This is a blog post.(#) It has words. They are carefully and deliberately put together from thoughts, ideas, nuances, shards of memory, sideways glances, fluff on the carpet, cliche.
It has a point. I don’t want to get to it too early and give the game away; but rest assured there is one.
Unless there isn’t.
My sister celebrated 35 years of marriage a week or so ago, as did her husband. I remember that over-half-a-life-time-ago day. Deb arriving in a horse-drawn cart, carrying a parasol, looking petit and feminine. Grant in his white suit. Mum falling, or did she faint? Maybe she was pushed.
That memory sparks another. Grade 8: “You’re nothing like your sister, are you?” Mr Murphy, my geography teacher, providing an exemplary example of good teaching. Yes, in front of the whole class.
It wasn’t the first time I’d been asked that question, or a worse one: ‘Why can’t you be more like your sister?’. They’re not really questions I’ve ever felt capable of answering beyond a sullen ‘I dunno’. But they’re questions that never cast me in a good light. It’s like when my mother says, “you’re just like your father” in that tone she has. The one where I can tell she doesn’t mean the nice things about him.
My sister is good. If I wasn’t like her, then I must be bad.
That’s how I grew up – as a living comparison to my good sister.
Deb is fiercely competitive. She loves to be the first one to do things, and she likes to come first when there’s even a hint of a possibility that there might, perhaps, even slightly, be a chance of a second place.
That was my place. Second.
But this isn’t about Deb. This is about me. The above was just a bit of context; some background information to place what comes next. There’s a technical term for it, but my mind is drawing a blank at the moment (the blank my mind is drawing has a border around it – a pretty kind of green filigree – but the bit in the inside is still blank).
You see, something happened the other day: I had a thought. A revelation if you will. It surprised me.
I was walking to the train station not really thinking about anything, in that ‘I’m walking with a purpose and my mind isn’t really present’ kind of way I have, when a thought popped into my mind. Just like that.
‘Sharon’ the thought said in that spooky way thoughts speak to you (not that my thought spoke in a spooky voice. Rather it was spooky that my thought addressed me by name). ‘It doesn’t matter that you aren’t like your sister. And’ my thought paused for dramatic effect (now that I think about it, I probably added the pause in later) ‘being nothing like your sister doesn’t mean that you’re bad’.
“Well that’s a relief” I said. Out loud. In that way old ladies do when they’re having existential conversations with themselves on the way to the train station. I smiled at the young man walking past to show that I wasn’t really mad, but his look suggested that he thought I was on the verge.
‘And.’ Oh, my thought hadn’t finished. I’d better pay attention. ‘Being just like your father doesn’t only mean bad things either’.
“Humpf” I said in a surprised kind of way. Again I said it out loud. The young man looked around to see that I was still trotting at his heels. He sped up.
It was a relief, to be honest, to know that I could think of myself differently: not in comparison to my sister (who hadn’t been married first (that was me) but whose marriage had lasted almost three times as long as mine … Deb: good/me: not so much), but that I could think of myself as my own self.
And don’t bother asking why I hadn’t come to that conclusion many years ago. That’s as much use as a teacher asking why you aren’t more like your sister. A mumbled ‘I dunno’ is about as good as you’re going to get and I don’t suppose that’s the answer you want.
So there you have it.
I’m okay not being like my sister.
She’s cool and all that, but I’m okay too.
(#) this is in response to my husband’s recent blog post which wasn’t, in fact, a blog post.
One thought on “Revelations for a new year”
I have no idea what a “blog post” is so I hope I am okay in writing this.
As you can see it has taken me a whole month to digest this blog of yours and I would like to make some observations as a nearly 70 year old, a proud aunty and a mother.
First of all you were never compared to your sister by us, you were different from the minute you were born. Where Debbie was a fussy eater you were so relaxed and very easy to put down in your cot, did all the things a contented baby did. I should know as I was close to both of you when you were born. Debbie up in Murwillumbah and you in Seven Hills.
We saw you a lot when you were growing up and again never compared your looks, personalities, or skills. Your parents were very even handed I thought. However, as you were only 14 months younger that Debbie, you assumed you had the right to have whatever Debbie was given even though you were younger. Some of the things I remember were bikes, books, clothes just to name a few. I remember one occasion where Debbie had waited to wear her first long dress and you threw a tantrum because you wanted one too.
None of this is bad, it happens in most families. Debbie worked very hard to do the right thing and was distraught if she thought she would get into trouble, you were much more laid back even though you were very bright you went out of your way sometimes to hide your busshell so to speak. You used to drop your head and mumble but you knew you could do the work anyway.
Yes, teachers do compare even though they shouldn’t. I had it all the time with Keith and Neil. Neil was forever being asked the same thing, just because you are brought up in the same household does not mean you react the same to every situation.
I really cannot understand why you have all this time thought of yourself as being a lessor mortal than anyone else. I have always thought of you and Debbie (and Warren too) as being your own people, all gaining your self-esteem in different ways and by different means but all very accomplished people, parents, partners, and loving children, what more is there when looking back on a full life.
Do I need to tell you how proud my Mum and Dad were of you? My Dad’s face would light up when you walked into the room and he was so proud when you named your youngest daughter Emma. On saying that, Dad was smitten by all his grandchildren but Debbie and you were the first grandchildren and held a special place.
You had and still have I believe a bit of a impish streak. You were quite capable of embarrassing us at the most inappropriate time for a laugh. Do you remember going to Sydney with my Mum and Debbie. You thought you would embarrass both of them by dropping back a few steps and acting like a spastic (not politically correct but you know what I mean), Mum and Debbie were trying to make you stop and making matters worst. I still laugh when I think of Mum’s face when she was telling me, she could laugh about it them but at the time I think you took a few years off her life.
Yes Debbie is competitive but I do believe that is because she has always wanted to do the right thing, and to stay on top of your game is one was of achieving that, but it doesn’t mean that anyone that is not competitive is less of an achiever.
You know all this I am only saying what you already know. I keep reading bits of your blog and trying to see where you are going with this. You say “That was my place. Second.” Yes you were born second but as I said at the beginning that does not mean second rate or lessor.
We all put titles on things. I was born third but always called the baby by my Dad – does that mean I stay a baby? Sheila was born first and from what I understand those who were born first had to break the ground for the ones who came later. Me being the baby was supposedly spoilt because I was the last. However, I always felt I had to look after my parents just because I was the “last” which I am sure Sheila and Roy would immediately say that it not the case.
Be content in your own skin. No-one can be you or would want to be if they knew how hard you have worked to achieve what you have. There is no one I know that works at things like you do. You have an amazing capacity to do what you set out to do even if it may take a while you get there.
I didn’t read Tim’s blog before I wrote all this and maybe I should have, however I am going to send it anyway and I hope you receive it in the way it is meant. And another thing (I was always taught never to start a sentence with “and”) your Uncle Eric always thought the very best of you too.