October 4, 2013

Sisters, Sisters




I have three sisters and two brothers. I am the youngest and my sisters are all older than me by four, five and nine years, respectively. As we grew up I certainly felt like the youngest by far, especially when my sisters were teenagers and I was still a little kid with no fashion sense. I was still wearing baseball shirts and cutoff jeans when my sisters were taking disco dancing lessons and donning sequined tube tops. Until sometime after my eldest sister moved out, I shared a room with my brother, Stephen, who was two years older than I. Steve and I would lie in our beds talking about what we'd do with a million dollars and what we wanted for Christmas. He built model cars from kits at his desk and painted them with toxic smelling high gloss paint. Our room's walls were yellow and the decor was basic and boyish, but I didn't mind at the time. Our mother read to us from Little House on the Prairie while we listened from our bunks, but other than sleeping and preparing to sleep, I spent little time in that bedroom.

And then I moved into the girls' room. The girls' room had blue patterned wallpaper and clothes all over the place. Makeup and mirrors and perfume and pretty pictures on the walls. I slept on the bottom bunk and Pauline slept on the top bunk. Clare had her own twin bed across the room. When my sisters thought I was sleeping they would gossip about the boys in high school. By the time I was thirteen I saw our small-town boys in a whole new light. When I was older and met one of these notorious males I said to him, "Oh yes, I've heard all about you."

"All good I hope," he said, grinning arrogantly.

"Hmmm...not completely good, no," I replied, grinning mischeviously.

Pauline sometimes sang to me before I went to sleep. Often she sang me a few verses from Blondie's song 'Sound Asleep'.

Close your eyes and you will see micro flashing neon lights
Open your eyes and you will see it still looks like the same thing
Lie and wait for sleep and listen to your heart beat too fast for sleep

I remember her voice, quiet and sweet floating down to me from the top bunk, soothing away the 'bad thoughts' I was often plagued with in the silent darkness - terrible imaginings that my mother was going to die or I was going to be kidnapped by a vampire or a dirty pirate. Other times she made me and Clare giggle with her hilarious parodies of popular songs. We Lamb girls were famous for our late night fits of silliness.

My eldest sister, Monica, was out conquering the world, or at least Middle Canada by then. She had moved to Winnipeg with a friend and before long had met her future husband. When Monica got married, all her sisters were bridesmaids. I had begged to be included in the wedding party, although I was only thirteen, and she readily agreed, not wanting me to feel left out. Eventually, Clare moved out to Winnipeg to join Monica, and also met her future husband in the city. Pauline tried Winnipeg, too, enjoyed it and then came back to the mountains of British Columbia. I went for one wonderful summer, but then came home to attend college. Monica and her young family moved back to B.C, and within a year or two all my sisters were back living in our home province. I went away to university and lived with Clare and her husband, who was working on a Master's degree at UBC. We had a great time together, attending aquafit classes at the local swimming pool, cooking and going out on the town on weekends.(I did study a little, and Clare worked full time.) Clare and her husband moved back to Nelson when the year was out, as did I, to take up my summer job once again. I maintained the idea that when I finished my education I would move back to my home town so I could live near my family permanently. That dream was not to be. I met my future husband and after living in Vancouver for a year we moved to a town about 300 kilometers east of Nelson. I was still able to see my sisters often and I fell in love with the Rocky Mountains and the East Kootenays. My life was changing and expanding, but it was good.

The happy close proximity of my family members was not to last. Within two years my husband was transferred to Vancouver Island, Monica's family moved way up to the North Coast town of Prince Rupert, and Clare and her husband moved back to his home province of Manitoba. Pauline stayed with her daughter in Nelson where my parents and eldest brother, Francis still lived with his family. Stephen was in Vancouver and before long would relocate to Calgary with his family. In typical Canadian fashion, we all moved to follow employment in our chosen fields. Nelson would continue to be our meeting point, usually in summer, but it seemed we were destined to live much of our lives apart.

Two years ago, Monica and her family moved closer to us. We can now drive five hours north and visit for a weekend, and vice versa. I am over the moon to be living so much closer to her now. We are nine years apart in age, but the gap closes as the years go by. Facebook and email helps to keep the communication going between all of us in our large extended and ever growing family, and I am grateful for the ability to share photos and stories about our children and our activities. The sister relationship can be a complex one at times, but our shared history and our deep love for each other continues to see us through.

After I had my third child, who was a longed-for girl after two energetic little boys, I needed a bit of a break. After three years or so, however, I began to long for another child. I made a deal with God: I would have another baby if it could be a girl, a sister for Emma. I got my wish and Emma got her sister. At first, Emma, who was almost five years old at the time, was not overly impressed with this 'thing' that usurped her position in the family, but within a short period of time, the girls became very close. Sometimes I wish I had had them closer together, but I know that as they grow older the gap in their ages will cease to matter as it did with my sisters and me. And if they end up living miles apart like my sisters and me, the distance will only make them appreciate their times together all the more.

My girls

My girls like to sing this old song from the musical, White Christmas



The top photo is of my sister Monica (on the left) and me, taken this past weekend at her home. 

18 comments:

  1. Once again Rebecca you have painted a picture of a childhood many dream of. It's also wonderful that you have been able to stay close in spite of the physical distances between you. I hear the longing for 'home' in your words and can certainly identify with that. Thanks so much for sharing a piece of your childhood!

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    1. As Agatha Christie said in her autobiography, we remember the things we want to remember ;) There was some fighting, too, but lots of love. Thank you!

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  2. My girls always like to sing that "Sisters" song, too. In fact, sometimes when they were goofing around they would announce, "We're living in a musical!"

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    1. I can imagine your girls doing that, Wendy!

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  3. Entertainment sure has changed over the years. :) I'll have to play the video for my girls.

    Reading your sibling history and seeing the loving photos of you and your sister and your beautiful girls, gives me hope that my girls (who are close in age and competing with each other) will mellow soon. Sometimes they are just giddy with each other, and other times, it's whining and fussing. I know they love each other, though, and I'm glad they will have each other in the years to come like you have your sisters.

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    1. Yes, yes it has. I like watching old movies with my kids to see how they react. It's entertaining.

      Siblings compete and fight and love each other fiercely, at least that is how I remember it :)

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  4. This was fun. I have two older brothers and have always secretly wondered what it would be like to have a sister. Then I grew up and had three sons and wonder what it would be like to have a daughter. I will forever wonder on both counts, but I can live vicariously! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. That's the great thing about reading, right? We can live vicariously through the people and characters in the book/blog/article!

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  5. How lovely to hear your family story and to see you and your sister and your two girls. I still miss my sister and wonder what it would have been like to be mothers and aunts together.

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    1. I think I remember reading a post you wrote about your sister. Would you kindly direct me to it, if such a post exists? I'm glad you enjoyed hearing about my sisters and me.

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  6. Jings you and your sister are like peas in a pod! And what a beautiful smile you have in this photo Rebecca!

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    1. Yes, we look a lot alike, Monica and I. I was so happy in this picture and that always brings out my best smiles. Lovely to hear from you Al!

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    2. I know. Been a while. Things are a bit tough just now. Looks like a bit of light at the end of the tunnel though....

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    3. Oh, I hope that light persists and grows stronger and stronger! Thinking of you. My husband just went through something difficult and I along with him, of course. We seem to be coming through that tunnel. There is always light somewhere, thankfully, although it sure can be hidden sometimes.

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  7. I am so glad you shared some of your life with your siblings. It is always nice to see how different families relate. I had three sisters and one brother. I shared a room with two of my sisters. Your story of your sister making you feel safe and comforted brought back a memory of one of my older sisters. We would have what we called "problem night". I would tell her about something that was bothering me and she would always make me feel better. I haven't thought about that in years! Thanks for reminding me.
    It is so nice that your sister lives closer now and you get to see her more often. And so nice your girls are close. Love that song : )

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    1. I love my sisters and value our upbringing so much, as you do. Thanks for sharing your story, too!

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  8. a touching post...smiles at your sister singing to you...i have a sister...we were never close when we were you...she was my antithesis in many ways...it was after we had that space we learned to love one another...i am glad we had the boys 2 years apart and have taught them to love one another well...smiles..

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    1. You know, with people we didn't get along with as children, we don't pursue later relationships, but with family we seem to. It's those ties that bind that maybe make us try harder to find common ground. Teaching your boys to love on another is the best peacemaking gesture in the world :)

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