Blackboard paint, chalk, Acrylic, and enamel on paper March 2015
I was a middle child…..of four. How can that be you might ask when there should be two middle children (of four)? Well the ‘other’ middle child was my brother, the only boy, therefore his status was an assured position in the hierarchy of siblings. All he needed to do was sit there and look good, which was difficult considering his stick thin legs, freckled façade (which didn’t get any better with age I might add), and being in the unfortunate position of having to wear his older sisters hand-me-downs (yes BATHERS and pink cardigans)!
This left the peas in a pod, the three sisters, which gave me the status of middle child. We all had the same mousey brown hair colouring, completed by sadistic bowl hair cuts (performed by our father the would be barber), eye colour, skin complexion (though not as bad as our brother, thank god)… and unfortunately more often than not wore the same matching outfits. Why parents of the 60’s wanted to militarize their offspring in uniform, is a concept quite beyond me. Yet this only served to make my brother more unique and my sisters and I less indistinguishable!
This did however have a major impact on my psyche, looking like a cloned version of my older sister and my younger sister a cloned version of me. People often mistook my little sister and I for twins; even our parents got us mixed up and couldn’t remember which was which or who was who, which was convenient when you wanted to pass blame onto the other! Often my disinterested father he would call me Brend-Barb-Brenda Barbara…..our parents were confused then why the hell couldn’t they have at least given us more original names that didn’t begin with B and end with A!
As a result I spent my entire childhood hating my younger sister.Why did I have to have a clone, wasn’t one of me enough? My older sister had status that could only be admired,…as older sisters do. Its automatic, it’s a given…..she was ‘shit hot’! She came before me by five years so I didn’t mind sharing a room with an ‘almost’ teenager who ultimately made me want to grow up way too fast and become one too. I hold her totally responsible for my early onset of adolescence at age nine and rebellious attitude by age thirteen. Although admittedly maybe this had some thing to do with wanting to be noticed.
She needs to be held accountable for something, because so far she hasn’t done anything wrong. I need to blame someone for my life not looking quite the way it should, so I will use her as a scapegoat for now!
Fancy having to share a bedroom with the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Dave Clarke Five, the Easy Beats, the list goes on, as it did with posters migrating across the wall of the bedroom in which we shared. Yes, I hold her totally responsible for my premature sexual crush (as a five year old), on Paul McCartney,…how could you resist those doe eyes bearing down upon you night after night?
So from the middle status holding point I asked of myself “Y”? And decided that to come first I had to be “X”. And this folks is where it all began!
Now adolescence was a game changer for us all. God spoke (our mother) and we were all given free will (about fucking time I might add), so at age thirteen we were allowed to groom our own look. Well lets face it by that time you are ready to tell your parent where to get off anyway.
The first thing to go of course was the bowl cut. My older sister promptly grew her hair to her waist and looked like a total babe. Mine however was too thick and unruly (funny that) and could not get it past my shoulders, but it was a vast improvement. I literally didn’t care what my younger sister did. I still resented her for being a clone so I was damned if I was going to set any examples. (I might add here in hindsight that if I knew then what I know now then I would have been a hell of a lot kinder and compassionate… but I wasn’t!) Nooooooo, I was way too busy developing the X factor, I wanted to stand out, I wanted my parents to “look at me”, not THEM! But they never did, in fact they weren’t looking at THEM either, because they were too busy creating the perfectly normal dysfunctional family unit with their massive fights – mostly over money, control, and dads ongoing infidelity – as I said, normal family life!
This was an incredibly convenient excuse however to get the hell out of there as soon as legally possible, and my older sister exercised it brilliantly by marrying her 1st love, which after a couple of years of wild sexual gymnastic back seat car events resulted in an engagement and the resultant walk down the isle to an “I do”,….just as our dear parents did. It was seemingly, the only way out! It was all very proper; she made her own dress, my grandmother made the cake, and dad donned the bridal ribbons to the chocolate brown Valiant and his own chocolate brown sports jacket with contrasting fawn pants to match the décor of the two tone car (I’m sure he loved that car more than us). He was undoubtedly thinking “one down, two to go”. The whole sche-bam cost around $200 folks. The days when parents didn’t mortgage their houses to get their kids off their hands, simply because they couldn’t bloody afford to. My younger sister and I strutted down the isle as her bridesmaids, in mild support of the brave path she was paving for us both. On ya Linda!!!
As the oldest child who was blessed with the simple task of being a trail blazer, proved her consistency when she changed husband ‘Steve mark 1’ out for ‘Steve mark 2’ who came with the far improved capability of ‘dancing’,….but that’s all!
Brother Randal followed suit 2 years later in same copycat fashion, also at age 21, 1st girlfriend, next step, engagement, marriage, babies…its pretty much what we were bred and brought up do,…procreate and populate.
There was no way I was going down that path, and so at age 17, with a one way ticket to Australia…I escaped, determined with the ‘one way, I’m outta here attitude’ to make a go of it. But what happens? Well what we were all conditioned to do as a child of the 60’s, I met a great guy and got married of course.
So, left behind is poor lil’ sis, with no one to groom her. Desperate to also flee the nest, hooks 1st guy that comes along and also marries at 18. However luck was on her side and this fortunately lasted less than a year, allowing her to move on before the damage was done with a far more suitable and long term mate. In fact to her credit is the only one who has gone the distance in the marriage stakes with all the comforts a long term relationship provides. Nice house on a sea inlet, holiday house, boat, caravan, and a garage full of sporting toys, and now also in retirement with a partner she still enjoys.
So, yes where am I going with all this sibling rivalry shit! After spending my whole life developing the X factor, which I don’t regret one bit by the way as I can boast a whole raft of multiple talents and personal achievements, but I wont, because we weren’t brought up that way. I have come to the realisation that family are important. Mum and dad are gone now, and thank god because they fought until their dying breath. There are four siblings, and even though it was a dysfunctional family unit, we still had each other. In fact we collectively agree that we all brought each other up, except for me who was busy being Ms X, Ms piggy in the middle wanting to hog all the limelight!
I have made a promise to myself to return to NZ each year, now that we are all getting older. My 3 sisters, 1 aunt and uncle, 5 nieces, their husbands and children and 1 nephew. They are my kin, my clan and the older I get the more time I seem to want to spend with ‘family’. But mostly I am looking forward to just hanging out with my little sister, to dance like nutters, sing karaoke, put on our grey wigs and simply pick up where we left off. Being sisters,…dare I say it becoming children again and having fun. She never held a grudge against me for being such a bitch and for that I love her like a big sister should.
How fortunate am I to be in the middle, to have a big sister and a little one too?