Monday 12th December
Such an Idyllic Childhood….
Jane was born just two years after Harriet. She was the younger daughter, and grew up with her older sister by her side, leaning on her sister, trusting that her sister would always be there for her, arguing and fighting with her sister, resenting her superiority, being jealous of her natural good looks, but never for one moment believing she would not be there. Why should she not be? She was her older sister and her dear Harriet was always and would always be there for her. That was how it felt for little Jane, always in her sister’s shadow, but somehow protected sheltered too from the harsh bright sunlight. Her sister was her rock, her protector, her friend and the other part of herself. Her sister made her complete; she was first and foremost her older sisters’ younger sister. Being a sister defined her far more than being a daughter did.
What of her parents you might ask, and all she could say was that yes, they were around, they were there all the time, but it was her sister she was close to, it was her sister she needed and it was her sister she loved. She was just two years older than Jane, still close enough to play with, to be her companion, her confessor, her conspirator and her guide but not too old to be ashamed to be seen with her, to neglect her for her own friends; in fact Harriet’s friends became Jane’s friends and were always closer to her than the girls in her own class would ever become. ‘My sister and I’, that was how she saw herself, how she looked upon herself, ‘Jane’. It was never just Jane herself, she was always with her sister and she accepted herself as her sister’s sister first and foremost. As if her relationship, her being a sister, and a younger sister to an older sister at that; was more important even than being herself, just plain and simple Jane.
And their home was happy enough too, or at least they had no reason to ever feel unhappy; their parents certainly loved them, there can be little doubt of that. It is just that niggly feeling you sometimes get when it doesn’t quite feel natural, this parental love they all talk about, it never felt absolutely right to the two little girls. It was more like a game they were playing, saying all the right things, and Jane for one certainly felt them most of the time, but it was like a play, it all seemed to be written for them by someone else, and though word-perfect, the older Jane grew the more she felt that they were mostly just words, and even as the realisation slowly came upon her, she would never have dreamed of not being there; in the play, she just wasn’t the author that was all. And though you couldn’t imagine not saying them, these automatic words of love they all trotted out, you didn’t need to imagine not meaning them. It sometimes felt as if she couldn’t really trust them, her parents, a vague sense of insecurity, as if she always knew it couldn’t last and that one day it would all be over and she would be alone. Alone with her sister she meant, there was never the slightest feeling of doubt about her love at all.
* * *
‘Come on Jane’, thought Harriet, maybe a bit too loud ‘It isn’t that hard, anyone can read, just follow my finger and listen to what I am saying’.
“Can you see that word there, that’s Janet, not Jane, your name – but a bit like it, only it has a ‘t’ on the end, so that’s how you remember it’s Janet, not Jane see. And that word is Peter, Peter is a boy, you remember what I told you about boys when we saw Aunt Julies boys the other day, don’t you. Boys are different from us girls, they’re not so nice, they like to fight all the time, and they don’t wear pretty dresses like we do, do they.” And putting the book down she whispered into Jane’s always receptive ear “You’ll learn all about boys when you are older like me, though you’re such a dunce Jane, you will never know as much as I do, that’s for sure” and then smiling reassuringly she continued “Now what shall we do today, I know, I’ll be your mummy and you can be my baby. No Jane, you can’t be the mummy, I’m the oldest so I get to choose. It just happens that way, that’s the way it is. I am your older sister and I get to choose first. You get to choose second, so that’s not so bad is it.” And Jane nodded and had to agree with the undoubted wisdom of her big sister Harriet.