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And then there were none: an ode to the Thembisa 10


And then there were none: an ode to the Thembisa 10

Oh where are those 10 darling tots? It’s one year on and we’ve seen them not. Their birthday we wanted to celebrate. To light candles and bake a cake. Please, don’t tell us they were just a fake. For our hearts would surely in pieces break

Features editor
Whatever happened to the Thembisa 10?
TO WOMB IT MAY CONCERN Whatever happened to the Thembisa 10?
Image: Carlos Amoto

A mom who we heard was

the best in the herd

Was blessed with largesse,

So said all the press,

Ten babes in her tum,

Oh wonderful mum!

From near and from yonder,

Folks looked up in wonder

A fable, a miracle!

What a fine chronicle!

We waited and waited,

with all our breath bated

For the day that the stork

would do its fine work

Oh, when would they come,

ten bundles of fun? 

The president himself did fondly decree 

All over the country the people would see

A day for our nation

to embrace celebration 

To sing and rejoice

in one unified voice 

Our laughs and our whoops 

Our tears and salutes 

The pope declared miracles —

these tiny popsicles

The stars burned bright

sweet twinkles of light

From France to Kuwait

they did fascinate 

From Rio to Hanoi,

Folks sang out of joy 

Happy heads of state

Did dance and ululate,

We played guessing games:

what would be their names?

Sipho, Thabo and Ben?

Sweet Mary-Ann, Thandi or Jen?

Vusi and Jack? Tshego or Jill?

Mary and Pinkie? Julius or Bill?

Would all the babes  want to suck? Oh mommy, we wish you lots of  luck!

Would all the babes  want to suck?

Oh mommy, we wish you lots of luck!

Would there be bootees and bibs for all?

A nanny and granny always on call?

We hoped for a carer, a sergeant-at-arms,

To dress and redress, with oil and sweet balms

An opera, a play, a movie  a script,

their tale was already a fabulous hit

Mommy would cluck just like a hen

her precious brood, a fabulous ten

Twenty-four seven,

she’d be in heaven

Ten cots for the tots —

is that asking a lot?

What about noise

From her girls and boys?

The baby cacophony,

Or elaborate symphony 

An opera or sonata,

soprano or cantata! 

The story did fascinate

and sums we could aggregate:

A decade, a decimal,

numbers irrepressible!

A century of toes

and mountains of clothes

Bonny cheeks 20,  

Of thumbs there’d be plenty

Mom and pop would never be bored,

With their lot a Guinness record

Seven boys togged out in baby blue,

three girls dressed up in a different hue.

All those shorts and all those shirts 

All those blouses, and what about skirts?

Mountains of socks

and plenty of jocks

Lorries with Pampers,

biltong and hampers

All things in bulk,

or else they might sulk

The fridge would be jammed

With good wors and ham

Eggs and salami,

cheese and pastrami

Among all the siblings, 

would be no quibbling

Mom would be strict,

no food would be nicked

They’d eat all their greens

And not make a scene

 Or there’d be no jellies,

 to fill all their bellies.

Who would do dishes?

Grant mommy’s wishes!

The aunts in the hood

The kind and the good 

With Handy Andy and lots of Omo,

Lucky Mom would not go solo.

They would buy a much bigger house

For ma, the babes (and the dear spouse)

A longer table to stretch out far

For each little sibling and mom and pa

A bag of tots to be watered and fed

With Marmite and jam and slices of bread

Buckets of Nando’s, and Wimpy on call,

Chicken Licken and Coke for them all 

From the big shops all the loyalty cards

For all the promotions mom will look hard 

Game, Pep Stores and Mr Price, 

The big shops would mommy try to entice

A red carpet out at Pick n Pay

if mama wanted  to pass that way.

Ten bottles to clean and also to scrub.

Two hundred toes and fingers to rub

Endless loads and Purity hampers,

not to mention mountains of Pampers

Bunnies and toys, for each girl and boy,

Loads of prezzies for the decuplet of joy

But what to do when load-shedding struck?

Bathe the babies or clean up their muck?

Were they ever real, would papa recall

Their imaginary names, one, nine, and all?

What about teacher, or reverend preacher?

Would the school be forever in shock

should the tots start running amok?

And hubby, was he just a regular guy,

or would he leave mommy high and so dry?

Every night would he slip away to the pub,

To down his beer and eat his grub?

Away from the cries and buckets of bibs,

far from the bawling and brawling sibs

The ten tots would have loads of fun,

Enjoy every game under the sun

Barbies, Smurf and Lego for all,

hilarity when they kicked at the ball

They would go to the beach to splash in the sea

With cozzies, bright lilos one ice cream or three

There to build a large sand bank

Bury dad in it, shoulder to shank

Imagine a lifeguard, with binos to scan

The particulars of this extraordinary clan 

Ten merry faces and 100 toes

 – oh and the fingers, don’t forget those.

The lifeguard’s face would turn a bright blue:

“Get out the water you, you and you!”

After their visit he’d throw in his towel:

“Can’t do this no more,” he sadly would howl

They’d go to London to meet the Queen,

pat her corgis and suss out the scene

Down palace corridors they’d merrily slide;

under the throne they’d cheekily hide

Upon my word, what a strange sight!

Ten babies, if my eyes serve me right

Her majesty would loudly and proudly proclaim,

“Methinks, life will never be the same again!”

In Hollywood from a black limousine,

the ten would happily smile and preen 

Social media influencers they would surely become

– to their whims and wishes, all would succumb

On Twitter they’d be trending rather a lot, 

No doubt they’d always be super hot

From Rio, Sydney and Timbuktu,

from Dallas, Jozi and fair Peru 

They’d follow their antics,

Their jokes and semantics,

But hark, oh reader, let’s take a pause —

Our merry tale has one or two flaws

We’ve waited in vain

through thunder and rain

A year has come and a year has gone

Now is the time the ten should turn one

But out there there is nary a sign

Of our ten tots completely divine

Gone with the breeze,

Like a sigh or a sneeze.

The babes have vanished into thin air: Our tears flow and we wait in despair.

No gurgles and cries from the cot;

giggles and laughs there are not.

The babes have vanished into thin air: 

Our tears flow and we wait in despair

 No bundles of joy, no glimmer of hope,

 Not for the Queen, neither the pope 

Can we now ask the obvious question

That gives us a bout of bad indigestion

What did we see in mommy’s tummy,

A bag of foam or one big dummy?

How sad we are at this turn of fate

This miserable and sorrowful state 

No onesies, and not even a bib

A conjuror’s trick, an enormous fib

But we will always remember 

From March to September 

The tots we did not hug and get to see

And love them for all eternity

Ten little stars burning so bright

So far away, in the depth of the night 

We wish you well in Never-Never Land

We hope life there is lovely and grand