For a long time during my childhood, my big sister was the world to me. We were not friends, we fought daily, about everything, we scratched and bit each other, we pulled hair, we drew blood.
To this day, our relationship is based on a deep current of resentment. At times it's the only thing that keeps us going. On my way to work today, I tried to list what it was and still is that we begrudge each other and, well, it basically covers everything.
And yet, at the time this picture was taken she was my rock, my guardian angel. There was a time when we used to joke that she was my little mother. But that was years ago, we don't find this funny anymore.
We were never close, we never helped each other. We bargained all the time. We never got each others back. When I was found smoking behind the youth club and got expelled for a fortnight, she ratted on me. So in turn I told my parents about her driving this guy's car around the block before she got her licence. And so on.
She paid me real money to do her Latin homework. I used the money to buy her silence when I lied about where I was going at night. And so on.
But I know that I owe her, that thanks to her I have this precious small bundle of happy warm childhood memories (incl. the fights we had), thanks to her massive strength, her protective spirit and her fierce instincts.
My sister picked up all the pieces, kept the show on the road, pushed us along and told us what to do. Before she could read, she knew how to call the doctor, the ambulance, the police. She knew which neighbours she could turn to, how much she could safely tell them and, most importantly, she knew what not to tell. Never to tell. She figured this out so early and so well, you could think she has forgotten about it, about the things that happened, the threats, the dark locked rooms, the screams and the tears and the overdosing and the blood. I close my eyes and I see her wrapping a sheet around my mother's arm, round and round. She is maybe six years old, biting on her lower lip with the effort.
It has taken me a very long time to understand the enormity of what she did for me, all these years, that it was more than anyone should ask a big sister to do. I understand that this is why we could never be friends.