This weekend Kleinjan got married.
He is far from little nowadays, but in my mind I will always remember him fondly by this nickname.
Jan was the middle brother of the three boys my in-laws took into their house as foster kids when they were small. I think they were 6, 4 and 3 years old at the time. This was long before I married their Ouboet. (Their Ouboet’s name was also Jan, hence the reason why the younger Jan’s name was adapted). The boys grew up before me. I was there when they started school. I was there when they celebrated their birthdays. They were the ring boys at my wedding in 1993. They were so cute.
I have to be honest though, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the wedding. I am not sure why, maybe that’s partly because I always feel slightly awkward at my ex’s family functions. I am, after all, only connected to them via my ex-husband and my kids. But we were married for 13 years. Maybe I wasn’t that excited because the wedding was taking place in Witbank, which is about an hour and a half’s drive for me. And Witbank is certainly not one of my favourite places in the world. It is a mining town, built around coal mining and steel industries. The best thing about Witbank is that it is the gateway to Mpumalanga, which is one of the most beautiful parts of South Africa. But I was not passing through this time.
But mostly, it was the first family function after Ma Kotie passed away last year. Ma Kotie was my mother-in-law. But she was so much more than what that title entails. To her, I was her second daughter. And she was a second mother to me. She was also the kindest, most down-to-earth and unselfish person I have ever met and probably will ever meet. She would feed people who had less than her without knowing where the next meal would come from for her own family. And she was the best grandmother ever to my girls. It is not often that you find an Ouma willing to sit on the floor for an hour, while the kids paint her face with pastel crayons and lip sticks and ‘do’ her hair with clips and ponies. She had a bottomless pit of patience with them. And she was my rock with the kids; always there to help out (and spoil them rotten). She potty trained both my girls…(before they were three years old, surely saving me from the embarrassment of having to explain that “winter is such a difficult time to potty train kids”).
The last time I saw her was when they flew up for a four-week long visit last year April. At the time they were living on the other side of the country, in Knysna. Before they went back, we went for dinner at my favourite Italian place, Ristorante La Trinita, and we had such a lovely evening. Ma Kotie (as always) had strawberry milkshakes and when we couldn’t make up our minds over the dessert menu, the hostess/cook, the charming La-la, prepared a dessert platter with helpings of chocolate mousse, panacotta, mini pancakes with chocolate sauce and Italian kisses.
Nine days later, Ma Kotie passed away in a hospital in George. She was never going to see the boys she raised, as her own, getting married.
But, despite my apprehension about the wedding, we had a blast. It really was a beautiful wedding and proof that you don’t have to mortgage your house to have a dream wedding. Everything looked beautiful, in white and apple green.
And my girls and I had so much fun. I was allowed to join the teenagers on the dance floor and we danced the night away. Anya played with her cousins and brother, took pictures and showed the little boys how the jumping castle was meant to be used…The girls eventually had to pull me away from the party with “Mom, let’s go before the next song starts playing.” This was when I realised that if we didn’t leave, I would have had to carry a dead-tired 10-year old down the stairs…:-). And in the car, Bianca declared that “I just had fun and enjoyed myself, without even worrying what other people might think of me.” Enough to make this mother’s heart do summersaults with joy.
I think Ma Kotie would have been happy, I think that she would have been proud.
Ma Kotie, your boys are big, and you’ve done a good job. We love you to the end of the world and back and will miss you forever. This wedding was a tribute to you. A tribute to an angel.