I remember it well, the day my sister was born. I’d just turned six and my brother was nearly five. Dad picked us up from school and made the announcement:
Mum’s in the hospital, we’ll go and visit her now. You’ve got a little sister! Also, Bounce had kittens.
Amazing, right? We hadn’t even known our cat was pregnant!
So off we went to the hospital, where I met my new baby sister, Jak, for the first time. I remember looking down at her and thinking: I can’t wait to see the kittens.
You know those Hallmark cards you get, where there’s a long verse about the special bond between sisters? Well, from the day Jak was born, I wanted to take one of those cards and hit her with it. Repeatedly. The only kind of “special bond” we had, was the kind that grows between tormentor and victim. Some kind of warped Stockholm Syndrome version of love.
I’m not kidding — she spent her entire childhood tormenting me.
Admittedly we got off on the wrong foot right from the start. A few days after Jak was born, my parents explained to me that, although the demanding, crying, boring baby was going to be a part of our lives forever (and ever and ever), we had to get rid of the kittens. I’m not sure I’ve ever really gotten over that…
As a child, Jak was passionate, creative, independent, strong-willed, and determined to follow her own path.
Hold on, that’s what she’s like as an adult. Let me try again.
As a child, Jak was intense, messy, selfish, stubborn, and completely unwilling to compromise.
By the time she was two years old, she’d developed the “Jak Stare”. This stare was the bane of my childhood; a vaguely amused and superior look she would get when she couldn’t decide whether you could possibly be that stupid/ignorant/clueless.
I remember one of the first times she gave me the Jak Stare. I was eight and she was two. Mum called us to the table for lunch, and I raced in and sat at the table, waiting for Mum to finish making my sandwich. Jak looked over the scene, pushed a chair up to the kitchen bench, and proceeded to make her own sandwich. Because no one else would do it “right”.
Did I mention she was two years old?
(I have it on good authority that she would do the same thing today. Minus the chair.)
When Jak was 14, my parents had to move interstate for a year. Rather than disrupt Jak’s schooling, I volunteered to look after her. Much to my surprise, they agreed, and I moved back into the family house and took on the role of guardian to a teenager. It was then that Jak and I actually started to bond. (Although I still didn’t escape the Jak Stare.)
Now that we’re adults, I can read those Hallmark cards in a whole different light. Rather than thinking they’re all crap, I read them and think: Yes! That’s exactly what it’s like to have an amazing sister!
Of everyone in the world, Jak is the one person who I know with absolute certainty will understand and listen to me — even when she doesn’t agree with me, and even when she’s about to bestow upon me the adult version of the Jak Stare.
Jak is one of only three people who will ever understand what it was like to grow up in the family we did, and one of the few people who understand what it means to be “normal”, the importance of having only half a banana on a sandwich, and why Plebian the turtle has a removable shell.
But Jak isn’t just my sister and my friend. She’s an inspiration.
My sister is passionate, creative, independent, strong-willed, and determined to follow her own path. She’s open-minded and curious, interested in people and places and experiences, and endowed with an almost childlike sense of fun and adventure. She’s wise beyond her years, but young at heart. She’s generous, brave, and cynically idealistic.
Bring cynically idealistic isn’t possible, you say?
Then you haven’t met my sister.
Happy birthday, Jak.
Have a great night celebrating. Have a drink (or two) for me.
P.S. You’ll notice that, even though you called me a day late for my birthday, these birthday wishes are on time.
P.P.S. I’m not sure if that actually means that I’ve “won”, or if it just proves that I’m unwilling to go through with my threats…