Siblings worth their weight in gold

I  remember only ever wanting one thing really badly when I was young. My eldest brother’s Uncanny X-Men t-shirt.

Maybe Brian Mannix wasn’t cool by the time it was handed down. And being that I was third in line, that’s likely the case. I never did get it.

Just as an aside, I’m wondering now whether Mum had something to do with the hand-me-down Mack truck t-shirt not making it to my wardrobe? It came tantalizingly close; I remember all three boys wearing that shirt over the years, but I never did get it. Mum?

I have no personal knowledge of what it’s like to have a sister. Only what it is to be one. But I imagine were the four of us sisters, we’d have shared that shirt—that’s what sisters do, isn’t it, share clothes and makeup? Perhaps we’d have fought over it. Or perhaps, it’d be like it was with three boys and a girl; the shirt belonging to one, coveted by the others.

Helen Garner says she has feelings about her four sisters so dark and strong that the word love is hopelessly inadequate. So, t-shirt envy aside, I’m going to replace sisters in that sentence with siblings and call it my own.

When I was in kindergarten, the teachers poured glasses of milk that had to be finished before you could select from their plate of quartered apples. One of my brothers, fresh out of kinder, told me I had to scull the milk so that I could get the biggest piece of apple.

As we matured, so did the advice. One of them taught me that if I make a joke, I’m not to laugh after it.

Together there were opportunities to learn about patience (waiting for them to grow out of cool t-shirts…), fun and play, sharing, rivalry and compromise, and protecting, nurturing and caring for others. There were also practical lessons on guitars, bikes and in utes, in tractors, boomsprays, chaser bins and headers.

During high school one brother and I bought four poddy calves to rear and sell. I had enough money for one and he bought three.

When one calf died, I’d feel better if I knew now that we shared the loss, but I’m pretty sure my brother took it. When I sold my calf I bought a pair of RM Williams boots. Thinking about that now provides me with another lesson: generosity.

We also bought some sows and when one delivered her litter of piglets under a tree, my brother loaded the squealing little bunch into a clothes basket to move them to their shelter. He was followed in hot pursuit by a very irate mother.

‘Run, Colin, run!’ I giggled from the fence.

At that, the big sow turned and headed straight for me. All I heard as I turned and squeezed through the wire was ‘Run, Larissa, run!’ and there I hung from the barbed wire by my Balance windcheater.

Because I love a quote, how could I not finish with these two pieces of gold:

Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply… Jane Austen

To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time. Clara Ortega

I love that Elsie and Maeve have a sister. But more than anything, I love that they have a sibling. Now that’s gold.


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