Rhian, a babby at Christmas

Yes. That is something I wrote – and illustrated – on a piece of paper, when I was little and my sister was a baby.

My sister, commonly known as Rhian, Rhiazza, Rhi Rhi, and by one of our uncles, Rhajazzle, had to come into the world in the thick of our family drama, three months after our arrival in England as a single parent family. I don’t think our early aquaintance made much of an impression on me. The following summary of Mum’s return from the hospital is testament to this:

Me: Where’s Rhian?

Mum (reveals the newborn baby in her arms): Here

Me: Oh (wanders off)

To begin with, I like to think I did a good job of asserting my authority as the official Big Sister. I had to; Rhian had this really annoying tendency to get snot or dribble on my toys. When you think about it, making her promise not to before letting her play with them was a very reasonable solution.

Rhian was not a soul to be tamed, however, and my days of being the dominant sibling were short lived. Once she was old enough to play with me, I had control of most of the toys, but she was fully in charge of what happened to them. In an argument, she was a force to be reckoned with, and as an overly sensitive autistic child, her tantrums used to terrify me. At one point, I kept crying that I felt “unforgiven!”, and Mum, in a fit of uncharacteristic naivety, asked Rhian, “you do love your sister, don’t you?” Cue a big “NO!” from Rhian, and further floods of tears from me.

She still hasn’t forgiven me for…whatever it was, by the way. I have asked.

For the most part, though, she was a fair minded and considerate younger sibling. When Mum married John, Rhian, who had decided she was first in line to inherit the wedding dress, very kindly said I could borrow it if I ever got married. When we went downstairs for breakfast, I was apparently allowed to go first on my birthday. She also showed a lot of interest in my development; I distinctly remember overhearing her telling our parents how much better I was at eating my crusts.

As we shifted into adolescence, I don’t think much changed except that I was firmer about not wanting to play with her, and after a while she lost interest anyway. Suddenly, wanting me to play was replaced by wanting me to read extracts of my diary to her. Or making me play Super Mario Bros on her Nintendo DS because I was so entertainingly bad. I did have to take cover many a time when John had to help her through exam revision and things got a little heated, but hey, at least I was no longer first in the firing line.

One thing Rhian doesn’t tire of is seeing how far she can challenge me emotionally. Her becoming life-threateningly ill in hospital in September was her most successful attempt yet. Having been turned away from A & E twice with what was dismissed as muscle pain, Mum forced the medics to take her seriously, and she was diagnosed with aggressive pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, pleurisy, and pleural empyema with one collapsed lung. She was in agonising pain – and close to death – to start with. Yet when I visited, she was well enough to roll her eyes at me for fussing, and complain about being in a room full of old ladies. Definitely on the mend.

And now, as a third year theatre student, she is in her first professional show, as Princess Tiger Lilly in a pantomime* production of Peter Pan. Three months ago, I’d accepted this would be a miracle. Now she’s dodging the evil Captain Hook, while accepting fanmail from small children (!!!). Does it get any better than this?

Rhian, accept this 700 word long fanmail from one proud big sister. And Merry Christmas!

 

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Us as bridesmaids following our parents’ wedding

 

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At the hospital

 

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*Non-British readers: a pantomime is a British Christmas tradition that is a show full of slapstick, crossdressing, song-and-dance, and audience participation. Loosely based on famous fairy tales and contains more pop culture references than you would think could be crammed into two or three hours.

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14 thoughts on “Rhian, a babby at Christmas

  1. […] my pregnant mother and I hastily headed my grandparents’ way – Cam, Gloucestershire. My sister was born. I started school, and was happily oblivious to my teachers telling Mum how weird I was and […]

  2. […] up in our lives, we were a single parent family – Mum, five year old me, one year old sister Rhian – living on benefits. My father, for all his apparently fine qualities, had not come up […]

  3. […] “My mummy is nice and kind and pretty and firm when me and my sister are bad. Sometimes my sister is bad, but I am good most of the time.” I always was destined to be a […]

  4. […] playing outside, didn’t see the girl on a bike in time and consequently got flattened. My sister likes to think I was re-enacting that moment. I like to think it was foreshadowing what was to come […]

  5. […] understanding why Mum was being so violently sick in the months before my sister was […]

  6. […] with my ladies. Well, my mother and sister (middle and […]

  7. […] better if I wasn’t fighting this virus my sister has, but hopefully it’s just a sore throat. Although that is what I kept saying […]

  8. […] When my parents were dating, my now-stepdad tried to bond with my sister (age two) and I (age six) by taking us to the Edward Jenner Smallpox Museum. It was practically […]

  9. […] from the wedding, my family and I were off out again, this time slightly further afield. In my sister’s case, this meant going over to Seattle to stay with our aunt, uncle and two little cousins. In my […]

  10. […] stepdad, sister and I went down to see her and when we entered her room, she opened her eyes wide and beamed as she […]

  11. […] editor at my old university. I got my first job, then lost it on my second day. I saw my sister Rhian go from being dangerously ill in hospital to joining the professionals on stage. Ups and downs seem […]

  12. […] broken, maybe we can fix it somehow”. Or Mum’s personal favourite: “Dear Mummy, (my younger sister) is being a beast. I picked her up and put her down and she went out. Love Grace.” An essay […]

  13. […] I was little and my sister was just a toddler, our mum was unexpectedly rushed to hospital, leaving us in the capable hands of […]

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