*I meant to post on the weekend. I also meant to do another 10,000 words on the weekend. I didn't, and so this week I shall be doing double the necessary word count. I like to be a few thousand words ahead, so that I can have a couple of days off to just knit in front of the TV if I want to*
As I got older, my responsibilities as an older sibling increased. From about the age of 12 I was the go to babysitter for the evenings if my parents had to pop out for half an hour or so and from the age of 14 I looked after my brothers during the summer holidays. I never really wanted to go into town or go around to friends’ houses like a regular teenager. I was quite happy staying at home and reading from the books I’d gotten out of the library. I never resented having to stay at home. The only thing I could have wished for 4 year olds to have more variety of taste. Jamie was a toddler when the Teletubbies came out. He absolutely loved them, with Laa-Laa being his favourite. The Christmas after the show began there was a massive rush on the Teletubbies toys. I think my mother walked into shop after shop, desperate to find one for Jamie. She did, and the look on his face was worth all the aggravation. His love for the Teletubbies meant that we had to watch the show every time it was on TV. My mother got him the video, and from then on that was what he wanted to watch. Then he turned 3 and his love was transferred to Thomas the Tank. He loved trains. His train set was his favourite toy. Again he was given the video. For one entire year our conversations after lunch would go as follows:
“What video do you want to watch today, Jamie?”
“Thomas a Tank”
“Not Mary Poppins, or the Sound of Music?”
“No, Thomas a Tank”
The theme tune still gives me flashbacks to warm summer days spent in front of the TV watching Thomas a Tank.
He was a very curious child. It’s wonderful being around a curious child, one that wants to learn everything and anything it can. It’s lovely to be able to explain something, or teach them something. However, curiosity can also lead to trouble. When he was about 4 or 5 I caught him next to my mother’s side of the bed. He turned to look at me with an incredibly guilty expression, a strange white liquid dribbled down his chin. When I asked him what he’d done, all he told me was “I wanted to see what it would look like”. I realised that he’d decided to see what would happen if he put paracetamol in water. Quickly realising that he wasn’t supposed to do that, he drank the liquid he’d made in order to hide the evidence. We had no clue how many he’d taken. At the time we knew it could have been as little as 4, or as high as 12. Off he went to the hospital where he was observed for a few hours and had a couple of blood tests. He told me, when he was a bit older, that he decided never to do something like that again because the blood test hurt so much.
When he was 5, two weeks before we were due to go to South Africa for Christmas as a family, he knelt on my mother’s hot water bottle that she kept in bed. My mother has never followed the instruction of putting some cold water in first, or letting the water cool before being put in. She likes the hot water bottle to be as hot as she can handle as she always has cold feet. Jamie knelt down and I vaguely heard a pop. He started screaming and pulling his trousers away from his skin. No one knew what had happened. I vaguely registered what must have happened but didn’t have time to explain. I knew I needed to get him under some cold water as soon as possible. So I pulled him towards the bathroom with him sobbing loudly at this point. My father pulled me away in anger and told me never to do that again. He started questioning Jamie as to what was wrong. All I could say was that the hot water bottle had burst. My mother was asking him the same thing. I repeated that the hot water bottle had burst, eventually shouting so loudly that it must have registered what had happened. They took him to the bathroom and cooled his leg down. Off to the hospital he went for the second time. Unfortunately, as he’d pulled his trousers away from his skin, the burn was worse than it could have been. You learn in first aid that skin when hot sticks to fabric. When he pulled the trousers away, he pulled away a few layers of skin.
The doctors and nurses were wonderful. My parents were concerned about whether he’d be able to travel and go to South Africa in a couple of weeks. They dressed the wound, bandaged him up and, at the follow up appointment at our local GP’s surgery, the nurse showed my parents how to dress and look after the wounds themselves. He was able to have a lovely holiday with us, even though he wasn’t able to swim or play about in the sand that much.
I can’t imagine what I would have been like if I was an only child. Although I was very jealous of Alistair, and not that great an older sister, having him as a brother taught me so many things. It taught me how to share, for one thing, something I’ve always felt very hard to do. It taught me loyalty. No matter how mean I was to him I wouldn’t hear anyone say a bad thing about him. To this day no one else is allowed to bad mouth him in front of me. I hate it, because more often than not what they say is unfair and not the real Alistair at all. Often those people have an impression of him that comes from not actually knowing who he is. He comes across one way. He seems like this confident person who doesn’t really care about others. Yet he hides a very kind heart. He’s actually helped old ladies cross the road with their shopping. He’s looked after hurt animals. He’s loyal, too. If either of us hear the other being unfairly talked about, even when it’s our parents doing the talking, we won’t stand for it.
Jamie taught me so much more. I was so much older when he was born that I was able to willingly take on being an older sister. He taught me patience and how to be kind. He taught me how to be a better person. When you’re aware that you’re someone’s role model you become aware of behaviours you have that you’d rather they not copy. You try and be a better person. We’re still pretty close, although going away to university and now living away from home means that I don’t get to spend as much time with him as I’d like. It’s because of him that I know one day I want to be a mother, and that I’d cope with being a mother.