You two. So different and so the same. Nature and nurture at play. One serious and dramatic and soft, the other quirky and dramatic and wise.
Both of you in love with drawing and made-up-dancing and princesses and mermaids. One obsessed with flowers and seeds and reading, the other obsessed with order and tidiness and My Little Pony. And somehow it works – the closeness in age, the closeness in living space, the inevitable mutual obsessions of room-sharing-sisters.
And you fight. Oh yes you fight. Not daily, but almost. One provocateur who knows just the right name to call a big sister. Nooper-pants works well. And one victim, offended by name-calling, but not averse to a seven-year-old version of a Chinese burn.
But mostly, you play. Wild, imagination-filled games, with names plucked from your minds or from stories or cartoons. Merlaya and Merina and Shalaya. Or more recently, Daphne and Velma, and Fred for the small brother, who gets to play most of the time, but not when he’s lying on the My Little Ponies or standing on Barbies.
“Mum it’s lucky you had a boy as well as girls. Most people would want that so that they can play princes and princesses,” I was told today. He comes in handy that little brother.
You squabble. Sniping and nipping at the table, in the car. “She spilled her milk on my book on purpose” or “She won’t move her elbow off my car-seat” kind of squabbles. And when it escalates, and leads to tears for one and a reprimand for the other, there’s an intervention, and intercession; “Mum, she didn’t mean it, she’s sorry. Can I go play with her again?”
And you conspire together to hoodwink me. The first time I heard “Shh! She’s coming!” I wondered who “she” was. Then I heard “You go distract her” and was accosted by a dancing pre-schooler, determined to block my way with waving arms and flippy legs. And then there was the time I asked you what secret you were both keeping. “Don’t tell her, don’t tell her!” was the less than reassuring response. After some coaxing, you, little-girl said “Ah we’re only joking, there is no secret” and your big sister, looking impressed, said “Good save, well done”. You do know I can hear you, right?
And you play and you squabble, and sometimes I wonder if you have too much time together but when you’re apart, I’m proved wrong. The absence of spilled milk and elbows on car-seats leaves a void. Sad eyes, a down-turned mouth, silence, then quietly, “I miss my sister”. Reunited, you hug, and I feel my throat tighten. You girls.