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Posts Tagged ‘sisters’

When I first mentioned to my mother that it was about time I arranged for the cat to come home to us — weeks ago, long before I found out about E2’s cat allergy — she surprised me by pulling a sour face and hmmming her disapproval.

I was startled.  “What?

“Well, I just don’t think it’s very fair,” she replied, with irritation in her voice.

“But… but she’s my cat.”

“Yes, but your sister has had her for a year now.”

“But that was always the deal!”  Everyone had always known it was going to take us probably the best part of a year to find a house and get moved and settled before we brought the cat home.

“I just think she’d really miss her, that’s all.  And you have the girls…”

“Mum, I miss her!  She’s my cat!”

“Well…  well, I at least think you should go and get her yourself.  You shouldn’t make your sister have to make the drive all the way up here, on her own with the cat.  She’d be so upset.”

I should have shut up then — her take on the situation clearly differed from mine — but I carried on.  It didn’t make any sense for us to drive down to get the cat, when my sister was coming up in just a few weeks for Easter.  Besides, it would be hard to fit the four of us, enough gear for a weekend, and a cat crate in the car.  Surely it just made sense for my sister to bring her up?

Deaf ears and irritation, on both sides.  And for reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on — and still can’t, to some extent — an awful lot of hurt on my part.

So after the bad news at the allergist’s, I was dreading telling my mother, and began with a defensive and too-strong preface, “Mum, there was something else, and if you try to tell me that this is a good thing in any way, I will be incredibly irritated with you…”  So she listened quietly to the news, then told me she was sorry to hear it and changed the subject.  Somehow, I was irritated with her anyway — not by anything she said, but by what I knew she was thinking and how pleased she must have been for my sister.  I felt sure she was more pleased for her than she was sorry for me.

I held off giving the news to my sister — like if I didn’t say it, it wasn’t true yet — and, besides, I didn’t want to broach it over the phone.  But today, she was here for Easter …and it was time.

I started it off wrong — feeling a subconscious need to stake a now-pointless claim on my cat — and told her we were ready to have the cat come home to us, and were thinking of picking her up next month (when we will be visiting a nearby fiber festival).  My sister’s face went blank, and then stony.

“Are you ok with that?” I asked.  I wanted her to confirm that that was fine, that of course my cat was mine to bring home, that my mother’s crazy idea that one year of cat-sitting trumps eight years of ownership was… well, crazy.

“Yeah.”  She kind of threw the word at me.  And then, “But, I’ll really miss her.”  It could have been a plea for pity or a request for leniency, but it wasn’t — it was cool and with a touch of accusation.  Clearly, she was of the same mind as my mother.  The statute of limitations had run out, and what I was doing was wrong, was unfair.

So when I changed tack and told her the news, I couldn’t bring myself to make it permanent: I told her that we might not be able to take the cat back, that E2 had shown an allergic reaction but that I wanted to discuss all the options with the allergist first.  I don’t know why I said it that way. I know it’s not workable and discussing it with the allergist is pointless — I know my cat can’t come home — but I just wasn’t ready to make it final yet.  I wasn’t ready give my cat away yet — especially not after her reaction.

The stoniness on her face was replaced by confusion — I’d explained this badly, and had to go through it again.  We wanted to bring the cat home, but there was a chance — a good chance — that we couldn’t and so I needed to ask her if she’d be happy keeping my cat for good.  She brightened at that — yes, of course.  She’d be glad to.

“Ok…” I said, not really knowing where to go from here.  “Well, I’ll let you know what the allergist says…”

“S-s-sure,” she replied, and nodded, still looking a bit confused.  The whole mood had gone funny now, and neither of us knew where we stood.

“I was… I was really upset, you know!”   I wanted one of them to realise that this was painful for me, that giving up my cat — for allergies or for ‘fairness’ — was not as easy as they seemed to think it was.  “I really wasn’t expecting it…  It was really upsetting when I realised…”

“Oh… oh… of course.  I know.”  She tried and I think it was genuine, but it didn’t make any difference.  I felt so resentful to realise they both felt this way and she was so conflicted by my two bits of news and confused by the way I’d delivered them, that the whole situation had become tense and odd.

And it was time for them to go home.  Easter had been wonderful: great food, a happy atmosphere, well-behaved children, and — even better — well-behaved adults.  It had gone so much better than I’d anticipated, and then I’d gone and mess it up at the end.  And when my mum and sister finally got in the car, after a million kisses and hugs from two over-excited little girls, I wondered what it was they talked about as they drove home  …and imagined the worst.

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I was washing the dishes when there was a loud, brief scream and then a sudden silence. This could mean anything. I counted silently, 1… 2… 3… 4… Ah yes, there it was — the ear-piercing wail to follow up. Someone was hurt. E2 came running in first, with big wet tears streaming down her cheeks and crying at full volume, and flung her arms round my neck. E1 followed, looking concerned but hesitant and more than a little guilty, and hung back in the doorway.

“What happened?” I yelled over the screams. E2 had not drawn breath and I was sure the windows were about to shatter — certainly my left eardrum was not far off it. E1’s mouth moved as she pointed to her finger and then gesticulated out into the hallway, but I couldn’t hear what she said. I asked again and managed to catch, “…I closed the door…” Ah, I see.

I held E2 for a bit longer and let her cry it out in the safety of my arms, and then pulled back and picked her hands up. “Is it this one, or this one?” She held one index finger aloft. Her eyes were huge and doleful, her lip stuck out, her cheeks red and wet, and her nose streaming. I inspected the injured finger — nothing serious — and then kissed it gently. “There. Is that better?” She stopped crying and looked at her finger pensively and a little surprised, then looked up at me. She brought her finger up to her own lips, furrowed her brow in concentration, and kissed it herself. I smiled. “Good girl.”

Having thus comprehended this magic, she turned and toddled over to her sister with her arm up and the injured finger outstretched. E1 kissed it without hesitation — she knows this is serious medicine. And with her cure now complete, E2 reached up and took her sister’s hand and they disappeared through the door and down the hall together — friends again, as ever.

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Today I am grateful for:

  1. The joy of watching my daughters play together, one so big and the other so little, dragging each other around by the hand and giggling at shared excitements.
  2. The luxury of having the time to sit down with them, one on my lap and one by my side, and read a book to them — and read it again, and read it again, and read it again, as many times as they ask.
  3. The peace of getting them both down for a nap and having the house go miraculously quiet within 15 minutes, and then being able to get my own head down too and make up for lost time in the night.

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I am trying to control my laughter at this moment.  It’s nearly 11pm, M and I are exhausted (we’ve both been  knackered all day), the girls are in bed for over two hours and should be asleep, but instead they are yelling back and forth to one another from their rooms like calling birds.  One calls the other’s name, and the other replies, “Yeah?”  Then a pause.  And then the name again, and “yeah?” again.  Sometimes there is a wholly fruitless “Come he-ere!” followed by the same ‘yeah’.  Once, a joy-filled “We are in our BEDS!” and, again, that never-changing, “yeah!”  It’s been going on for about 10 minutes and shows no sign of stopping.  I don’t dare go out there to quieten them or I shall never get away again — best to just leave them to tire themselves out.

But in the meantime, I get to listen to my two daughters calling back and forth like some comic duo, enjoying each other’s company even in the dark.  And, as crazy as it is and as much as I really should be putting a stop to it, I just love it.  Instead of becoming rivals, they have turned out to be friends, and it fills me with with a happiness I can hardly describe.  But I can do justice to it this way:  I have no desire at all to stop two little girls from calling back and forth to one another at 11pm, when they really should be fast asleep and so should I.  It sounds so beautiful to me, I could happily let it go on for hours.

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