The story of the missing Jack
When I was a little girl of nearly four years old, my sister, Catherine, was born. Catherine was born six weeks early which meant that when my Mom came home from the hospital after the birth, she didn’t bring my new baby sister with her. Catherine had to go into the neonatal ward with all the other premature babies. She was so small that she could fit into my Dad’s hand. I was not able to visit my sister as the hospital was very strict about visitors and little girls of four years old carried germs. My Mom did tell me about her though and one of the things she said was that Catherine had a needle into her head to feed her. The needle looked giant inserted into my little sister’s tiny head.
In anticipation of the new baby’s birth, my English Nana, my Mom’s Mother, had sent some beautiful clothes for the baby and she had also sent me a set of twin dolls. The dolls were a Jack and Jill set and were very beautiful. Their faces where made of moulded plastic and they had eyes that opened and shut. Jack had short curly brown hair and Jill had long brown curly hair. I had never had never such beautiful dolls before and I was completely delighted with them. I loved to undress and re-dress them, tying the bows on Jill’s lovely dress and putting on her little socks and shoes with real poppers on the straps.
After six weeks, the doctor told my Mom and Dad that my little sister was ready to come home. The doctor and the nursing staff at the hospital told my parents that my new little sister was very vulnerable to sickness and that they should keep her away from other people as much as possible for the next four months. We were living in a rented house at the time and my parents decided to give notice and move our family to the countryside for the necessary four months. South Africa was going into the winter months by then and the weather was getting colder. There were lots of cold and flu germs floating around and my Mom was terrified that Catherine would get sick. My Dad rented a cottage on the farm of a very kind Afrikaans family and we moved in very quickly. The farm was a vegetable farm and not an animal farm so there was not a lot of distraction for a small girl of four years old who’s Mom was very busy with a new baby. I didn’t go to nursery school during this four-month period.
Being a very gregarious person, I soon made friends with the small daughter of one of the farm workers. Her name was Naledi which means “star”. I have always remembered that as I thought it was such a beautiful meaning for a name. Much better than my own name. Naledi and I used to play under the hedge that surrounded the cottage we were renting. We played all sorts of made-up games and made mud pies out of the loose soil and water.
One day, I introduced Naledi to my Jack and Jill dolls. I didn’t have many dolls and toys but I did have a few. Naledi, however, had never seen a real doll before. She was completely enthralled with these dolls with the blue eyes that opened and shut and the perfect clothes that you could take off and put back on again. As Naledi was my best friend and we played together every day, I decided to give her Jack. That is what I did and I went back home at tea time with just Jill. My Mom was very cross about my giving Jack away. The dolls were a set and were a very expensive item so she was justified in her annoyance. I never regretted giving that doll to Naledi. We continued to play together with those two dolls and all manner of leaf plates, acorn cups and other playthings provided by nature for the remainder of my time in that cottage.
Sadly, Jill was eventually given away during one of our many moves but I often wondered what happened to Jack and to Naledi. Hopefully, that doll continued to bring her pleasure long after we moved back to town and I went back to my school and my friends there.
by Robbie Cheadle
Robbie and Michael Cheadle are the co-authors of the Sir Chocolate Book series