It’s called Generation Gap
Ten Years. The number of years between kindergarten and high school. The average time that it takes for an apple tree to grow from seed to tree.
Ten Years. The age gap between me and my eldest sister. That’s a long time.
Guess who is coming?
While I was still struggling over multiplication tables at lower primary, my sister was already off to college. She breezed in and out of home between semester breaks. All in a flurry of excitement, shopping and Mummy’s attempts to fatten up her perpetually skinny frame.
My mother, it seemed had woken up after a 9 year-long sabbatical after having my sister and in a hurry decided to finish off with the requisite sibling business. And that resulted in two more daughters. My middle sister and finally me. We were rightly coined as the ‘Step-children’ born just 18 months apart.
The Step-children. One was never without the other. One cried, the other consoled. One fussed with the food, the other helpfully offered to eat up the rest. One came up with a plan, the other executed it.
My eldest sister, on the other hand always seemed to be a bi-yearly visitor. The weeks before her arrival from hostel was peppered with tiresome tirades of questions by us.
“Will she be home today?”
“Is today the day?”
“When is she COMING?”
The questions continued right up until the moment she arrived. Which was followed by a mysterious bout of shyness which left us tongue-tied for a few hours.
And then the holidays properly began.
I remember that we quarreled a lot with her. Childish battles fueled by her for her amusement and to revel in the power that any first-born or older sibling enjoys.
She seemed to find out the all the little loopholes that we, the younger siblings had so ingeniously engineered. She retrieved hidden story-books from under pillows at nap time. She kept strict tabs on the hours we watched cartoons on TV. She reported food barters that had been agreed upon. She was the official home police sniffing out our little mischiefs from a mile away.
Might have. Just a bit
By the time I was in college, and attaining a mental maturity to bond with her, she was married with 2 kids. Juggling motherhood and a full-time job. Wiping runny noses, cooking, tackling tough stains… the works.
And I was in my own whirlwind of activities. Lectures, books, exams, crushes, friends and later on a new job.
You can see why we never made it to common ground. By the time I huffed and puffed to a station, the train had already pulled off from there.
And for her, I was always stuck in a time-warp. I forever remained the chubby 3 year old even after I grew one head taller than her.
Hey, bring the dirty laundry along, when you stay for the weekend. I’ll wash and press them for you.
Awwww…my baby sister. Feeling homesick? Come home. I’ll prepare all your favourite foods.
Am I busy? Well a little. But that’s ok. You come over. No problem.
And I wonder if I had taken her for granted back then. I might have, just a bit.
Do I know you?
She came to visit me when I was 7 months pregnant. She decided that I could NOT be allowed to travel back home alone for the delivery. So she packed up her bags, booked her tickets and headed out here.
And finally we were on par. 26 and 36. Not so bad. Two women, with a fair share of life and experiences behind them.
We spent a lot of time together. Made up for all those lost years earlier. Shopped a lot. Sometimes just pressing our noses shamelessly against shop-windows gazing at their displays. Sometimes buying. Gossiping a lot.
Me: “Do you think I can lose all this pregnancy weight?”
She: (rolling her eyes) “Trust me. Once the baby is here, that will be the least of your concerns”
And how right she was.
She was there beside me the 4 days at the hospital after my C-section delivery. My most vivid memory of the hospital is surprisingly not of my new-born son.
It is an image of my sister sitting on the hospital bed; her head slumped drowsily, with my newborn in her arms doing the night duty for the 3rd night in a row. No complaints. No questions. Just plain sisterly duty.
And now when I look back how I realize that she was always the same. I was the one who never saw it over the years.
My sister running all over town to get me that ‘perfect’ shade of white for my wedding gown. She refused to take me along in case I tanned too much from the sun and spoilt my complexion for the big day.
My sister saving up all those childish letters and drawings I had written to her while she was away at hostel. All of them lovingly preserved between old school diaries.
My sister reading each and every one of my blog posts (however boring) in spite of the dozen things she needs to do.
At the Station. On Time.
Took me a while. But I think I finally reached the station before the train took off from there. And did I mention? Ten years doesn’t seem so long anymore.
Author’s Note : This post was originally drafted as an entry for the ‘Chicken Soup’ book series along with another story. As irony goes, the other post got selected and this one found its way into the ‘Drafts’ folder in my computer.
Given a choice, I would have wanted this to get selected instead because that would have been a fitting tribute to a wonderful sibling.
To both my sisters,
I can imagine you both reading this post in your respective homes, snickering at our childhood adventures and gradually getting all dewy-eyed from the ending. Well that’s OK too, cos Mummy is not around to tell us to wipe away those tears and not be a bunch of cry-babies.
P.S. I am sending across a virtual hug and tissue box, so sob away! 🙂
The Youngest One
Exciting update as of 17 November 2011: Would’ya believe it? This post actually is getting published in “Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul: Celebrating Brothers and Sisters.”
I know! Almost a year since I published this post and more than a year since I wrote it. Even the optimists of the world would have said “Heck! Ya right!”. But the editor emails me today and yes its getting published.
What was that saying about “The fruit of patience being sweet or something”. Oh yeah, sure is! 🙂
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