When I was younger I would avoid the question “how many siblings do you have?” like the plague. I hated the mixture of disbelief followed by amusement that would flit across people’s faces whenever I told them I had “five older sisters”. I came to realise very quickly that people really lacked imagination because the comments were ALWAYS exactly the same….”Your poor father!” “I can just imagine the arguments in that household…!” “Do you all wear the same shoe/clothes size?” and sometimes they were a little bit more offensive…“Didn’t your parents have a television?” or the most recent one ” Six children???That is SO bad for the environment!!!”
As I got older I learned to deal with the question a little bit better, but things were more uncomfortable after my father passed away. Strangers always insisted on knowing how my father felt about his plethora of female offspring (presumably to calcify their pre-conceived idea that my father was a typical chauvinistic ethnic man driven by notions of patriarchy and had instructed my mother to have the next child over a hole in the ground so they could just bury it alive if it was ANOTHER girl). And I never knew whether to tell them the truth or to give them a vague answer that was neither here nor there.
Truth be told I never really knew how my father felt about it anyway…it’s not exactly a topic of conversation you would have over dinner…“how was your day?… what’s new?….how do you feel about not having a single masculine child to carry on the family name into future generations?”
With that being said, I can definitely understand peoples shock at the strange dynamic of my family. We were six women who shared exactly the same DNA but came in six entirely different shapes and sizes.
If I had to differentiate our personalities I would use the analogy of a 1920’s gangster family where each of us played a very distinctive character. Sister #2 and #5 were the hot-headed, irrational family members who wanted to solve every issue by stabbing people to death with a blunt butter knife. Sister #3 was the calm, collected detective who has the investigative skills worthy of The KGB or Mossad- things never got past her. Sister #4 is the one who lives abroad but sporadically comes to family meetings to give her two cents on the next course of action. And the eldest sister…sister #1 is the one who keeps at arms length from all the family dynamics unless its absolutely necessary for her to get involved. In any case she will be there with her M16 ready to fight alongside us.
As for me? I’m always Mary Contrary….offering a completely different idea to anything the sisters propose, sometimes I’m wrong but most times I’m right (my leverage in family politics is rising with age).
And so there we are. We were never the lovey-dovey, supportive, encouraging types of sisters. I remember seeing Full House as a child, watching with wide-eyed disbelief whilst DJ and Stephanie Tanner hugged and professed they would “always be there” for each other. “Did sisters really do that?” I asked myself as a memory came into my head from earlier that day when I had unexpectedly seen my sister in Coles and she had just walked past me in the aisle and discreetly given me the finger.
Although we were never the type to openly profess our love and support for each other we knew how to share things with military precision. The equal distribution and administration of goods in my household was so advanced, it would make Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels proud. We were deeply collaborative and would always give each other exactly what we knew they needed.
I have always wondered what it was like to be home alone for extended periods of time. I remember coming home from university once and finding a completely empty house. I filled the bath, turned on candles, switched off the light, and was ready to enjoy the silence. Approximately 7 minutes later someone was home and my dream was shattered. And I seemed to think that it would change as we got older… but then they began to reproduce. Now I have smaller versions of them who look and act exactly like them climbing on top of the couch and doing a little bit more obscure actions like clucking like a chicken whilst pointing to the fridge because he wants to eat an egg.
So yes, having five sisters has given me a range of stigma’s, but has also afforded me the ability to live a range of events vicariously through them. It has given me the opportunity to decide for myself the types of things I would really like to do in life and the things I would really not like to do in life.
Whilst i’m deeply apologetic for my parents decision to have a family that is SO bad for the environment, I can confirm that we have never spilled copious amounts of oil into the ocean, nor incinerated a large amount of toxic waste and allowed the fumes to permeate into the air…. we actually take recycling very seriously thank you very much!