I am the eldest of four. I think I am a nice older sister. Kind and patient. Of course it does help that I live a very long way from my siblings. Perhaps if I lived nearer I would be bossy and controlling. Wanting things my own way. The eldest is supposed to be nurturing of the youngest, perhaps copying the parent when they are told what to do.
Nurturing, ha! Try telling that to the four year old sister I left at school. I was supposed to walk her home from school for lunch. I completely forgot. My head stuck up in a cloud where I imagined I was an only child, bouncing on a sparkly space-hopper. A cross mum and a very tearful little girl stuck a pin in my fantasy. Still, they went on to trust me. I wouldn’t have.
I remember her being born (I’m not naming names to protect the innocent). An aunt turned up with a present for the baby, but not for me. What was she thinking? I was two and half at the time and I still remember the indignation. Perhaps I should have had therapy.
The next few years I spent passive-aggressively getting my own back. Mostly with a crude punch, followed by her screams, then my punishment. Not subtle enough hey? I can remember breaking tiles in the bathroom and leaving a note saying my sister had done it. Complete with her signature. I was five, she two and half. Do you see the flaw in my plan? Yep. She couldn’t write.
I could be very cunning too. I once dragged my sister, who annoyingly had gleaming blonde hair (mine was mousey and unmanageable – still is), into our parents’ bedroom, a space we weren’t allowed in. I took out one of mum’s lipsticks and spread it all over her face. ‘Hold this’, I said offering her the tube with a wicked grin. She complied trustingly, albeit with watery eyes and a wobbly bottom lip. I ran from the room at speed, shouting at the top of my voice. “Muuuuum!! You’ll never guess what she’s done now?”
I didn’t get away with that either. I almost despaired.
My sister got the brunt of my horribleness. I started to think there might be something wrong with me.
My brothers weren’t spared. I remember tricking one to climb into a blanket box (hide and seek don’t you know?), coercing the other two to sit on the lid with me. Pretending we couldn’t hear the poor love’s screams. Or the time I pretended to phone a man to take away the younger child as he was not doing what I told him. I curdle with shame. This brother has a good memory – I’m sure he could come up many other awful things I did.
I grew out of this behaviour. Honestly. But not before one summer evening when I decided that the television should be turned off while I directed them all in a play. Out of the goodness of my heart. They were crap and I began shouting at them. My sister had received a tape recorder as a Christmas present that year. She waited until I’d run of our steam and played it back. What was this terrible screaming? A witch, a banshee, experimental music?
I’d like to say that I was overcome with horror, that I apologised to my nearest and dearest, took them in my arms and hugged them tightly. But that would have been completely out of character. It went something like this. ‘Get out you ungrateful urchins! I will never direct you in a play again, not even when I’m famous!’
They filed from the room, giggling behind their little hands.
As for me, I was cured. I became the best sister in the known world. Not really. There was a fair amount of teenage screaming when my youngest brother broke into my four hour session in the bathroom with a screwdriver.
Did I imagine their gleeful faces as I waved goodbye to live on the other side of the planet? Of course I’m a changed person now. I’m really quite nice.
I went on a playwriting course recently. I wonder…? Do you think they would?