Wednesday, 12 May 2021

It's a (lengthy) rite of passage we all go through, isn't it?

IN Sainsbury’s the other day, on one of those rare trips where both kids had agreed to come along and help, I was searching through the spice racks looking for smoked paprika, when the Eleventeen- Year-Old spied some jerk seasoning.

She plucked the jar from the shelf, elbowed me in the ribs, whispered “watch this”, sauntered over to her little brother, the Sunshiney Seven-Year-Old and pretended to shake the spices over his head, looking at me and laughing at the genius of her jest.

“Oh, very funny,” I admitted, trying to keep a straight face. “But that’s enough. Help me find the paprika now, will you?”

Always up for a laugh, my baby boy grinned and said: “What’s so funny? I don’t get it! What’s the joke?”

“Never mind, darling,” I cocked my head to the side and thought how beautiful the pair of them were — innocence and sophistication working in perfect harmony, exactly as they should.

And right there, in the world cuisine aisle of Saino’s, I realised we’d turned a family corner. Because finally they’d stopped tearing chunks out of each other and hurling insults hither and thither.

Now they were getting smart with their sibling rivalry. For a nano-second, anyway.

Of course, my older brother and I fought like ferals when we were kids.

I remember one night, when Mum and Dad were out, we were arguing about what to watch on TV. This was in the days before remote controls, so as you can imagine there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between the couch and the telly for both of us, our switching of the chunky, clunky TV dial getting more and more violent with every trip to the bulky set.

This went on for, ooh, a good 10 minutes until, with one almighty turn, the dial broke clean off. Talk about a stunned silence.

Standing stock still for a few moments, my brother eventually said: “You did that. Dad’s going to kill you.”

Incensed and panicked, I did what any primary school-aged kid in my position would do: with an expert aim, I kicked him square in the family jewels.

Well. His mouth fell open with shock, awe and barely contained rage. His cheeks reddened, steam hissed out of his ears and his eyes bored into me with a fury-filled intensity, the likes I’d never seen before and which, to be honest, frightened the life out of me.

I didn’t hang around to find out how he was going to retaliate and exact his revenge, so I sprinted out into the back of the garden and hid under a bush. All alone, terrified and freezing in the cold, dark night.

Eventually my breathing slowed and I hoped my brother would have calmed down, too. But just to be on the safe side, I hit the dirt and, like a commando, inched my way towards the kitchen door by way of my elbows digging into the grass as I watched my brother fixing himself something to eat (possibly another bowlful of Angel Delight?) in the comparative bright light.

It must have taken me about an hour to reach the back door and gird my loins for my re-entrance to the house. And when I gingerly slid open the back door (it was quite a fancy-pants extension for those days, complete with sliding doors), my voice quavering a quiet “hello?”, he looked up from his bowl, smiled and said “where’ve you been, you wally?”.

What a relief.

Fast forward 35-odd years and we’re best friends. I’d never have been able to get through all the heartbreaks, cupcakes and FFSakes life has thrown at me without his support, straight-talking and sense of humour.

And, like most mums, this is just what I want for my two sniping siblings: for them to respect their differences, understand each other like no one else in the world can and to help each other through the trials and tribs of life, lifelong BFFs, laughing heartily as they go.

Even if they’re laughing at me. Which, let’s face it, they already are.

But that’s another story…

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