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My sister, Tandi

Today is my little sister, Tandi’s birthday. It’s weird to call her my little sister, because it instantly makes me think of the little blonde pigtailed child and not the beautiful, sophisticated woman who is 29 today.

I feel immensely protective over her and I know I always will, no matter our age. I took the responsibility of being a big sister very seriously from an early age, and probably bossed her around a bit too much.

The truth is, I’ve always been in awe of my sister. I’ve always secretly (and not so secretly) believed that she should have been the older sister. Tandi has always been wiser – she has knowledge and offers advice beyond her years – it’s incredible. She’s always been more responsible and she’s always been so sure of herself – or so it has appeared to me.

I don’t have an exact memory, but I do remember moments of when my mom would rub her pregnant stomach and say: Do you want a brother or a sister?

I would always answer: “I want a little sister and I want her out now!”

I didn’t quite understand what was happening,  as I tickled mom’s stomach or pushed my ear up against it hoping to hear something, but I was excited about the idea of a play mate. I couldn’t wait for her to arrive so we could play with dolls.

The nurses were so sure my sister was going to be a boy because of the strong heart beat and the strong kicks, but on the 9th of July at 08h30, a healthy baby girl was born. My parents loved the Zulu name for loved one, Thandi, but were concerned people would call her Th-andi, so they dropped the “h.”

I think it’s stunning.

I was 3 years old at the time and I remember being so distraught that no children were allowed and that I couldn’t be with my mom or see this new pink baby sister, that everyone around me had promised would be exciting and someone for me to play with. The initial interaction was through a giant glass window. I remember my mom smiling and waving at me and showing me this bundled up baby.

When it was time for my mom and her to come home, the midwife gave me my own wrapped up doll (baby) so that I would also have a baby, like mom, and not feel so left out.

Very clever.

The only problem, my mom says, is that I wanted to do everything the same, so bath time took double the time because whilst my sister was being bathed, I wanted to bath my baby as well as help with my little sister. I wanted to use the nappies my mom was using on my sister, on my baby and so on.

I loved nap time with her and I loved putting her in my pram and pushing her around the garden. I loved sharing the icing bowl with her and we would have brown sticky faces from the chocolate icing.

Kylie the kitten, me with chocolate on my mouth and little Tandi

As the years went by, we played Barbie together, we rode our bikes together, we played shop/shop together, school/school and house/house together. We did everything together and I loved it.

I loved reading to her…

I remember, when we were particularly little, I would get annoyed when she would come running into my room, see what I was wearing and then run back to her bedroom. Moments later, she would be matching me in a similar outfit. If I wore a denim skirt, she had her denim skirt on. I understand it now, but as a 6 year old, it was annoying. Haha.

That changed over the years to shouting matches about borrowing clothes and not putting them back or not asking in the first place. It was usually me doing the borrowing/taking and never putting back.

I can almost picture my sister reading this and going: “Aha! She finally admits it!”

Our teenage years were strange, awkward and our relationship changed. We sadly grew further apart. We had similar and different interests. We looked at the world differently and our different traits developed too.

We moved in different circles – had different friends from having a 3 year age gap and being 4 years apart in schooling, and went from always playing together to not really hanging out anymore.

In our twenties, I realised that we were always going to be different and some people would be shocked to hear this, but I used to say this statement: If we weren’t sisters, we probably wouldn’t be friends.*

Gasp.

This isn’t malicious or horrible at all… it was the understanding that we are just different from one another and that’s OK. I love her completely, we have a really good relationship and we have a really good sisterly bond – it’s just not exactly like those sisterly bonds portrayed in sitcoms/movies – but it’s our bond and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

As we’ve developed into women, especially in our twenties, we have a really good relationship and now that I live in another city, I miss her so much that sometimes it makes me cry. Big crocodile tears. I don’t think she knows that.

We definitely make more of an effort with one another and I have a love and respect for my sister that could make me burst! I definitely don’t believe that statement* anymore and she’s fast becoming a really good friend and confidant.

Tandi is one of the kindest, most generous and most thoughtful people you will ever have the honour of knowing.

She has never had her heart broken. She has married her high school sweetheart, my awesome brother-in-law Ross and I couldn’t be happier!

I liked to joke (in the past) that I had enough broken hearts for the both of us and I would happily “do it all over again”, so that she never has to.

Part of the big sister code.

I really appreciate that even though she never fully understood what I was going through; she always tried to make me feel better and be there for me.

When I was studying for exams in high school, my little sister baked fresh cookies (what kid does that?) and made me tea (something that she hates. See how different we are? I live for my tea and she cannot stomach it.)

In my study break, she would bring me a tray with the fresh tea and cookies on them. I’ll never forget that.

Speaking of baking, Tandi is the most unbelievable cook. She has always been amazing in the kitchen, right from a little girl. I’ve always been in awe. My love for cooking developed a lot later.

My sister is so incredibly smart. She even went to a gifted school after normal school to ensure she wasn’t bored.

She’s so gifted that she’s excellent at maths and exceptionally logical (left brain) and so creative and an unbelievable artist – you’ve never seen portraits and other artworks like hers before (right brain.)

She’s done such amazing work with charities and always wanting to help others… from strangers to her friends and family.

If my sister cries, I cry. It doesn’t matter if it’s happy tears or sad tears, I will cry with her. I cannot help it.

My sister knows me better than anyone… I might be able to kid the world, but I can’t kid her.

I sometimes wonder if my sister knows how absolutely beautiful she is. She’s breathtaking and I believe it’s also because she’s so awesome inside too.

Zanzibar 2012

I have really been blessed with the best sister in the world. I might not always have appreciated it through the years, or even been the best sister, but today I couldn’t be more grateful and more honoured to have her in my life.

I’m so sad that we live in different cities and I can’t celebrate her birthday with her, but Tandi, I just want to wish you the happiest birthday! I truly hope your year ahead is as special and wonderful as you are.

I love you so much!

On Tandi’s Wedding Day 14 March 2015
Tandi’s Bachelorette
At the Kylie Minogue concert in 2011

Zanzibar 2013

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