These days I am thinking a lot about my sister. In the subconscious fashion common the writers,I have discovered in recent years that I have drawn on elements of and aspects of most members of my family inn my fiction (See ‘The Romancer' HERE…).
That is, except for my sister. I am not sure why.
Sisters grow up in the same background in the same physical and psychological environment. Significantly they share a uniquely derived gender identity,. But that does not mean they are the same kind of person. It merely makes a refinement of the differences between you – making them more ambiguous, more opaque,
I think we remember our sisters more deeply than other siblings. Maybe this relationship is bitten more deeply with love and guilt and perhaps framed with shared involuntary joys and failures.
According to social; anthropologist Margaret Mead, ‘Sister is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship.’
I trailed behind my own sister. She was always impossibly talented and superior, like our mother with her fine dark eyes and bright hair the colour of a new penny. My own mousy curls could, I knew, never compete. The difference was more deeply scored when I was told by one teacher after another that if I was half as good as my sister I’d be all right. I learned early that she was impossible to emulate. It was much easier to fail in her shadow.
I remember these crowded afternoons in a small front room, the Dansette clicking and purring. And a crowd of girls dancing together, strutting their stuff, chopping arms, jutting feet, learning the moves, ready for Saturday. My sister was popular, a leader among them. And could could she move! Syncopating steps in her green five inch heels as she danced the others into the floor.
When we were young wives she was generous to a fault. My new husband and I, broke after our wedding, lived for some months in her spare bedroom. On our first night there our narrow Edwardian wardrobe - stuffed over-full with our clothes – collapsed. The great clatter was followed by a deep silence while all in the house held their breath,imaginations reeling. And then, nothing spoiled, we all went back to sleep.
Hers was a pretty, brand new house: dainty wallpaper and cushions; tea on the table just on six: home baked pies and cakes. I would watch her as she put on her lipstick, combed her hair and set the table: a perfect wife, waiting for her man.
For me - messy. untidy, and disorganised - failure to emulate was the only welcome option.
And then there were the thing about children – one, two, three perfect babies. She was so good at this process that the doctor – a handsome man with neat manicured nails – asked the midwife to be called to witness what looked like a perfect event. The handsome doctor turned up, his pyjamas hidden under his elegant top coat. He witnessed a perfectly managed birth – a relief for any man I would think.
And now today a this Christmas time I am thinking about my sister and at last agreeing with the very wise Margaret Mead. Now we are both grown this has become the strongest relationship, stronger than it has ever been.
I'm looking forward to seeing her soon.