It was exactly 40 years and 2 days ago, that I stopped being the centre of my parents’ universe. Arriving on the scene was the first of eventually seven siblings–a sister. Her first act of muscling me out of the spotlight was deciding to be born a mere 2 days after my birthday and a pseudo-holiday to boot. They named her Colleen to keep with the Irish theme of her birthday.
The thing I really love about this photo is the sucker lying on the carpet in the foreground. This must be around Christmas 1971 I would think, since the first brother does not seem to have made an appearance yet.
We grew up fighting like cats and dogs which makes sense since her favourite pet was cats and mine was dogs (her cat was Fat Albert, my dog was Sunshine). Her favourite colour was green (obviously) and mine was red. She has proof on tape cassette that I smacked her when she irritated me. Which, frankly, was often, (that she irritated me. I’m sure I only smacked her the one time). Thank God it’s getting harder and harder to find anything that will play tape cassettes.
I was always so loud, I couldn’t get away with anything. She was so quiet and demure and delicate. Oh you were, don’t deny it. She got away with sooo much. I remember one instance where I fought our mother like crazy because I didn’t like my lunch, but I couldn’t get my dessert until I finished whatever it was. Miss Cutie-Pants, bat my eyes, Colleen, showed our Mom her cleaned off plate and got her dessert while I raged for another half-hour at the injustice of it all. When Mom went to clean up she discovered little Miss Cutie-Pants had stuffed her food in a crack in the couch.
I kid you not. Such a sneak. But did I learn from her example? No, I did not.
She was a real girl. Not that I was exactly a tomboy, but I had no interest in getting my ears pierced or thinking about what hairstyle would suit me–at least not until I realized that Colleen thought those things were important, so I thought maybe I should pay attention a little more. She could glue and tape and colour and cook effortlessly, while I struggled with anything that involved fine motor skills. In the domestic department I was eventually relegated to peeling potatoes as my dinner time chore because I was deemed insufficiently able to do anything else. Colleen on the other hand was like a sous chef to our mother, being the type that hypothetically might get an cake icing set for one of her birthdays.
But despite being very different, we did a lot of things together. We learned the Free to Be You and Me album by heart, and let us not forget Raymond Burr and the Cinderella album. We made up dances to Bad, Bad Leroy Brown and various songs off the first Shaun Cassidy album. We fell in love with the Muppet Show, and Diff’rent Strokes and the Sound of Music. We giggled and tormented the quartet of brothers that followed. Sorry Bill, you bore the brunt of that.
And, I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point, she became the big sister. While I was dicking around in university obsessing about a major and writing papers on important topics like the Romantic poets, and worrying about why I didn’t get cast in the teacher’s pet project, she got a diploma in Early Childhood Education (top of her class), became the manager at a respectable university child care centre, got married to her high school sweetheart and had two babies. So much for the eldest forging the way. I was still the first to make out with a boy in the family living room, and you just can’t take those kind of accomplishments away from me.
Since we’ve grown up, she has become one of my closest friends. She’s looked after my kids (she was my Griffin-whisperer), and I thank God every day that she became a therapist that works with autistic kids (a good one), since having a child on the spectrum means that I’m frequently calling on her considerable knowledge on the subject, and crying on her phone shoulder.
She’s embarking on a brand new decade today, and since I still am chronologically anyway, the big sister, I can tell you, it’s not all bad on this side. It’s not all good either, but then neither were the twenties, or the thirties. Am I right?
Happy birthday little sis. I love you.
And to you readers, you all should go read her blog, wish her happy birthday, and then subscribe because she’s a fabulous writer too.