Womans day 2020

A narrative tribute to the woman in my life for Woman’s day.

This story started many years ago.  On the 10th of January 1972, I was born into a loving family.  As this deal with stories, I want to highlight the woman in my life, my mother, daughter, grandmother, sisters, nieces, and sistas.

My earliest memories of my mom were working as a Nurse and later moving into management positions.  I think she always wanted me to become a nurse, but to be honest, that dream died quickly as the site of vomit, made me vomit.  I was not suitable material for nursing, yet I always knew that I love people and would like to work with people.  I could never understand how she remained so calm and collected.  I trusted her and could speak to her about anything.  There were many times that I told her stuff that I would never tell my dad, for example having a friend from a different race living with me in my student flat, dancing on tables during my student days, and sneaking a dog into the hospital to say hello.  I never saw race; I always just saw people.  I think I have learned it from my mom.  With her, I saw what it meant to be less that others could be more.  Oh, my word, I protested this for many years.  I think I do not understand that as submission, another dimension emerged, love.  Oh boy, such a counterintuitive expression of love!  I have learned from her that she does not want to hurt other people, yet may elect to avoid conflict.  This insight helped me to understand something about myself and my protesting behaviour to do the opposite.  I loved my father, yet, on reflection, realise that much of my protest behaviour was born from our relationship.  I had to learn that my mom is her own person, and she is capable of fending for herself.  I also saw the need to find my voice, not the voice of protest, the voice of passion.  Moving closer to who I am becoming, is the journey that I am on currently.  During my journey, filled with ups and downs, my mom remained supportive, expressed concern, demonstrated care and compassion. 

Moving onto my daughter, what a loving girl.  Cheeky as can be, with a heart filled with care and compassion for others.  One of the first lessons from Christi is that she sorted out my priorities.  I battled with boundaries and would describe myself as a workaholic.  Before she was born, I had to consider making choices.  Never in my life did I even contemplate prioritising baby over work.  Encounters at work, even during maternity leave, made it clear.  My child comes first.  I walked away from a corporate career after many tears and disappointments.  Spending more time with my children is special to me.  She liked the idea that her mom was involved with things at school and elsewhere.  She taught me about unconditional love and compassion towards other people that were critical of her.  I would feel angry and ready to protect her, and she would reply with wisdom beyond her age, like an old and wise soul.  I can only respect her for that.  During primary school, she reached out to children that struggled, spoke to teachers; this even happens at camps where she spoke up against abuse.  Such boldness, caring and compassion towards the minority and marginalised.  I think that later in life, those people will understand her value and contribution.  Children her age are likely to miss it, their parents as well.  Her frank and candid feedback on my parenting style, the need to adjust my approach towards two-way communication, caring, consideration and support, has shaped my approach to parenting.  At times, I can only laugh when she gives me advice on how to deal with her brother.  Her ability to feel anger and then to see the humour turns robust discussions into pleasurable outcomes.  Her eagerness to ride a motorbike and do abseiling is inspiring.  She has helped me to become a more caring mother and parent. She makes me laugh, mostly on a daily basis.

I do recall my Ouma Sannie; she took care of me when my mom could not, I visited them on the farm and Riebeeckstad.  She did not mince her words and had a great sense of humour.  Here I learned about the role of grandparents and involvement.  My mother is also role modelling that to us.  With Ouma Sannie and my mom, I learned about the role of grandparents, to be involved with your children and their children.  I see this with my sister and her children as well.  I think that is the way that I will behave when I am in their situation.

My sister, she is a brilliant entrepreneur and businessperson.  She is smart and caring, maybe get overly involved at times, and it is coming from the right place.  For me, she is a safe place. I could speak to her about anything; she listens to me; she may offer options and leave space for my own decision making.  I love her.  As a little girl, she bathed me.  Her boyfriends brought me, sweeties.  In my grade 12 year, we became closer.  I loved her children; I think I was their hero and confidant for several years.  Now, they are grown-up mothers and business people, with great care and compassion for their families and children.  I salute their individual and collective strength.  My sister worked through several detours in her life with focus, commitment and hard work to emerge at a different place, creating different experiences.  She taught me about keep on moving forward.

My sister-in-law, my brother’s ex, is my now my sister: such a dedicated and committed mother and woman.  Having worked through her journey, she taught me about protesting about what is of importance to you, taking accountability for decisions, reconnecting and nurturing relationships that extend beyond bloodlines.  During patrol work, she has a “kettie” in her pocket, and when she takes it out, even the Zamazama are scared.  Braveheart acquires a new meaning.

In the same vein, I could refer to so many sistas, friends, colleagues and clients, that taught me life lessons.  The life lessons include the following.

  • Women sending light and love and prayers to women,
  • Women caring for women,
  • Women lifting each other,
  • Women bouncing women forward,
  • Women keeping a space for another,
  • Women forming a community to protect,
  • Women growing women,
  • Younger women are learning from older women,
  • Older women learning from younger women,
  • Women setting and enforcing boundaries,
  • Women standing up to abusive behaviour from others,
  • Women claiming their lives back from unhealthy influences,
  • Women nurturing themselves,
  • Women finding their voices,
  • Women changing the way that they think,
  • Women changing their lives,
  • Women are owning and honouring their journeys.

Today I am vastly different; all of you have contributed to who I am today.  You added colour and texture to my life.  For that, I honour you.  Enjoy the 9th of August, and no, you do not have to burn your bra!  Yet you may if you wish to!

Love, Elna

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