Happy Birthday, Sis!

Today is my big sis's birthday. In my recollection, I have never bought her a joint Christmas and birthday present: her birthday is to be celebrated, Christmas is just an "occasion". This seems only right to me.

This year, I fell victim to the vagaries of the Royal Mail: her pressie wasn't delivered to me - and therefore hasn't been sent to her yet, either. Being gallant, she hasn't made a big deal of this and claims that it will mean she can "defer gratification" until later. This is most typical of my sister: she really isn't comfortable tugging at anyone else's guilt strings.

I did manage to send her a card, though. In it I wrote, "You are my inspiration." I mean it, but maybe I should explain what I mean...

When I was a small child, my sister was often given the responsibility of looking after me. Not just the way that older siblings are asked to "look after" younger brothers and sisters, but real responsibility for giving care. I can't remember a single occasion when she complained. No doubt there were times she felt aggrieved, but she didn't express it to me: it wasn't my fault, after all. Not only did I grow up secure in the knowledge that my sister loved and cared about me, but also I learnt not to "pass the blame down" to those who aren't responsible for their situation and to take responsibility for those who are helpless. Not in a saccharine or condescending way, but in a way that is practical, pragmatic and principled.

As she got older, she got more politically aware. She would sent me letters and postcards from college, some just chatter about things she had seen and done, some with leaflets and explanations of issues she was involved in. From this political awakening, it inspired me to join the Anti-Apartheid Movement and CND when I was of an age to have my own opinions and had the passion to want to change things that were unjust. I still have that passion. So does she.

I am enormously proud of the desire my sister has for wanting to change and improve people's lives. Her grassroots work with the Labour Party has definitely changed the lives of the individuals who have met her: she is fearsome when she speaks on behalf of others (and exasperatingly modest about it) and is principled and informed when she does. Her teaching has also affected the lives of many: children, parents and other professionals all have benefited from her passion for education to transform lives, enabling and empowering individuals to fulfil their potential. If I were half the teacher she is, I would be more than satisfied.

More recently, my sister has been a huge emotional support for me. She hasn't just listened and given blind sympathy or meaningless platitudes, she has given me constructive criticism (much needed), a warm and welcome place to seek refuge, practical and rational advice - and however panicked or concerned she has been about my welfare, she has remained calm and level-headed, whatever the crisis. I try to do the same, to be non-judgemental, practical and supportive. I might not always succeed, but I strive.

Don't get me wrong, she hasn't been a saint, she has a "past" and indeed a life, but she has always been there for me, regardless of distance, and she is always there for others, impassioned, informed and empowering.

Happy birthday, sis - I love you and I am proud of you.

4 comments:

WWDD said...

hmm... and does your sister happen to have a phone number? a penchant for tall women? etc. etc.

Random Reflections said...

Sisters can be great and yours sounds like a particularly good one - that being the case I'm sure she knows how much you appreciate her without having to send her gifts when things are difficult.

Julia Buckley said...

Good for you. My birthday is close to christmas and it's kind of disheartening to get xmas-bday combined presents, it's like you don't have a real birthday.

Hope your sis has a great day.

Pam said...

Happy new year !