I woke up from a vivid dream this morning. I was talking to my sister, having a rather heated debate about who should do the most to look after Mum. I could see her face, smell the fabric conditioner on her clothes, and watched her large hoop earrings move as she talked. Perhaps not that strange a dream, except for two things.
I don’t have a sister. I am an only child, so no siblings ever featured in my life. And my Mum died in 2012, so caring for her is no longer a consideration.
In the dream, I called my sister ‘Sandy’. I presume that was the familiar name for Sandra, used widely here. But I don’t recall knowing any Sandra that well either. She was also much younger than me, perhaps only forty years old. That would have meant that my Mum would have been at least fifty-five when she was born, so not really possible. Even more so, when you consider that she split with my Dad when she was fifty-two, and never had another man friend. In the dream, I was as I am now, not younger at all.
I have no doubt that many experts could come up with solid explanations for that dream. Even lay people could make a fair guess that I had concerns about the care of my Mum when I was still working, and possibly wished that I had a sister around to take some of that from me. At the time, people often remarked that I had to do it all on my own, as I had no brothers or sisters, though close cousins helped out immeasurably. But I was left confused about why my mind had conjured up this vision of a non-existent younger sister, something I can recall in great detail, down to the clothes she was wearing, and the fact that she had no wedding ring. That made me think about the whole issue of siblings in my life.
I was one of the few kids who was an only child. Every other relative had more than one child, sometimes three or four. I had lots of cousins close by, but I was alone with my parents. This had a huge number of plus points. I got their undivided attention, all the presents and clothes, and they had money to spare to take me on holidays, and other treats. The times I wished for a brother or sister were rare, and soon dismissed. I saw other children arguing with their siblings, fighting with them on occasion, and sometimes even growing to hate their brothers and sisters. They had to wear hand-me-downs if they were the same sex, and use toys almost worn out by the older children. I concluded at an early age that I had been lucky to have escaped all that.
As I grew up, I sometimes envied those with an older brother who looked after them, and looked out for them. Older sisters tended to do their own thing, and younger sisters had to be looked after constantly, so the absence of a sister never concerned me at all. In adult life, I got to see those family units close up, as sisters fell out about the smallest things, and younger brothers never seemed to match up to the older ones. That confirmed my earlier thoughts that I had been lucky.
Now retired, and all that behind me, I no longer think of what it might have been like to have had that sister or brother throughout my life. I have seen that such family gatherings can be incredibly noisy, and usually end in arguments. And that whilst the love might be there, it rarely surfaces for outsiders to see.
I am left wondering about that dream though.
And about Sandra, the sister I never had.