The relationship between siblings cannot be replaced by any other connection – there’s something about sharing childhood and DNA that makes it stronger than anything I’ve come across. It survives through all phases of life from irritating toddler, to needy pre-teen, to angsty teenager, to adulthood. It develops into something special and deep, that no spouse can replace.
My sister and I are 6 ½ years apart – with me being younger. That’s quite an age gap, and as kids we never quite played with each other as we were at different levels. I came along when Amy was a boisterous child wanting to play, but I was a helpless baby. When I was finally old enough, Amy was at secondary school and no longer interested. When I started secondary school, Amy had left for university. But when I hit about 17, the gap between us subsided, and we started to grow closer together. By the time I was 20 and she was 26, we were the closest we’d ever been, and learning more and more about how to work out this crazy thing called life with each other as our anchor and reference points.
Part of growing up is working out what you want to do with your life, the kind of person you want to be, and where you want to place yourself. Amy has always had an eye for travel, and it made sense for her and my brother-in-law Rob to embark on a round the world trip before settling down and having a family. They have done this, but have found a home in Australia. They’ve found a place to belong, and somewhere they feel comfortable and at home. It also means that the 12 months I wasn’t going to see my sister has now become nearly 2 years already, and counting.
What’s made the distance seem that bit greater is my recent engagement. I’d always dreamed of sharing these moments with my big sister, watching girly films and flicking through wedding magazines, getting giggly on fizz and doing all the planning together. Some of that still happens – we have long chattering Skype calls and frequent conversations via Pinterest. The difference is it’s her 6:30am and I’m getting ready for bed after a long day. But we make it work. When Simon proposed, we filmed our reactions so we could share it with my sister and brother-in-law over Whatsapp. Knowing that I can’t just pick up the phone and have a natter, or get her around when I have some ideas means that I have to be more thoughtful. Take the time to write a long message. Have a planned catch up where we can both share the exciting next steps of our lives. Actually be conscious of letting each other into our lives.
It’s never going to be the sibling life I expected. I’ve already accepted that there’s a strong possibility our children won’t grow up as close cousins. But she’s my sister and always will be. Whether she lives next door or 10,000 miles away, that connection will always be there and always be strong. We just have to work a little harder. When Amy left, I was almost 22 and thinking about the next steps in my relationship. She was 27 and realising her dream of now or never to see the world. When I next see my big sister, I’ll be 25 and about to be married – she 31 and very possibly with a mini-me in tow. How life changes… we will always find a way back to each other.