My sister is six years older than me. This was an arguably convenient age gap for my working parents, but as far as my sister and I were concerned, it was redundant when it came to any form of fair and rewarding play. For the first six years of our relationship, in my sisters eyes, I was completely useless. For the following ten, I was mostly annoying and occasionally, on a good day, barely tolerable.
Growing up, she employed some strategies to deal with my vexatious behaviour. There was the time she asked me to say every swear word I'd ever heard so she could secretly tape me - she then played the tape to my Grandparents. Then there was the time she convinced me to walk in to one of my parents dinner parties, lift my shirt and shout "FLASHER". That one went down well. And of course there were the hundreds of times she threatened to physically abuse me for doing a range of things from breathing to standing in her room.
I thoroughly deserved it. Using a scale of one to ten for annoying little sisters, I would rate myself a solid eleven. I knew exactly how to push her buttons. My list of offenses is long. I'm not sure which event would be classed as my best? Maybe it was the time I set her room on fire when she was in the middle of a chronic asthma attack, or perhaps it was the time I went on a date with her to the drive-in. I can still picture the mixture of horror and disgust on her face as I begged my mother to let me go with them.
As you can imagine, the real winner in all of this was my mother. She adjudicated every argument, shut down every fight and begged for the whining to stop. On my mothers luckiest of days we would both turn on her and unite as one.
When we united, we were unstoppable.
When I was fifteen my sister was given the task of driving me home from boarding school. For four hours we talked, laughed, took the complete mickey out of each other and then somehow, became friends. It's entirely possible she may have let me have cigarettes and hot chips. We were Thelma and Louise, except I was wearing a maroon school uniform with fawn colored socks, matching knickers, and brown school shoes and she was driving a rusted out Kingswood with a really bad eighties perm.
When I was 16, she woke me up one morning with tears streaming down her face "I found him in bed with someone else". I handled it badly, I had no idea what to say, I suddenly felt sick and my heart hurt. I couldn't help her. I was too immature to be practical. So I sat outside her door with silent tears falling down my face as I listened to her cry. That's what sisters do when they can't do anything. They just stay by your side and wait for things to get better. Like labradors.
We've worked together, played sport with each other, got drunk together, giggled through each others weddings and to this day we continue to find ways to escape from my parents house and sneak off to the pub.
At my first child's sixth birthday, I stood with my 4th child in my arms. I had squished four babies into the same time that my own mother had produced two. I had a plan, I figured having them close, would make them close. I wanted them to look across the school yard and see each other. I wanted them to be mates. And they are, (most of the time), but this is only the beginning. A snippet in time, compared to what comes next.
You never stop being a sibling. It's there forever. Those memories in the early years can take any shape, from friends to rivals to complete distance, but as adults we get to decide if we're there because we have to be, or because we want to be. My children have to spend time together, they have no choice. One day they will. And I hope they feel the same way about each other as I feel about my sister.
Happy Birthday for tomorrow Smelly Shelly.