5 May 2008


With hindsight, I am lucky to have grown up with three sisters. At the time I was most unhappy about it, too aware of the lack of space, the niggling and fighting, the jostling for attention. As an adult, I am gratefully aware it, grateful for the many nights spent in conversation, the comforting arms around me in times of trouble and laughing, lots of laughing.

We comprised: big sis, momma sis, myself (dreamy sis) and baby sis. Big sis’ moniker was not a reference to her size, but rather her age. Momma sis received her name long, long before she became an actual momma, due to her the momma-like tendencies she had been born with. Baby sis was (unsurprisingly) the youngest and I, dreamy sis, was called so due to a love of being forever mentally absent (though physically present).

Big sis was considerably older than the rest of us, and was thus viewed with a mixture of unadulterated adoration and awe – she was our Goddess. She existed on a pedestal, and has done ever since. At an age where make-up and boys was a world undiscovered, she would horrify me with tales of a future – my future – that would involve boyfriends and marriage. Aghast, I would argue that my beloved red BMX and climbing trees were all that mattered to me, thank you very much.

Big sis left us just as we were approaching adolescence and life was getting more interesting. She disappeared at an age where I didn't realise that people, certainly not those I loved so intensely, actually died. For the three of us that remained, our childhood innocence also died that day.

We were now three sisters, and rather than cling to each other in the madness that followed, we each clung to our own individual rafts to survive: the pain in each others' eyes was too much to witness and our individual memories of her, much too precious to share, were jealously guarded. The fact that we were simultaneously limping into adolescence with its requisite moodiness and confusion only served to emphasize our separation. We drifted apart on those turbulent seas and only drifted back to each other once adulthood had begun to show its face.

Momma sis has never shed her moniker and, I suspect, never will; actual motherhood has only strengthened the endearing ways in which she continues to mother baby sis and I. As the second oldest she heaved the mantle of 'big' sis onto her small shoulders and tried to lead us towards the light and resurrection from grief; though she herself was blind. Taking on the responsibility was not an easy option – her younger siblings looked to her more and more for a replacement of the 'Goddess' they had lost. She struggled, but ultimately succeeded, and perhaps it was ever meant to be so.

The departure of big sis fell hardest on baby sis. They were not on speaking terms at the time, and the chance to repair the bridge of misunderstanding between them (for that was all it was) was lost forever. Regardless of the comforting words from her remaining sisters, she needed to re build the bridge herself single-handedly. It took many years and her courage in finding her own peace at the tragic timing of events was, and still is, an awesome feat.

Now, as remaining sisters all 'growed-up', I truly recognise the blessings of my sisters' presence and pour gratitude upon it (this, despite the niggling and fighting that has never quite managed to leave us). Though her presence is now ethereal, big sis is still very much the first sister in our quadrangle. Though I don't really know what the afterlife has planned for us, I look forward to the day where we are four once again.

Today's favourite song: Mike Oldfield, 'Crime of Passion'


pen said...

poignant and beautifully written.


Robin Westphal said...

The loss of a sibling is so incredibly hard on a family. Glad you are all healing.

Granny Smith said...

A very moving story. I have always wanted a sister, so my dear daughter-in-law Kristin has offered to be one for me - and has acted like a sister ever since. We email or Facebook message each other several times a week as well as visit whenever circumstances allow. Sisters are a blessing.