On the morning of my second birthday, my sister, Jenny, was born and destroyed my life forever. Instead of my parents fawning over me with glitter and ponies, they were in the hospital, snuggling with this red-faced creature called a “sister” like she was the greatest thing since chocolate-covered Twinkies.
At 2, I wasn’t even sure what a “sister” was, but I knew it wasn’t anything good. Once I realized she would be sticking around for a while, I decided to punish my mom and dad for trying to replace me with this whining little monster.
Was I not enough? Did they think they should start over with a new daughter?
Each year in July, when our birthday rolled around, I made sure my mom knew I was not going to share a cake with Jenny, and I was not going to share a birthday party, and I was going to act like an inconsolable selfish brat until I became a teenager. Then I’d get really bad.
Instead of slapping me and telling me to calm the hell down, my mom made two birthday cakes, planned two parties (inviting many of the same kids) and sewed two dresses that could not match. She was patience personified. And she cried a lot.
Not only did Jenny steal my birthday, but she was so cute that she got away with EVERYTHING and found a way to get me in trouble for stuff I DID NOT DO. Well, sometimes I did. Okay, usually I did.
I learned that a little sister is like having a rash. No matter how much you scratch it and claw at it, it just never goes away.
If I tried sneaking off to my friend’s house, I’d hear, “Pe-RI! Jenny wants to go, too.” If I was playing with my doll and didn’t want to share, I’d hear, “Peri Lynn! You let Jenny play with you.” Then Jenny would cut my doll’s hair and I’d get in trouble for screaming. And punching.
Once, after being forced to take my sister to the field with me to play, I cut my hand on some barbed wire while climbing into the swamp I wasn’t allowed to enter. Jenny was frantic with worry, both because I was trespassing and because I probably had tetanus.
“I’m gonna tell mom,” she said, stupidly.
“If you do, I’ll never play with you again.”
She kept the secret for one day, then I heard her crying to mom, “I don’t want Peri to die. She cut her hand on a fence and she’s gonna die.”
Needless to say, I didn’t die. But I made sure Jenny paid for her tattletelling concern for my life.
She was a constant companion. I had to walk with her to school, play with her on weekends and share a bedroom.
We’d lie in our bunk beds at night and create imaginary ice cream sundaes for each other. She would give me mint chocolate chip ice cream with hot fudge topping and extra cherries. I’d give her mud-flavored ice cream with mayonnaise.
Now, several decades later, I reluctantly admit that sisters are kind of cool. Thanks to my parents’ indifference to my opinion, I ended up with three sisters—and a brother who is still undergoing electroshock therapy to counteract being raised with four sisters.
Every year on our birthday, I apologize to Jenny and let her know I forgive her for ruining my childhood. I grudgingly confess my life would be bleaker without her. But I still get my own cake.