My sister is 40 today. She had a party at the weekend in Cork (when all of my children were clean at the same time) but today is the actual day. When your younger sister turns 40 it doesn’t seem as old as it once was.
I was six when my sister was born and for years, I was just way older than her and had no interest in her concerns. When she was six, I was starting secondary school. When she was twelve, I was in college. She and my brother were great buddies uniting in opposition to my will. I was loftily above their concerns.
When she was very small, she was quite hard to understand and I do remember that my brother and I – who understood her with no difficulty – undertook to translate her utterances to our parents. This was a very frustrating experience for her as we said “No, she doesn’t want any cake, she says we can share it.” Perhaps as a consequence of her siblings being so vile, she became very good at hoarding things. Her sweets lasted longer than ours. She was a great saver. It was a running joke in the family that she still had her communion money – until quite recently, actually. But she was always really generous. She shared her sweets when we had finished ours.
She was very stubborn. Once on a camping trip to France when she was a small girl, she announced that she was going home in response to some spat with my parents. She stalked off furiously. My father looked up from his paper and, pointing in the opposite direction said, “Cork is that way.” She turned on her heel and walked determinedly that way. I am not quite sure how my parents got her to come back. She was also very responsible. She learned to cook early and she is still a really wonderful cook. From a very young age, she was in charge of cooking and shopping when my parents were away. I might have been in college but she was competent (though when the cat had kittens in the hot press while my parents were away, I was still the one who had to deal with it – I didn’t abrogate all responsibility).
Nearly seven years is a big age gap until your 20s but then we started to do things together. We went on holidays. I visited her in Plymouth where she had her first job. I remember having a lovely time. We took a sea tractor and went to Burgh Island for dinner. We had cream teas and we went swimming a lot [she hates going to beaches but she is very obliging].
As the years have gone on, I have appreciated her more and more. I speak to her almost every day. She gives great advice, she is really helpful and kind. My children love her and not just because she is extraordinarily generous to them. She is immensely reliable and obliging.
I know that people who haven’t sisters lead perfectly happy and fulfilled lives (like my firstborn) but I think I am very lucky to have my sister. I love to see her, I love to talk to her and I have great fun with her. We have a lifetime in common and a shared understanding of all kinds of things. She has a unique position in my world and it would be so much poorer without her.
So a very happy birthday to my wonderful sister and may she have many, many more of them.