Growing up, my siblings were my only real friends, especially my two youngest.
There is a four-year gap between my older brother and I. The biggest gap between all us kids. This gap gave a natural break between the big kids and little kids and that’s how “The three little kids” saying was born. When I was little it didn’t matter because I didn’t realize what those words meant but the older I got the more I desperately tried to make the switch.
One day I made a pronouncement at Family Home Evening,
“Ok everyone, you know how it’s the three little kids, well now that I’m older I think it should be the three big kids and the two little kids.”
I was laughed at…they said it was cute but I didn’t want to be cute. I was serious. And as much as I tried to swing that shift, I was the only one voting and “the three little kids” stuck…forever. It didn’t matter how old we got, we were still known as the three little kids. Today it’s a title I wear proudly.
My Little Sister
I was cut off from my mother’s breasts when my sister was born. I was too little to remember but I’m sure it had some impact on our relationship. We are only sixteen months apart. I have no recollection of my time without her, she’s always been there.
It’s the summer of 1977 and we just got our new bunk beds. My dad bought two sets of old metal army bunks; spray-painted one blue and the other pink. We couldn’t wait for the paint to dry.
My mom and us three little kids, were across the street at the neighbor’s house, playing with their kids while the moms sat and chatted in the driveway. My mother was not comfortable with the social aspect of chatting. She was an introvert and still is. My father was an introvert too. The sun was shining down and there was laughter in the air when my mother announced, Well it’s time for bed. I’m not sure if this was her way of politely excusing herself from the social chat but we started to chime together our protest about bedtime but we remembered this was the night we got to finally sleep in our new beds. So our protest came out in cheers of excitement and happiness. Jeanie, our neighbor, pulled the funniest face while she asked my mom how she got us to be excited about going to bed.
I had the top as I was the oldest. We were so excited that it took us ages to fall asleep. My sister and I made up a game. I would slide my arm down between the wall and the top bed and sweep it along the wall like a pendulum and my sister’s job was to try to catch my hand. We laughed and played this game for years. We even had a song we made up to go with the game.
When we were young, our mother made incredible cakes–edible art. Our favorite was a carousel cake. It was beautiful with different colored frosting horses iced to bright colored straws with a big top tent on top she made from a paper plate. My sister had a frosting collection under her bed that she would share with me sometimes. Once she let me eat a carousel horse, which was very special.
My early days before school were bliss and my sister, brother and I would spend hours together making up games, spending whole days in our pajamas listening to the Mary Poppins album over and over until it wouldn’t play anymore. We had each other and that was enough.
My sister was my best friend, the one who always went along with my hare-brained ideas and would take my side when it came to fighting with my other siblings. We had each other’s back always until one day the light behind her eyes just vanished. Something was different. We were different. She was different. After that, we argued all the time, fought over toys and hated sharing a room. Once we divided the room in half but that didn’t work as the door was on her side of the room and I couldn’t jump far enough to get to my side of the room without touching her floor and mom put a stop to the dividing the room idea when the fights turned into slaps. We only saw the idea on Brady Bunch.
Brady Bunch Photos by 3219a2.medialib.glogster.com and www.sitcomsonline.com
She moved into her own room when I was ten. It wasn’t until her early teens when things really stood out of how different she was and it wasn’t until her twenties when she was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the same thing dad had.
We went to different Jr high schools but in high school, we shared a year. She was a sophomore and I was a senior, a crossover year for us. I tried to rekindle what we once had but each time I got close she would bite. I always thought it was me, something I was not doing right, so I tried harder to get close to her again. I never gave up on her. It was hard because I always needed time to nurse the bruises she gave me and her nursing the ones I gave her. We did more damage than good.
The truth is none of us knew what she needed especially her. The adults had no clue. She was told to “make friends, join school clubs, don’t be so shy” but when she did try to assert herself she was shut down for that too. Nobody knew what to do. She was smart, really smart but she was flunking out of school. Her battle within just couldn’t cope.
None of us had it easy but out of all of us, her mental illness is most pronounced. Like my dad, she is not always easy to love but I know she doesn’t mean to be that person. All of us at different times have been her targets. Her daggers hurt. She knows how to cut deep. Forgiveness and love are the only way to survive having her as a sister.
Since moving to Australia, I watch her struggle from afar and I’m less of a target. She’s hurt me to my bare emotional core yet I still love her and will never forget that little girl who I laughed with and shared her frosting collection with me.
I don’t have memories of my little brother coming home from the hospital and getting to hold him, but I do remember having to stay with my Aunt and Uncle when my mother was in the hospital. Since there were so many of us kids, we all got farmed out to different places. Dumping us on one house “would have been too much”, mom said “and you need to wear a diaper at night. I know you’re a big girl and you don’t have any accidents, it’s just so your Aunt won’t have to worry.” I remember waking up and telling them every morning (for the 3 or 4 nights I was there) that my diaper was dry as I was a big girl. It was important to show I was right about something. I was three.
My Aunt taught me how to write my name and for every letter I wrote a page of, she gave me a chocolate chip. I loved it.
Stayed tuned next week for part 3…My Tracy.