On being a sister

I don’t ususally do posts like this but my sister asked me to recount memories of us for a project she’s doing. After I finished I realised I quite liked it so decided to post. So I’m afraid there’s a lot less swearing and insulting than normal…more of that next week.

Being one of thee sisters has always made me feel powerful; we are Shakespeare’s witches, Greek legends, the charmed ones. We are mountain ranges, the holy grail, faith, hope and charity. We tear each other’s hair out with rage (sometimes literally), and wail that we are sorry afterwards. Now there is distance between us, but as soon as we are together again it’s like we’ve never been apart; and the sight of us stood next to each other as we pose for pictures at Christmas brings our mum to tears, as we look on baffled.
As the eldest I’ve always felt a primal pull of protection over the ‘little two’. It feels sometimes like I am slightly apart from them; they will always seem young and I’ll never stop worrying. I worry about them getting ill, their boyfriends, that they might get cold if they go out without a coat. Although genetically they are only my half sisters, we are completely whole. I don’t think that they have ever felt closer or that they love each other more because they share slightly different DNA- we come as a package, and we are all equal.

I can’t remember Emma being born, but I do remember that I loved her instantly. There were no difficulties settling her in like there are with other children- I didn’t resent the attention or feel left out. I just wanted to stroke her tiny tears hands and wait for her to grow up so we could play together. When Josie arrived, mine and Emma’s bond was already concrete. She tried to join in our games but was often left tripping over skipping ropes as she desperately toddled along beside us. We teased her with ice lollies, making her stand on her tip toes to get a bite, and then pulling it away so sticky drops fell onto the grass. We invented a million games, and most of them were stupid/dangerous/messy. We looked like two lovely innocent children with our curls and blue eyes, but we were secretly off exploring, eating mud and worms (sorry about that one Em), jumping off furniture. What I remember most about my childhood is the cliché of long hot summers; I swear august of 1996 lasted for 3 months. We would be straight out into the garden in the morning, dressed in our always slightly too tight swimming costumes. In the weak sun we’d run around whooping with excitement while mum took an age to fill up the paddling pool- icy cold water from the hose topped up with 3 loads boiled in the kettle.
We must have fought a lot too, but time has erased most of that from my mind. Emma was always quick to cry and then quick to recover; she’d shout for dad to come because I’d pushed her, but would have forgotten about it by the time he arrived. One of our best fights was caught on home video- I was playing with her toy in the bath so she sneakily retaliated by putting water in my soap dish. Family legend has it that after overhearing my dad swearing at the football on TV, she (aged 3) proclaimed that I was a ‘wanker’. Josie grew up fierce and hot, loving and hating in equal measure. She’d have the most brilliant strops, and the rest of us would be bent over with our stomachs aching from trying to hold in our laughter, as laughter only caused more angry tears to spill into her open mouth. She would stamp out her fury with her little feet and then come back to us, where she would lavish hugs and smiles and charm. Josie drove us mad, but I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t fallen for her.

The Graeae were three old crones who shared a tooth and eye, harmoniously passing it between them, and never apparently screaming ‘I WISH YOU’D NEVER BEEN BORN’ as one of them nicked the eye when the other needed it so they could go to a party. I’m pretty sure this is because they were around before the dawn of hair straighteners, as the fights in our house really started in earnest when we got older and all started stealing each others things. We fought with each other, with our parents, with friends and boyfriends. For a few years our house was a war zone, and if you entered you ran the risk of coming across a sobbing screaming hormonal girl, slamming doors and locking herself in the bathroom.
My identity issues about my birth dad started to make things really difficult, and I started to notice the physical differences between us more and more. They were blonde- the kind of blonde that turns gold in the sun, with soft downy eyebrows. I was scrawny and dark; thick wiry curly brown hair that my mum couldn’t control. I was covered in freckles, had long thin legs and one rather large Frida Kahlo eyebrow. It wasn’t jealousy, but I wanted to look like them so that people wouldn’t be able to know on sight that I was the odd one out. We were so close that I wanted to be almost a carbon copy of them. But everywhere I went, bits of them were beating in my chest like little hummingbirds, tethering me to them; which is now enough for me.

A few years ago something changed and we just started loving each other all over again. I think it was when we all became adults; and we started to like each other so much that we would be best friends even if we weren’t related. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, and when Emma and Josie return from university we are immediately back to being the self proclaimed ‘three musketeers’. This year has been a hard one, and in the front pew at my grandparent’s funerals we all three held hands tight, leaving nail marks in each others palms. We rethought life and saw death, and reminisced about how lucky we’ve been. We have come out the other side, emerged blinking and shivering from the secondary school wilderness years, and it’s like it was when we were little children. We have sleepovers, eating sweets and teasing each other until we‘re in hysterics; for no one on earth can make you laugh like your sisters. Dig out the paddling pool girls, because summer is coming.

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