My Mother is the Eldest of five (5) children. They grew up on a farm in the Eastern Cape living the life of wild creatures, amongst the more domesticated cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, horses, dogs and cats. My Ouma (Grandmother) was an only child and I’m sure that to compensate for her loneliness (which she must have been since her parents wouldn’t have had the access to all the cool extra mural activities and social opportunities that single children do these days) she felt obliged to breed herself enough people to never be lonely again. And I suppose like all of us Moms she must have realised her mistake and subsequently under the guise of a decent education she got shot of them one by one by sending them off to Boarding School. That and the 40km commute twice a day wouldn’t have been great for the oxen and wagon.
And so scattered to the wind these five siblings grew up apart and saw each other on high days and holidays, cultivating for themselves relationships built in the headiness of relaxation. It’s still like that today, even though the Matriarch that was my Ouma passed away some years ago, these five no- longer- children get together and have a really good time. A time of laughing, horseplay and connecting much better with each other than most people with siblings ever do.
It’s something to envisage and even more of a blessing to endure. There are off colour jokes for every occassion – even more so now the older they get and become less inhibited by what other people might think. When one is in their company for an evening you wake up the next morning with aching belly and facial muscles from all the giggling (and food, there’s always a lot of very good food). There are wrestling matches and tickle fights – something you don’t want to get involved in and make yourself very scarce from if you see one brewing, unless- you’re into that kind of thing. The whole fun of it being that they each weigh about 100 kgs. Making them half a ton and a city pavement wide if they’re walking abreast and so they adopted for themselves the term – The Big Five.
Those of you that are au fait with your African Safari terminology will recognize the similarities. The Big Five are at the top of their respective food chains and a feature on many Bucket Lists all around the world. The Elephant, The Rhinoceros, The Lion, The Leopard and The Buffalo – not necessarily in that order, my Mother and each of her siblings represents one of them. They didn’t have to argue about who was who, very diplomatically the names were written down and placed in a hat and each was allowed to draw their lot. And they wear these labels with a pride – who wouldn’t want to be equated with any of these glorious beasts?
I see the Internet calls the real five animals the “Famous” Big Five. My Mother and her siblings much more modestly are simply The Big Five – they have printed t-shirts, sweaters, bumper stickers, glasses, mugs and peak caps to prove it. They frequent sleepy sea side towns in the years that Christmas isn’t celebrated at one of their homes (every second year there is a Christmas Tribal Gathering) and they take the place by the horns – loud and laughing their socks off, they always make a lasting impression.
If you encounter them, ask them for their autographs and you can tick them off your Bucket List.