• Stephanie Hammond

The joy of a sister

I had a reputation as a quiet child. The truth was, I was afraid to be anything else. I don’t think I had a particular reason during my childhood to feel this way. I was just very wary around the adults. Less so with my father. And with my brother and cousins it was different.

We had a lot of freedom in those days. The bush behind our place backed on to a racecourse. Some of our fathers sold the race programmes and on race day we’d climb through the fence and lay down on the grass by the rails and watch the horses race by. I loved the feeling of adventure the thundering hoofs raised. And there was a delight in partaking of this forbidden joy, being able to see the grandstand and people far away across the track and knowing we were not seen by them.

Sometimes I was allowed to go with my father to the races and ‘help’ sell the race books. Being with him gave me freedom in another way, freedom to be myself. He was gentle with me. And not demanding. Yes, I was quiet, and with him I was happy. He was a house painter and I loved going into the paint shed with him. I loved the smells and the different colours and watching how he cleaned the brushes and paint tins. He was content to have me there.

It was the same with the garden. He grew vegetables and strawberries. I ate the peas and beans as I helped weed. Dad loved mushrooms. I didn’t. After rain he’d invite me to collect them from the racetrack with him - an activity I love to this day and one which reminds me of those times still. When he thought we had enough, we’d come home and he would cook them up on the old wood stove and we’d have a feed. Although I didn’t particularly like them, I loved the companionship of being with him.

When my sister was born I was six years old. Here was another sibling to love and from the day I saw her I was enraptured by her. We were as different as chalk and cheese - such a vibrant personality she had and she always could make me laugh. She brought joy and fun into our lives.

My father had two sisters who died in their teens. I know we three, especially my sister and I, were precious to him. I never knew the first sister who died but I was allowed to sit with the second as long as I was quiet. She died when I was three and somehow I took it on myself that the reason she died was because I wasn’t quiet enough.

So to have a little sister who was so gregarious and seemed to have a mission in life to bring joy, was a life saviour to me. Without her, I could have become much more of an introvert. And to this day she is not only a sister. She is a dear friend.

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