Wednesday, April 2, 2014


A recent 'like and share' image going around Facebook made me stop and think about how much my sisters mean to me.

I was exceptionally lucky to have two sisters, and even more so because one was older and one was younger. Both were outgoing extroverts and I was a total introvert and I was cushioned on either side by them throughout my life. Of course, I wasn't always aware of how lucky I was to have them. Like most siblings we went through periods of conflict. Sometimes with one, sometimes with both, but by the time we reached our teens we were very aware of how lucky we were. Now that we are 'a few years' out of our teens we are eternally grateful for each other.

The first time I really appreciated having an older sister was when I was invited to my first real party, that is my first boy/girl party. I was about 14 years old, I was a complete and utter tomboy and proud of it. An invitation to a neighbor's birthday party - a boy neighbor at that - took me by surprise. Of course I was aware that he was probably scraping the bottom of the barrel to make up even boy / girl numbers, but I was still bemused and confused. I suggested to my mother that I probably needed to consider moving from my bobby socks into hose for the occasion. She didn't consider that a good idea. Thank goodness my older sister took charge and insisted that not only should I have hose but also matching fashionable teen shoes. I do wish I could find a photo of my whispies. They were the absolute height of teen fashion back then. Leather slip on shoes in a multitude of pastel colors with a tiny heel, a pointed toe and a small strap across the foot just above the toes. I got my whispies in a soft orange shade.

Here is a photo of the nearest thing I could find, these are actually made by the same Whispies Shoe Company in the UK, no longer in business now. Imagine these are slightly lower, but the heels are as narrow, my shoes were a slightly more orange shade, no bow, but a tiny thin strap across the foot with a tiny decorative buckle on. I felt so grown up.

Not only did my sister insist I had whispies and hose, she brought me up to the local drapery store and helped me to purchase my first pair of nylon stockings and garter belt. Sunbeam mystic tan nylon stockings, they cost 4/11 that is 4 shillings and 11 pence. And they made my legs so itchy I wondered how anyone could stand to wear them.

My sister helped me to pick out a suitable dress to wear and lent me her stiff petticoat, a big fashion item in the 50's, but the stiff nylon lacework added to the itching. She gave me very strict instructions on how to behave at a 'mixed party'. I was warned that I must never, ever refuse to dance when asked, no matter how I felt about it. It was rude, and we had been brought up to avoid being rude at all costs and no matter how my legs itched I should not scratch them, not only would I ruin my stockings, I would also look ridiculous. She also told me to find somewhere to sit or stand, depending on the way the room was laid out, close to another girl my own age and then to start talking. She knew that I was normally tongue tied and shy, so she stressed that it didn't matter what I said, just not to stop talking.

Apparently I had a very high regard for my sister's wisdom back then, as I do now, because I did exactly as she instructed. Avoiding scratching at my itchy legs, I found a spot beside a pleasant looking girl my own age and started talking. I have no idea what I said, but I picked the perfect girl and in no time at all conversation was no trouble. Her name was Caroline Gill and we remained firm friends for a number of years after and the party was a portal for me from childhood to teen, thanks to my sister.

Two years later it was my younger sister who guided me through my first Saturday night teen dance. In Ireland when I was a teenager, local tennis clubs held dances every Saturday night, they were called Tennis Hops and I have no idea why. The Tennis part was simple enough, but the Hop part defeats me, we didn't hop, we jived and twisted. You will think that I was a slow developer, and I guess you would be correct in that assumption. I believe the minimum age for admittance to the tennis hops was 15. My younger sister was 13 and I was 16, she had been a number of times and never had a problem gaining admittance. Back in those days there was no ID. Your age was determined by the person taking your money at the door.

My sister wanted to go dancing and none of her friends were available to go with her, no decent girl went alone so she talked me into accompanying her. At the door I was questioned about my age and she was not, but she vouched for me and so they let me in.

I am just sorry that my daughter doesn't have a sister, I suppose not everyone can be so lucky.

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