Kids, on the eve of your Great-Grandmother’s third death anniversary in March 2016, I missed her terribly … it still had not sunk in that the fierce, dynamic and strong Fatiema Williams-Shellar who had raised me wasn’t around and a part of my life anymore.
Being an adult sucked on and off for the better part of my late twenties and early 30s and not being able to call her so she could distract me with family gossip or the latest soapie updates when I was having a particularly bad day really cut me deep.
She was vibrant with a quick mind and even sharper tongue but man, was she a soft cookie under all of that and I missed her more than ever.
These are five of the many, many amazing things Mama taught me:
- Sometimes swearing is the only way to express yourself: Yip, every foul word you have ever heard coming from my mouth was this champion curser’s creation 😉 Whether she was yelling at Pa or threatening to whip my butt for not putting my school uniform in the laundry, she knew how to drop an F bomb! When I started freely swearing in her presence in my 20s, she’d be all like “Zielah, do you kiss me with that dirty mouth?!” and I’d cheekily respond “Of course, Tiema, I learnt from the best … you!”
- When Life hands you lemons, eat a chocolate (or a sweet): My feisty grandma endured her fair share of problems: a dead son, man woes, divorce, unexpected pregnancies, breast cancer scares etc but there was always a stash of chocolate and sweet treats to take the edge off a little … or at least stop her from beating people (usually Pa) with a broom.
- Having eye candy is a must: Just because she was married with children, grandchildren AND great-grandchildren didn’t mean Mama had lost her keen eye for a good looking man. Whether it was swooning over Jean Claude van Damme in e.tv’s Friday night movies or admiring how well David Duchovny filled out his X-Files suit, she knew a stud when she saw one and wasn’t shy to say “Hy is nogal sexy, ner?” (He is rather sexy, hey)
- Dress up no matter the occasion: A trip to the shopping mall, a family wedding or an outing to the Fugard Theatre required a touch of lipstick, a sprinkling of talc powder and her best scarf because you never knew who you would run into. Man, I wished I’d retained this bit of wisdom when I ran into Orlando Bloom!
- If the music sounds good, dance: Mama knew how to get down on the dance floor (or her living room, but whatever!). From Frank Sinatra to UB40 , Cher and everything in between, Tiema could give us youngsters a run for our money and she didn’t care if we laughed at her or not. In fact, at my 21st birthday party, she danced until 3am when all of the guests had left already 😉
I wish you could have known her, Kids. I know how much she would have loved you and enjoyed telling you crazy stories of my and my father’s naughty childhood escapades.