I never had a sister. It wasn’t something I missed growing up as my two older brothers kept me busy. We are all three years apart and as the youngest I was always behind the eight ball. Fond memories of torment are a plenty.
I was once chased up the dam paddock by my eldest brother dangling an enormous monster yabby. Terrified and pleading for mercy, my brother and the monster finally retreated.
Then there was the time my brothers revelled in the knowledge that my pet lamb had been butchered and was sitting “roasted” on our kitchen table. I was the only one in the family that enjoyed the roast lamb that evening. As a matter of fact, I scoffed second and third helpings and yet no one else ate any of it. I vaguely remember some statements about the lamb not having a pink butchers stamp on it, followed by lots of laughter, but I never twigged. They came clean years later.
There were the times I fell asleep on the couch of our parents friend’s house at the end of our shared family dinners, my brothers would wake me just enough to ask me questions and laugh at my absurd dream state responses.
There was also the day in the summer of 1984 when they asked me what a ‘virgin’ was to see what my response would be. I was nearly 10, and they were 13 and 16. Madonna had just released her “Like a Virgin” hit and it was playing on Video Hits. You know the film clip where she is rolling around on a gondola traveling the canals of Venice and she is being stalked by a predatory lion? Well, I confidently and very seriously informed them… “Everyone knows that virgin is the term to describe the lion family, you know like how primates is used for monkeys”. This was met with rolling laughter and many years of embarrassing recalls of the story to their friends.
This relationship of sarcasm, facetiousness and eye rolling torment followed me into my university years. I recall a night back in 1993, being dropped off home at the end of a romantic first date. When it came time to be kissed goodnight by my six foot, strapping, accounting student date, my brothers put their heads up from their bedroom window and yelled out in their best blokey, testosterone fuelled tone “Go on, get into her!” There was never a second date!
Anyway, you get the picture.
I never had bridesmaids at my wedding, just my bestie, JRF. He helped me get into the tight space of my Dad’s yellow Monaro, stuffing my dress into the car’s very low, leather bucket sports seats. The three of us drove from one country town to the next where he helped me out the car in the town’s main street and then put his arms up under all the tulle and petticoat to fix the dress, and to lower my train to the delight of the watching tourists. Yes, gasp! Unbelievably, this tomboy had a train on my wedding dress that I bought second hand from America off eBay, (don’t worry it wasn’t like Princess Diana’s or anything!) Together, the three of us walked a block to my nervously waiting Mr Cool fiancé and all the guests at the wedding ceremony. My eldest brother and my six foot bestie had also helped me apply my makeup that day.
I never had a sister to balance any of these events. But now I have a quite a few.
Here I am in 2013 and I’m surrounded by loving and nurturing women. They are swimming around me. Some do freestyle, some are breaststrokers. Some just splash. Some dive down to the bottom and sit for a while. Some float on their backs. Some are into that synchronised swimming debacle. But they all take turns at immersing themselves in MY pool.
I don’t know what changed or when I opened myself up to women exactly. My ‘future self’ was whispering to me about women in recent years. The most likely culprit of my admittance to the “Royal Society for the Appreciation and Connection with Women” (he he) likely sprang from the journey of becoming a mother. Through the process of pregnancy and birth, and a healthy dose of mothers group experiences I became better equipped to connect. This has ultimately improved my relationships with my long term female friends as well.
So here I am, surrounded by inspiring and nurturing women. They have invited me to new years parties. They have run fun runs with me, shared holidays, held play dates. Since this diagnosis they have brought home cooked meals, they have minded my children. They have showed up with the freshest bags of apples. There have been dinner dates and gossip sessions. They have offered accommodation for my family when travelling long distances for treatment. They have contacted me and offered to share with me their experiences with breast cancer. They have empathised with me over the experience of having brothers.
Just today, a very special pair who happen to be real sisters, shouted me lunch and then took me to my first ever pedicure in 38 years (minus one week). We met through our shared experience of becoming mothers who attended the same swimming lessons for our children four and a half years ago. The connection was meaningful from the start and has built in intensity. Last year, at my sons birthday party they referred to me as their sister. I was secretly chuffed and very grateful.
So, back to the pedicure. What is a pedicure I asked? Whoever gets the job is going to have to scrub 38 years of slime and dead skin off these puppies. How long are we going to be at the spa for I wonder? In the back of my mind the tomboy in me is thinking… “this is a bit girly isn’t it? Don’t worry, you have cancer now so just live a little. Just run with it!”
I thought this pedicure would have to take weeks. You see, my feet have carried me on bushwalks all over the different terrain in Australia through my career in teaching and lecturing in Outdoor Education. These sad, neglected and biomechanically poor feet have had to endure the worst of conditions. There has been the carrying of heavy loads. They have traipsed through deep snow and sand and climbed the highest mountains in the land. They have endured the worst kind of blisters and leeches. There have been odours too. To add to my podiatry woes, last year I took up distance running after a 19 year hiatus, my poor neglected feet were made worse as the long runs caused some of my toenails to fall off and they have not grown back properly.
For the last 20 years my tired little stubby toed feet have been dressed largely in the very unattractive Scarpa leather hiking boots and Birkenstock sandals. No one has ever labelled me a lesbian, but I’m sure many people may have secretly stereotyped me as one. If Hush Puppies were acceptable attire for a thirty something then I would absolutely go there. My wardrobe has only ever had two, maybe three pairs of scuffed and stinky shoes on the go at once. This is why my breast surgeon excites me so much. That women has a new pair of designer shoes every time I see her and they aren’t from Target. She is also able to run in those stiletto thing-a-me-bobs. Yet I can’t even stand in small feminine heals for a few wedding party shots. Okay, I am digressing about the surgeon again…
So, after a long beautiful lunch chatting about husbands, children, cancer, and all things in between, off we went to the spa. The spa normally closes earlier on Saturday, but the sisters admitted to drawing “the cancer card” and the owner kept the spa open longer. The experience was lovely. Three technicians worked outside normal business hours thanks to “the cancer card”. They massaged our feet, calves, heads and shoulders, and gave us all a pedicure. It was bliss! For my toenails, I chose the colour “My paprika is hotter than yours”. Who gets paid to come up with this stuff? I called it orange. One of the sisters fell asleep and briefly started snoring through the process. This was later clarified when she described dreaming that her cat had jumped on her.
When it was finished the three of us broke into hysterical laughter. It was the snoring and admitting to using “the cancer card” that did it. We laughed and laughed as I suggested other ways we might used the cancer card. Great tables at restaurants? Preferential parking? Jumping to the head of the queue for something?
It was a wonderful afternoon experience. I have been missing out on these things for all of these years.
Tonight one half of this gorgeous pair of sisters hesitantly contacted me. She told me that in their family, many many moons ago, they had a baby sister pass away. Her name was Lisa.