As an only child growing up among children who practically all had siblings I sometimes used to long for an older sister. Books like ”Little Women” and “What Katy Did” only reinforced that desire. I would daydream about “My Big Sister” who would have been my perfect best friend. I suppose I would myself have been a suitable candidate for “My Naughty Little Sister” (as in Dorothy Edwards’ books) so perhaps it’s as well that she didn’t materialise.
But last year I discovered that I actually came very close to having an older sister if circumstances had been very slightly different. My mother’s younger sister was led astray in her teens by a married man, who dropped her like a hot potato when he discovered the consequences of his actions.
My parents, newly wed at the time, offered to adopt the baby girl who was born 8 months after they married, but although they were a married couple my mother was not quite 21 and the laws on adoption also required that they should have been married for several years. So my grandmother, who had already had nine children of her own, took her and she was brought up with some of her aunts and uncles, the youngest of whom was only five years her elder. So instead of being a big sister to me, she was the little sister of a large family.
I can’t help wondering what it would have been like for us all, if she had become my older sister. We are just four years apart. As cousins, we have always got along well, and the physical resemblance between us would have easily allowed us to pass for sisters. No one else would have known that she wasn’t my parents’ biological child, and quite possibly, in those days, she might have grown up never knowing the truth. Her life would certainly have been entirely different, as we lived in a different town in a different part of the country. It’s something of a “Sliding Doors” scenario and perhaps somewhere, in a parallel universe, she really is my big sister!