Sister’s birthday

Posted by Robyn - April 20, 2021

     The 19th today, my sister’s birthday. I was eight years old, and she came 4 weeks late. All my mother’s babies came late, and so did mine, so perhaps we are changing genetically.  
      My mother tried to get us, me and my other sister, terribly excited about it, but I think our interests were elsewhere. At about 8 months gestation she drew us to her most importantly, and told us that we were going to have a dear little baby brother or sister, and we had to promise not to tell a living soul.  And we did most solemnly promise, but several days later a classmate told me that her mother was expecting a baby at the same time as my mother , so we were diddled on that one.

      The baby arrived at 8 pm, four weeks overdue.  We had finished the first of a series of awful meals cooked by  my father in Mum’s absence. Neither of them could cook, but my father’s efforts were amazingly bad. The telephone  went, and my father heard, then he carefully put our hands together and had us dance around in a circle, shouting "Hooray". That gave rise to the story he told forever after, about us dancing for joy in a circle when we heard of our new sister.

       The next evening we visited my mother in hospital. We had endured three more of Dad’s meals, and we sat on the edge of her bed, and begged her to come home. We told her how Dad washed our faces with the dishcloth, sopping wet. I suppose we looked at the baby. I remember Dad telling someone that it was ugly.

    Mum stayed in hospital another week, despite our entreaties. And things didnt go well.

     At 2 days of age the baby vomited blood. The doctor tried to be reassuring, saying it was ingested blood from the birth. The baby would not suck properly. It screamed between feeding times, and was too exhausted to suck when it was delivered from the nursery to be fed. On Saturday afternoon the young nurses congregated in my mothers room and watched their boyfriends playing football in the oval below. And at one week an ancient nurse brought the baby in, saying "Take this baby home, or it will die." So my mother checked herself out.

     Then started the heavy lifting. It was a Walcha Winter, bitterly cold. The house was old, damp, uninsulated, and draughty, and my parents would have preferred to be boiled in oil rather than spend money on comfortable furnishings.  The baby screamed all night and all day. My father kept himself as far as possible from the scene of action, sleeping at the other end of the house. My mother, always on a short fuse, screamed of her endless martyrdom. And I was suddenly of an age to be expected to help. Three exclamation marks. I hadnt seen that coming.  I already  suffered the martyrdom of having to look after an objectionable oppositional younger sister, and there was suddenly much, much more.  Errands, drying dishes, sweeping the kitchen floor, on top of piano lessons and piano practice. And the ultimate insult was to have to rock and sing that awful baby to sleep.   She would lie very still; her eyes would close; I would creep away;then she would scream, then my mother would scream, and I would have to start again.

   Also, this baby refused to gain weight. The child of the opposing team across the way gained her pound a week, without fail. My sister was skinny and fretful, and my mother was worried to distraction. My father stayed outside and did gardening chores. 
   After several months I had two younger sisters to mind. I treated them both as badly as I dared, and I think they can still remember......

   This youngest child did grow , now and then, just a bit, and she became an elegant frail white-blonde pixie like creature of delicate beauty.   The parents both became misty-eyed when they set eyes on her. Father had endless pet names—Light of My Soul, Sweet Thing, Heart’s Desire, Love of My Life. As she grew older she and  Dad would sit together watching the afternoon childrens programmes on TV whilst we helped prepare the evening meal. Then we washed up while the parents bathed and anointed her before bedtime.

 So now she has turned 69. I think, yes, 69. 
  I sent her an email.🤐🥴🤓🤓🤓