Today my little sister turns 23. She is approximately 17,000 kilometers away from me, probably opening the lacy black bra I got her for her birthday. Yes, I got my sister sexy lingerie…that isn’t weird, right?
The relationship between my sister and I is the most complex, yet one of the strongest relationships in my life. We’ve fought like cats and dogs since we were kids, but I love her fiercely and would protect her to the end of the earth and back, and I know she’d do the same in return.
When my sister entered this world, my first words upon seeing her tiny swaddled body were “who’s its mother?” It’s a story my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, family friends – every man and his dog who knows about it – like to re-tell over, and over again. I am sorry sis, that that is our opening legacy.
With relatives in Queensland our family regularly made the trek from New South Wales to Brisbane in the family Ford, and I think backseat boredom was my sister and my greatest bonding tool growing up. We were the children of a time without screens to keep us occupied, and we used to kill that time much to our parents horror, by singing…loudly. We loved to make up dance moves to go with songs, and perform routines to each other. Our go to for many years was ‘Buses and Trains’ by Bachelor Girl, impressive I know. It had descriptive and often bizarre lyrics perfect fodder for inventive jazz hands with lines like ‘I’ve sunk out at sea, crashed my car, gone insane’. I think we reached new highs when we started to create our own songs – our best was ‘Traffic light song’. Pretty self explanatory, this musical genius came to us while stuck in a traffic jam, who would have guessed it. It was inspired in part by Brittany Spear’s ‘Stop Right Now’. Yes, that happened and yes – we still remember the lyrics, and corresponding moves.
Another corker of a childhood memory is the backyard photo shoots, we’d spend hours playing with dad’s ‘fancy’ camera of a weekend. My personal favourite, was ‘autumn leaf modelling’, a series of photos of my sister and I posing with different coloured and shaped leaves. The resulting images are as brilliant as you are imagining. I think the garden hose even featured in one…
I have amazing memories of building forts with my sister, riding our scooters around the velodrome surrounding the oval across the road, the excitement when mum would slow the car down at Mitchell street on the way home from school, we both knew what that meant a treat from the bakery for afternoon tea. I loved the muesli slice but my sister would opt for a custard tart, which I thought was repulsive. On weekends we’d get dad to put up the hammock, and we’d lie in it for hours reading our books, feeling very grown up, but then revert back to our squabbling selves when someone would accidentally touch the other with their toes. HOW COULD YOU, YOU’RE DISGUSTING? Or we’d fight over who got the ‘better’ hammock side. On birthdays the tradition was opening presents in mum and dad’s bed followed by croissants for breakfast, Christmas we’d both wake-up during the night at the same time to do the obligatory feel of the stocking at the end of the bed, just to make sure it was full. There was the Halloween tradition, the one time of year mum would buy chocolate and lollies and my sister and I would cross our fingers for no trick or treat visitors so we’d get to eat them ourselves. Don’t even mention the excitement when we would go out for dinner, and be allowed a soft drink with our meal. A SOFT DRINK ( Mum, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate your discipline with sweets now I am an adult – but then, you were a monster ) How could I leave out the TV tradition, when we’d mute the opening song of the Simpsons, and then Neighbours so mum and dad wouldn’t realize we’d be watching shows they hated. There was the bus routine, walking down to the corner of Janet street in our bright red uniforms, waiting for our friends who lived a few doors down to join us, because we wouldn’t dare just meet them at the bus stop LITERALLY ABOUT 100 METRES AWAY. On the days we’d walk home from school, there was the joy of the orchy cup. We’d spend the first half of the walk dawdling as we tried to melt our treats enough that we could flip them over – that’s where all the concentrated juice was ya’ll – so god damn satisfying. Another weekend pastime was creating menus for our parents, cafes if you will. It usually just consisted of a choice of two sandwiches and juice to drink, but our parents would always make a fuss and play along. Even when they’d end up with soggy messily made cheese toast-y. The best part was decorating the menus and then naming your establishment. My sister still gets pissed off with me to this day because I ripped her off about her choice of cafe name…’Hot Work’… brilliant one sis, really inviting. For years afterwards, it was one of my favourite things to just whisper Hot Work in her ear; it would result in instant meltdown. My sister and I were also really into weird art, we’d watch those bizarre do it yourself kids shows and replicate the weirdness. Bread-man anyone?
It is amazing the silly games, and fun you can create when you are a child. We went on the most magical adventures together, lost in our strange world of creativity and imagination. My sister is someone I was always 100% comfortable with whether that was to fight with, scream at, laugh with, be completely myself with. I don’t think I even truly appreciated how much she knows me, warts and all – until now, writing this all down. She is the person I learnt about life with, who I first traveled the world with. I would have hated to admit it then, but she was my best friend.
I guess it’s for that reason our relationship hasn’t been immune to a few hiccups. Jealousy, annoyance, anger, we’ve weathered it all. When we were young and she was being a pest I used to have this tactic where I would squeeze her arm, tight. It hurt, I knew it did. But when she’d run crying to mum and scream ‘Gemma squeezed me!!’ I knew it sounded ridiculous. I mean I didn’t punch, kick or slap, what nonsense is she on about? When we were older, we’d have weird fights about values, and expectations. But no matter how big the blue, it has never been relationship ending. There was a time there when I was about the age my sister is now, 23. My sister and I grew apart and didn’t really have much do with each other, both in relationships and living in separate cities. Both trying to find ourselves and build our adult lives as early 20 somethings. I remember during that time I would say to mum, I just want her to loveeee meeee. I was like a puppy wanting the attention of my little sister, but she needed her space. Eventually she let me annoy her again and as adults we’re each other’s venting boards, we bitch, moan, laugh, relax into our weirdness. Because we know we can say and be pretty much anything around the other and it just has to be accepted.
My sister and I were lucky enough to grow up in a family with an abundance of unconditional love. Our lives were that perfect it’s boring. We grew up with stars in our eyes and no idea that the world or a family life could be anything other than happy. But I like to think we didn’t take that for granted, our parents raised us to be grounded, empathetic and smart. One of the ways we tried to thank them for all they’d done, was to decorate their room. While mum and dad were treating themselves to a holiday in Vanuatu, my sister and I went all Renovation Rescue on their bedroom. They’d had the same dowdy bed-spread for decades and while they’d always made sure our rooms were every gaudy splash of colour a teenager could ever want, their room never took priority. So we stripped it, painted it, and pooled together our money to re-design it and pimp out their walls and coverings. It was one of those weekends were we worked seamlessly together, determined to make our parents proud. It’s achievements like this that get our minds running a million miles ahead like when we were children. We have a background dream bubbling away, to open a cafe together. I would be in charge of the menu and promotion – my sister would be the designer, and sell her art and flowers in the shop. We often get onto the topic and get lost down conversation rabbit holes of what decor we’d have, what cakes would be in our shop front window. It’s like one of those distant dreams that probably will never happen, and probably shouldn’t – we’d murder each other. But my gosh, it’s nice to fantasize about.
I now find myself in a position where I am watching my sister finish university and go through much of the emotion, and experience I went through when I was her age. She lives on the other side of the world from me, and I miss her so much. Occasional Face-times and regular snap-chat conversations (usually in the form of ugly photos sent to the other, that are just short enough they’re to hard to screenshot) is how we catch-up currently. I know as soon as I see her it will be like we were never apart, in-fact we’ll probably start squabbling about something within minutes. I am fiercely proud of my sister, I want nothing more than for her to be happy and get everything in life and love she wants. She is one of the most talented, creative, loyal, kind-hearted and head strong women I know. Even in the moments I want to do nothing more than throttle her, I will always champion her success, defend her honor and be everything and anything she needs in a big sister. Happy birthday Kate – welcome to 23.