Invisible me, Imaginary you
It was the summer of 1982 when everything changed between me and my brother. Before then he doted on me from the day I was born. Simon is twenty-two months older than me and the first born; when I came along he did everything for me. He shared his toys, played games with me, checked I was ok all the time and even spoke for me. Anyone who knows me well knows that I talk a lot but that wasn’t always the case, when I was younger I was far too lazy to talk so Simon done it for me.
‘Mummy, Sharleene needs the potty’, ‘mummy, Sharleene wants to play outside’ Of course he also used it to his own advantage ‘mummy, Sharleene wants a biscuit so can I have one too please?’
Once while shopping in town Simon convinced my mum that we both wanted our photo taken behind the curtain (it was a passport photo booth, but we didn’t know that then) he kept on asking so eventually she gave in and let us. It’s probably one of the last photos taken when it was just two of us. Mum’s big belly apparently meant that another baby was on the way. Simon was excited but as far as I was concerned I didn’t need another brother as he was doing a great job at being a big brother and I didn’t need a sister as in my mind I already had one.Simon had made lots of new friends at playschool which took up more of his time and when he knew there was another baby on the way he lost interest in me, so to occupy myself I created an imaginary sister. She never had a name she was just my sister, I think she was only around for a few months but I still think of her a lot thirty years later. My sister and I did everything together. She helped me to grab some balloons one day from WHSmith. I don’t know why she wanted them because neither of us could blow them up, it didn’t matter anyway because as soon as mum realised we had them on the way home from town she took them off us and spent the day panicking that the police would arrive. I was two and a half years old I didn’t know you had to pay for things. I had some really fun times with my sister, sometimes we would just sit on the big blue blanket on the lawn and play with the big yellow teapot. Often mum would put the cassette player in the kitchen window so we could hear the music outside and have a dance to it. Simon had started being mean to me, he wouldn’t share his toys and would do anything to wind me up so I spent more and more time alone with my sister.
At nearly five years old Simon found it funny that I had an imaginary sister and made fun of me a lot telling me she didn’t exist, this one day at the end of June he took things too far. I was playing on the swing in our back garden, it was a red metal frame that was getting rusty and the grass under foot had a patch worn out where we scuffed our feet to stop the swing. Depending which way you sat you could either face the neighbour’s garden or over the park, the park was always my preference because you could often see people walking their dogs over there. Sometimes you would even see our own dog Shandy over there when he wasn’t supposed to be. Shandy was a Heinz 57 as my parents described him, a mixture of different dogs, he was a sandy colour and a little bit dopey but so loving and he often took himself for walks mostly being bought back by the neighbours. On this day though he was led in his kennel looking grumpy and tired, I think he had just been told off for going wandering again. I had been on the swing for a few minutes when I got off to let my sister have her turn, I had to push her as her legs were obviously too short to do it herself she was shorter than me after all. Simon came out in the garden and demanded a go on the swing, he was becoming really annoying.
‘No I’m playing on it with my sister’ I cried, well he wasn't having any of it
‘you don’t have a sister give me the swing’ with that he stopped the swing and sat on it squashing my sister. I was devastated and began to cry to which his reaction was to laugh this just made me worse and I was sobbing when I ran indoors to my mum.‘what on earth’s wrong, did you fall over?’ at first I couldn’t stop crying enough to talk and had to try and catch my breath before I had a chance to get out what was wrong Simon appeared behind me,
‘I’ve finished on the swing you can have it back now’ he taunted. My mum then presumed I was crying because he wouldn’t let me on the swing but that wasn’t it. I was heartbroken my sister was gone, squashed into oblivion by my big brother and he didn’t care. I managed to get the words out eventually ‘he sat on my sister’ I wailed at my mums face. I’m sure my mum didn’t know whether to laugh or not, how are you supposed to react when your toddler tells you their imaginary sister has been squashed. Well at the time cuddles worked I spent the rest of the day clinging to mum and ignoring Simon, my tears calmed down until Dad came home from work and I had to tell him what happened. After a day of driving school children around in a coach the last thing dad wanted was more whiny kids at home, but he listened when I told him the swing story and he told Simon off. I had a cuddle from dad too which were always great because he’s like a big teddy bear. That evening I went to bed sad that I had lost my best friend and sister and sad that my brother was so mean. A week later on July 4th 1982 only eight days before my third birthday, things changed again when my real sister was born.
Samantha looked nothing like my imaginary sister; she was purple and screamed lots for a start. Simon loved her though, I did too of course but she replaced me in his eyes and he did everything for her as he had done for me when I was younger. She got to share his toys and play games with him when she was old enough. This would have been the perfect time for my imaginary sister to return but she never did, perhaps I didn’t really need her after all.
I started playschool a couple of months after Samantha was born and made loads of friends. There was one boy who followed me around all the time which meant I always had someone to play with, I didn’t need Simon I had someone who wanted to be my friend. He was always by my side, he was with me when I played with the big yellow teapot and when I tripped over and cut my lip on a tricycle handlebar. He was there when I returned from the hospital after having some purple liquid put on my swollen lip and he was there trying to make me smile for the yearly playschool photo. Nobody managed to make me smile for this photo, my mum tried, my friend tried and the photographer tried but no smile. He sat next to me when we had our afternoon snack of milk and a biscuit. The milk always came in spotty cups and when given the choice I opted for the blue one and he always chose the green. We always had malted milk biscuits, the ones with the cows on them.We both used to eat around the raised edges first and then nibble around them to leave just the cows left to eat. He would follow me to the toilet too but always waited outside. It would always be the two of us playing together on the climbing frame and slide while waiting for our parents to pick us up, my mum was always there first and I never saw either of his parents.When we left playschool and went our separate ways to different primary schools I knew I would miss him. I was worried that I would never make any other friends like him and I cried on the first day of every term.I did make friends but none that followed me like he did; I wonder why I can’t remember his name?