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May was a very special month in my family, as we celebrated three birthdays in May: my late father, my brother in law (my brother’s husband) and my youngest sister. My sister is three times last on the list: she is the youngest member of our family, she was - after my brother and myself - the last of the family to come out of the closet, and she is the youngest of all sixteen cousins on father’s side.

by Rick van der Made - 01 June 2019

length: 4 min. Printer Friendly Page  
May, the Birthday Month


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length: 4 minuten


If she crosses the threshold of a new decade, it means that the entire family has ended up there and that the oldest cousins are already moving towards the new decade of their lives. In a year, my youngest sister will turn fifty, and all my nephews and nieces on my father’s side will have passed that milestone already.

This year she can enjoy her last year in her forties. I sincerely hope that she will enjoy it. I wish the very best for my sister. As children, my sister and I were almost always together. Nearly inseparable.

We used to love playing with our Playmobil and Lego. My sister also loved playing with plastic soldiers. I didn’t care for them that much. She could paint the dolls for hours on end and play with the plastic miniatures in our backyard or at the gate that ran next to our house. Endlessly! Then I roamed around a bit with my Lego and finally started building colorful houses for her soldiers who stood like a flag on a mud barge in the sand, which of course was not sand at all, but a war zone that was conquered by my sister and some neighborhood boys.

My Lego houses were often shot at or strangely enough landed on a mine field after which they were propelled into the sky. I did not mind at all: I collected the pieces and just started building colorful houses again. As long as I did not have to help set up whole divisions of plastic soldiers in rows of four or, worse, help to make shooting noises and turn the backyard or a sandy path into a battlefield, I was happy.

My sister ran through the garden or the neighboring gates with the boys next door, and killed whole divisions of plastic dolls to her heart’s content. I was not as tough. My sister was so much tougher than me.

Of the four brothers and sisters, she was perhaps the most headstrong. As a child she was already averse to conventions: she never wanted to wear a dress, preferred drawing over doing her homework, and became punk in puberty. Not somewhat punk, such as the semi-soft “new wavers” (in her words), but hardcore punk, complete with Mohawk haircut, safety pins, cracks in her clothes and a preference for left-activist demonstrations with accompanying Mohawk haircut friends, and punk music that regularly filled my father with despair.

Although my parents could not appreciate everything my sister wore or admired, they just let her get on with it. Our mother was not someone to fuss. She would mumble: “Zeitgeist,” when she saw her youngest daughter cycling to school with a purple Mohawk haircut.

“Oh, you know,” one of my sister’s teachers had told my parents during a Parent-teacher meeting, “those who are not a communist at sixteen have no heart, and those who are not a liberal at thirty have no brains.”

“It will blow over,” my mother told my father when, from my sister’s bedroom, the loud music from bands such as the Dead Kennedys, PIL, Fad Gadget, Gang or Four or Siouxsie and the Banshees was drowning out the sweet andante of Mozart’s twenty-first piano concerto. Or by my beloved “Gimme Gimme Gimme” by ABBA.

My mother was right.

At the beginning of the month, I visited her to celebrate her forty-ninth birthday. My sister has lost her Mohawk haircut years ago now. At the end of the afternoon during the visit, she asked me if I would like to join her walking her and her girlfriend’s dogs. I happily agreed.

After half an hour, we were still playing with the dogs on the grass behind her house. My sister grabbed a ball and threw it as far away as possible, with the dogs chasing it.

I wanted to keep up and I also tried to throw the ball as far away as possible. The dogs didn’t even bother running after it, as it had landed on the grass too close to them. My sister laughed.

“Boy,” she said, “it’s a good thing you’ve never been in the army.” “Why is that?” I asked. “If you had thrown those hand grenades, you would have blown up your own battalion instead of the enemy.”

No, at forty-nine she is no longer punk, but she is still as headstrong. She still draws very nicely, and when I visit her, she sometimes still plays long forgotten punk bands.

the Dead Kennedys
“Uhm... Sex Pistols?” I ask her, after which my sister rolls her eyes and sighs. “Of course not! It’s the Dead Kennedys!” And before I know it, she turns the volume all the way up and I am nearly blown off the couch with my piece of apple pie on my fork.

Some things never change. My sister will not only always remain my little sister or the youngest of all paternal cousins, she will also always be much tougher than me.

Perhaps even tougher than the rest of the entire paternal family.

On behalf of my tough sister, I wish you a pleasant start of the summer.

(With thanks to my niece Angela, with whom I had a nice look at the cousins of the paternal family through an app.)
 




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