The longest love I’ll ever know

All sorts of crap gets written about sisters.

Much of it is cliché. We don’t drink wine together, or post sister memes on each other’s Facebook walls. If you hurt me, she will not come after you with a bat.

If anything, any violence in our relationship is reserved exclusively for each other. After approximately 48 hours in each other’s company, we start to snipe and bitch. I’ve never been as vile to anybody in my entire life as I have been to her, with relatively little provocation.

And, like almost all younger siblings I know, I can be disparaging of her. Fortunately, she’s stoical enough not too react too much. And, hey: she can serve it out too.

I never felt less cool as a kid than when she appraised me, coldly, flicking her glancing up and down over my not-quite-there outfit, my sloppy drunkness, my childish tears.

Plus, she was a hot teenager, and I had a lot of male friends. If you have been in this situation (second only to having a hot Mum) you will feel my pain.

All in all, as kids, we annoyed each other. We had baths together for many years, shared a bed on hundreds of occasions, pinching and kicking and irritating. She once convinced me that a paedophile was somebody who weed on children. I once physically shoved her in the tumble dryer. (She’s quite small, mind).

Sometimes, I think she comes into my room and waltzes out, leaving the door open… just to spite me.

And yet. She’s the only person I can answer the phone to by shrieking ‘Jessica, no!’ and gain total, immediate comprehension. Humming a bar of ‘Cats the musical’ is enough to launch a 40 minute long kitchen dance production.

We once spent an entire Christmas hiding a Satsuma in each others bags/scarves/shoes, to the point where I tried to pull out my purse to pay for an eyebrow tint and came out with a handle of tiny, squished orange.

Ultimately: I love her, fundamentally and deeply. She is mine to criticise and defend, to bitch at and love bomb. I criticise her and make sarcastic comments, but if you were to join me I would turn that same, sharp tongue on you.

She is my sister. My sibling. And a sibling is, with any luck, the longest love any of us will ever know.

Are we alike? Not really. She is reserved where I am open, polished and chic where I am scrappy, analytical to my emotional. She was a natural athlete – a ballerina, a member of teams, somebody who wore a bib with a number on.

I hated teams, and sweating, and long-limbed girls in pleated skirts braying towards me on the hockey pitch. I write for a living; she’s dyslexic. She pronounces bath like it’s got an R in it. I do not. 

Even physically, we’re miles apart: fair and dark, tanned and pale. Somehow, despite being shorter than me, she has longer legs. This seems unfair, but I’m learning to live with it. (She’s also got bigger boobs, but small tits are in now, so I’m over that, too.)

(“But there’s something…” people say, screwing up their brows as they consider us, “Something in the shape of your face. Something in the mannerisms.” Well, go figure: 25 years and a shared gene pool has to count for something.)

She is tough and brave and determined. I endlessly admire her capacity for grit, for survival, wrapped as it is in a small, blonde and neatly manicured package. This is incidental, but she is also beautiful; I know without seeing that she will make a beautiful bride, a beautiful wife.

That’s why I’m writing, you see: to congratulate her, to honour her. She’s getting married. (Can words be an engagement present, Sophie, or is that cheating?)

She has a date, a venue, and a fiancé. She has, in me, a Maid of Honour. Most of all, she has love: the sort of love that we can and should hold up as an example. A model to aspire to.

Like me, he isn’t very much like her. He’s loud, talkative, hyperactive. He comes from a clan, full of noise and love and bustle. I suppose you could call him the brother I never particularly wanted but am now delighted to have. When the ripples of Dad’s death closed shut, he was left within the circle, and I can’t imagine life (or her) without him.  

To look at them together is to see what love should be like. It’s wonderful, and I’m so honoured to be part of their day.

So here’s to them. Here’s to love: the perfecting blending of two things which were fine by themselves, but are somehow more complete together. As I often do, I reach for the words, and find Julian Barnes has beaten me to them:

“You put together two people who have not been together before. Sometimes it is like that first attempt to harness a hydrogen balloon to a faire balloon: do you prefer crash and burn, or burn and crash? But sometimes it works, and something new is made, and the world is changed.’

The world is certainly changed for us. It’s a strange thing, being a younger sibling. You’re always reaching, always trailing in their shadow. I can remember vividly thinking that whatever she did was the last word in cool – a Sienna Miller boho skirt, skinny jeans, dolly shoes.

I hated it as a child, but now I know a shadow is a cool, comfortable place to be. You can watch them strike out ahead and test the water.

And now she’s off again, the promise glinting on her finger. All that trailing along behind her – turns out it was practice, all along.

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