When I was little, there was one person in the whole world who had the ability to send me into a rage. She was about 3 and a half foot, had a wonky fringe and very much enjoyed doing handstands in front of the TV – while it was being watched. She also liked to steal diaries and do loud kissy noises when any boys were around.
Meet my sister, circa 1992.
There are nearly four years between my sister and I. So I was firmly used to being Number One Diva in the house by the time she arrived. To soften the blow, I was given a pair of roller skates and a pair of tap shoes the day my sister was born. Apparently she was a wonder child, who miraculously exited the womb to pop to the shops and find presents worthy of buttering up an older sister. Of course I was won over the instant I saw her – those were some very special tap shoes.
My sister (her name’s Lizzy, by the way) spent her formative years being carried around by yours truly. She was far more interesting than any dolls I owned. She was also a very willing audience member in The Molly Show; she was happy to sit and watch while I performed my latest choreographed piece to Kylie Minogue or Bonnie Tyler. I mean, she was only five months old and hadn’t learned to crawl yet.
As Lizzy grew, so did her personality. She was mischievous and annoying. But she was also very keen to please. I still feel guilty for the times I used to make her come to the park with me on holiday, only to ditch her when new, “cooler” friends came along. I was a pretty mean older sister.
But while she was my nemesis, Lizzy was also my best friend. When she was eight, a friend of the family told her off during a trip to France. I huffed off to her room with her, indignant that someone had the audacity to speak that way to my little sister – only I was allowed to do that.
As teenagers, we fought and made up and fought again. And borrowed clothes. And went on holidays together. And fought. And made up again.
Then, when I was pregnant last year, a twist of fate meant Lizzy was there when I went into labour. It wasn’t planned that way, but she ended up coming to the hospital and rubbing my back along with the (self-proclaimed) Northern Love Machine. She was the third person to see and hold Frog. That meant a lot.
Over the past year, she has been to visit every month or so, despite completing her first year as a doctor and working incredibly long (and stressful) hours. She’s bought presents and cooked meals and listened to my minor moans. She’s also told me to shut up and snapped at me in the way only sisters can.
Today has been another one of those days. As the NLM is away up north on his stag do, I’ve come down to the South Coast to visit Lizzy. Frog, Lizzy and I have spent the day paddling in the sea, eating lunch in a restaurant on the beach and browsing in shops.
The tables have now turned and my little sister is the fashionista in the family. So I will leave laden with cast-off lovely clothes (doctors get paid more than journalists, you know), safe in the knowledge that years of lending are finally being re-paid. My belly will be full with takeaway food and wine and my arms will be light from a day where someone else has held the baby.
So, to my ten year old self I say, “You are lucky you have a sister. It might not feel like it now, while she steals your Take That tape and draws in your diary, but one day you’ll appreciate her. One day she’ll buy you food and wine.”
And to a four year old Lizzy – “Don’t ever let Dad cut your fringe. It’ll look rubbish.”