Day 3: A Letter to My Sister

Dear Amanda,

I could cheat, and get people to just click over to the last letter I wrote for you here; but I figure that’s not really in the spirit of the exercise.

I like letters that start with the word ‘Dear’. As opposed to other options such as:  ‘Attention’, or ‘Oi you!’, or ‘Listen up, I have something to say’. ‘Dear’ has such a embracing vibe, not to mention it rolls off the tongue more smoothly than any of the others.

So. Again…

Dear Amanda,

You’ve been my sister for 32 years and 10 months, give or take a few days. Somewhere along the way we’ve become grown-ups! You walked the path of childhood 4 years ahead of me and in some ways you made it easier for me when I came along behind. Thanks for that – I know at the time you would have preferred to make it as difficult as possible for me, but, well, sucks to your asthma!

Through my childhood eyes you were always so ‘ finished’, the antithesis of me. Your room was the clean to my mess. Your Barbie was always dressed down to her shoes, while I have a feeling mine was moonlighting as a topless barmaid somewhere in the seedy underbelly of our toy room. Your wardrobe was couture to my hillbilly ho-down. You were diligence to my disorganised. City to my country. I could probably go on but I know you get the picture.

The thing is, as a kid this used to drive me insane. I was forever measuring myself against your shadow and I never matched up. I hated always feeling like I was second best. When you think about it, that kind of sentiment could have spelled disaster for our future relationship. That, and the time you were in year 8 and I announced that you had blackheads in your ears  in front of the most popular girl in school 😉 (I took my shots when I could).

Instead we have somehow managed to not only escape the temptation of inflicting an  ‘accidental death’, but we have become two parts of a whole. It’s ironic just how close we are in adulthood. In fact, it’s downright weird

We have survived so much together, I don’t need to go into any of them because you know what they are! You are my confidante, my counsellor, my stylist and on occasion my padded cell. You are my Oprah, Dr Phil, Sloth and Lonestar. You are my industrial strength hairdryer and I can’t live without you!

You are gentleness and kindness personified. Sometimes it makes me cross the way people tread over your spirit, but I see you learning to find a deep well of strength that I always knew was in there. I look forward to seeing you ‘gently’ kick some butts when the opportunity presents itself! You have taught me about elegance, and poise and graciousness. You also taught me how to pick my nose when I was 3 – Thanks for that too.

They say you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.  We chose to be far more than family, and far more than just friends. We are sisters, a relationship that has created an infinite circle, an alloy of family and friendship that no other person can understand or share. It combines history and future, joy and pain, strength and weakness. It is a language, a soundtrack, an obscure movie line. It’s ours.

It’s only been 32 years so far, you and I have a lifetime to laugh, cry and read regency romance novels together before we are through with this ‘sister’ gig.

You are Dear Amanda, you are my other 1/4 of the m&m.

 

I just have one last thing to say….

I love… I love… I love you 

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xxoo

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Day 2: A Letter to my Parents

Dear Mum & Dad,

I guess I have to start at the beginning and say thanks for having sex 32 years ago. It was a defining moment for me. And also, thank you for never doing it again – except for that one time when you forgot to turn off the intercom system in the house. My sister and I have finished counseling and we are now reasonably nightmare free.

These letters really make me stop and sift through my memories, it’s a bit like gold panning. I scoop up a big bunch of stuff from my mind and swish it around to get rid of the boring bits like school, cleaning my room, homework, housework, nappies, chocolate. Then I spend snatches of time exploring the memories and emotions left over; every now and then a sparkle of gold catches me.

Some memories make me laugh. Like the time I threw that fake spider at Dad while he was driving on the freeway. Or when Mum would phone from some distant country town because she had slept through her train stop. Again.

Other memories make me shake my head and wonder what on earth you were thinking! Like the time my sister had to do an assignment in primary school about the dangers of smoking. Mum you thought it would be funny to parade us up to Dad’s butcher shop with real lit cigarettes in our hands (purchased for the authenticity of the poster) just to freak him out! Yeah, that didn’t have any lasting affects!

Then I think about our pets: ducks, dogs, cats, horses, sheep, a turtle, fish, cows, guinea pigs, rabbits and tadpoles; have I missed any? If there was an animal that needed a home and I found out about it, I was headed straight to you Dad – because I would feed it, and I would look after it! Anyone who visits the hometown lake can still see the descendants of Mr & Mrs Rubberface swimming merrily upon it’s water! I am so glad that my boys have inherited that same love and respect for animals that you nurtured and encouraged in me.

I think I can attribute my love of big words to you Mum. You once furiously admonished (big words 😉 ) me for ‘contradicting you’. From that point on I figured, “hey, if I’m going to get into trouble for it, I should at least understand what I did!”.

I also remember being homesick whenever I was away from you. School camp, horse riding camp, school holidays with Granny, a sleepover at a friends’ house. I longed to be home, where I was harboured and anchored. You sheltered me and accepted me, creating a world  for me that was safe.

I think more than anything, the abiding truth of your parenting is that you worked so hard for us to be happy. For us to have the things we needed, as well as some of the things we wanted so we could thrive and follow our dreams. I wonder if sometimes you doubt that you really gave that to us. But you did, and both of your daughters are now in their own way finding and following their dreams. We will always be held in the knowledge that you are proud of us, proud of the people we are as mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and friends.

This letter feels weird, suspended somewhere between funny and emotional, like it isn’t complete. There are so many things I would love to write but this just isn’t the place for it. The good thing is that I know I can say those things to you in person. I can tell you how much I love you and hug you. You will always be ‘home’ to the little girl inside of me and there is something very special about just being with you. Anytime and  every time. I know I have been gifted with strong, loving, encouraging, loyal and supportive parents. I hope that I reflect the wonderful example you have always been to me.

I also hope Mum, that I never contradict you again.

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I Love you both.

xxoo

The Morning Dance.

* I know I’m cheating but here is another piece from my uni workshop.

Side by side they stand in companionable silence, the smell of fresh sawdust hangs in the air. Busily their hands dance over the serpentine length of the freshly pressed sausage.

Outside is pre-dawn stillness; that breath the world takes before launching into it’s vital morning song, all the more beautiful in our quaint country street. This shop represents not just an occupation but a livelihood, a partnership and a family. The carcasses hanging stiff upon the steel hooks mean life and a future for my sister and I, tucked warm and safe up in our beds.

My dad cheekily bumps my mum with his hip. She responds in kind with a playful “oi”, never once breaking stride as she continues to link the days sausages. Loop and twist, loop and twist the dance goes on; though their fingers have turned a petrified purple. Loop and twist, loop and twist in mundane elegance; though their knuckles ache with the cold. Loop and twist, loop and twist; side by side they dance in our little shop on Station Street.

* This is based on a memory I have of my parents when I was a child. It was lovely to revisit it with the eyes of an adult, coloured by the wistfulness of nostalgia. Ah life as the butchers daughter! Now all of these years later I am proud to say that Mum and Dad are still dancing side by side through life. Just not with the sausages…

When I Grow Up…

One of the first questions an adult will ask a child upon meeting for the first time is; “so, what do you want to be when you grow up?” Perhaps this question is posed simply because it’s proven itself to be a safe and trustworthy bridge between the mutually opposing worlds of adulthood and childhood; much like Switzerland in WWII. It could also be that a sort of, masochistic curiosity drives us to draw out the dreams of the young; so that we might once again catch a glimpse of the world through their eyes, and bask in the limitless possibilities of the future; albeit vicariously.

So why am I pondering this most philosophical of questions you ask? No, I haven’t been overrun by preschoolers during the school break, but I have been confronting some of the echos from my own childhood and it’s amazing the power they still hold in my life today. The things which really impact us as kids, be they good or bad often follow us into our adult life and play a huge role in shaping the kinds of people we become. They affect the choices we make in profession, life partner, hair colour or whether the tomato sauce is stored in the fridge (yes) or in the cupboard (NO!).

I am no exception to the rule and my tender years were marked, by both the gentle nourishment of encouragement and also by the bruising hand of rejection . Still I grew into a reasonably well adjusted and law abiding member of society, I just find it difficult to map exactly when that transition took place. It seems that one day I was racing my sister to the letterbox in the hopes of a surprise letter addressed to me, and the next I am dragging my feet on the same journey only to discover that  all of the letters are addressed to me and I ain’t celebrating! I have become a grown up.

But what does that mean? Have I reached my destination? Is my life today the zenith of all of those childhood imaginings? I have to say, if that were true; my young self would be pretty miffed with me today. No, I think I’ll look at the eventuation of my adult self as simply another opportunity to consider what I want for my life and who I choose to be in it. Choice. It always comes down to choice. Keep living out the echo of a childhood identity, or stand up empowered, confident and informed about myself? I choose the latter. To live a life happy in my own skin, excited about new opportunities, surrounded by an amazing family and blessed with the best kind of friends; I think that is the kind ‘grown up’ I always wanted to be. What about you?