chocolate in my hand for comfort. The sticky sweetness fills my whole being and comforts me a little. “Mom will be home any minute now … and if she sees you crying, she’ll cry too.” She wipes a tear from my cheek with her right index finger. She is my Big Sister, she has always been my anchor.

It’s two years later… She is a wise lady of thirteen now. It is June holiday and freezing cold in the Free State. It is still frosty in places. Grandma and Mommy are busy in the house. “Today I’m going to teach you where babies come from,” Lanie announces with a voice that carries authority. Pinched under her arm is Uncle Jan van Elfen’s book. She drags two garden chairs closer for us to sit on behind the chicken coop. “Come, let’s begin”… She reads and reads and I gape at her open-mouthed. After each page she solemnly asks: “Any questions?” The adults are blissfully unaware of the sex education class that commenced behind the chicken coop. Two years later, Mommy also approaches me with the same Uncle Jan van Elfen booklet… ”Lanie has already taught me, Mom.” “When?” Mom was astonished. “I was ten.” My Big Sister has always been my teacher.

We are students and enjoy every moment of it. Lanie stays in the room next to mine in the student residence. During our afternoons off we climb into the bubble bath and “Nice and Easy” our hair. We eat chips in the student centre and “give marks” to the male students who pass by. Lovely, carefree days!

I live on my own now. I am alone and lonesome. Friends and family whisper “Spinster” behind their hands. I am invited to every kitchen tea and baby shower, but I experience a continuous drought – finding a soul mate is difficult! It is Sunday evening and I have the Sunday night blues. I even burnt my dinner!  A knock on the door … Standing there with a bunch of sunflowers in her arms, is Lanie.  She knows this is my favourite flower. I cry on her shoulder. “Don’t worry, everything will be alright”. She has always given me hope.

Three years later I receive a text message from her. “Sis, I gave your number to one of my volunteers and he will call you for a coffee date. His name is Robert. Don’t be obstinate now. Give the man a chance. Robert can be a great chum for you”. And that is indeed the case. After ten years of being married to my Robert, I can concur. He’s my best Tjommie. If my sister had not intervened with her practical advice and help, I would probably still be crying by myself on Sunday evenings and burnt my dinner.

I’m pregnant with our first baby, due in two weeks. Books do not always provide the answers. Lanie is bombarded with a list of sixty questions. Everything from the ceasarian procedures to baby care to leaving the house over two decades. Everything must be answered in one night. Lanie sips her coffee patiently and gently explains and shows and demonstrates until all the fear is gone.

Now we are mature women with homes, husbands and kids and hundreds of tasks every day. The times we visit each other are like coming home. We are tied with an invisible bond of years of being there for one another. Thank you, Sis, for years of love and advice and being in my life. I love you very much.

by Henlie Holm

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