Growing up, I never liked my big sister. She was older, smarter and was a better dancer and speaker than me. I mean she could remember things, dates, people, faces while I remained in her shadows for all of my childhood years.
At the beginning, we always fought over everything, I mean real scuffles. She was like two sizes bigger than me, but that didn’t stop me from challenging her at every step; and then she’d beat me real good, after repeatedly warning me off the fight I always started.
Then I thought I had my revenge when I became a teenager and we became the same size. But my mother spoilt my victory by buying us the same things; underwear, clothes, shoes and worse of all she even insisted we plaited our hair the same style, which I hated so much. My mother was the number one culprit in making me look like my sister. So, every time we met with family and friends, they’d go, ‘BosePeju? Which are you?’ They would always ask, pointing at us, one after the other. I never volunteered an answer even though my sister always did.
I wanted to be my own person, have my own clothes and identity, but unlike my sister, I was lazy and hated socializing. I would be the last to wash my clothes. I wish washing machines were as popular as they are these days. But no, washing meant taking my turn at the tap down stairs, fighting off my sister with the huge wash basin, forget that my mum had about three; I would always want that which my sister got first and when I fought her for it she would beat my sorry ass.
But my sister fought my battles; she beat all the neighbourhood boys who bothered me. Too many times, I would find my sister had given a couple of my troublers a knock or two and warned them off me. She never asked questions, she just went behind me and delivered ‘judgments’ many of which I never thanked her for.
I hated my sister even more when she turned 13, because, then her period came and I just didn’t understand why she would ‘become a woman’ so soon as my mother’s put it.
‘Now you have become a woman,’ she said, ‘don’t let any man touch you or you will become pregnant and I’ll have to kill you’ she finished, wagging a finger at my sister and I.
She didn’t tell us there was more to the ‘touching’ so we took her words, literally. Whenever my sister needed to run errands, she’d beg or bribe me to go with her and I would for a fee. I would watch her carefully avoid men touching her in any way. One day, it was inevitable, some Igbo boys at Yaba grabbed at my sister, calling her to buy from the multitude of second hand clothes displayed on the hangers. I joined in the fight to rescue her from the many hands that clawed at her. We fought free and raced home.
Stricken by the idea of having babies for Igbo traders, we got home and burst into tears. My mother would be merciless; we knew she would flog us so hard and throw our babies out. For the first time in my life, I wept with my big sister and we have never stopped laughing and crying together.
Over the years I’ve acquired more sisters along the way; being an alumni of an all-girls school, FGGC Bida, I found sisters who’ve stood up for me, who’ve held my hand, who’ve supported me and wiped my tears. I got sisters who in one way or another moulded and formed me. And I have done same for them.
Sisters are a girl’s best friend; yeah, we bitch, we claw, we fight, but deep down, we know what hurts and exactly how it hurts without having to describe the pain. If you have a circle of sisters, 80% of our gist is about the children we have been blessed with and the men in our lives.
The men we have had to hold, the ones who slipped away, the ones we hunted for and got with our sweat, maybe our money, too. The ones who gave us babies and took off and the ones who stayed; the ones we would scalp if we had the guts to and the ones love just won’t let us let go.
But when push comes to shove, we hunker down and hold each other up.
We have a whatsApp group of about a hundred from all over the world and it’s amazing how our chats are an endless stream of talk ranging all over the topics above.
This binds us more than we can imagine and when recently one of us, Mabel Jibunoh, passed on, our ties became stronger. It seemed like Mabel’s spirit helped us see the important things about life-not the number of cars we have or our boxes of jewelry nor how posh homes are. Her passing helped us see our need for one another.
I haven’t stopped being my big sister’s keeper since that episode at Yaba and I may not be the best sister my sister deserves but I’m mighty glad I’ve got a big sister who’s always got my back.
photo credit: the author
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