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  • My sister and I, circa 1965? I am on the right.

    Let me preface this by saying that I have no full brothers or sisters... I have two half brothers, three half sisters, a step brother and step sister... and had two "sort of brothers" - half brothers of my step brother and sister. There may be more. I always joke that if we all got together, we'd fill a stadium.

    Less a "blended family" than a goulash.

    I spent the first 6 years of my life as an only child of a single (divorced) mother. I was happy enough with this but Mom, as she puts it, "didn't intend to spend her life as a celibate". In 1963, she pondered the possibility of emigrating to Kenya... or, alternately, taking a job in the Canadian Arctic. What a life I might have led had she not changed her mind, decided to marry instead, retracted her job applications, put an ad in the Ottawa Journal and met my step-Dad.

    Her ad resulted in 21 replies (including one from the town bootlegger who was already married). Number 21 was my future father.

    Dad was a widower, a Parsi originally from Bombay, and father of two. On their first date, he took her to visit the Central Heating Plant in Ottawa. I tease Mom about this but he DID take her to dinner, first. Their second date was a family date. They were engaged before the third date. I was to instantly acquire a brother and sister. SD was 7, a year and two months older than I. Deannie was 5, almost 5 months younger than I. Their mother had killed herself, we were to learn later, when SD was 3 and Deannie was just over a year old. They had been raised by a series of housekeepers, at least one who abused them, forcing them to sit on the front lawn under a blanket in the hot sun for hours as "punishment". The last had fancied she was going to be the next Mrs. D., so was mightily put out when Dad announced his intention to marry my Mom. My brother and sister were two little kids with "issues". My "issues" didn't rear their ugly heads until much later in life.

    Although it doesn't show in this photo, Deannie and I had decided that we were "twins". We dressed in the same outfits, she wearing red and I wearing green or blue. We got the same Christmas gifts... Chatty Cathys in red or blue... Veronica dolls, a Barbie knock off. Our dog ate the feet off mine on Christmas morning. We were as close as two little sisters could be. This photo is one of the rare times when we were not dressed alike. I am wearing a favourite dress, one Mom bought me in England. Ironically, my step brother and I were always mistaken for brother and sister. Both of us fair haired and fair skinned.

    Our closeness lasted until we were pre-teens. It was I who felt the need to break away and march to a different drummer. I felt the need to be myself, not that I knew really what "myself" was. I had my own friends and had my own interests. Unfortunately, it took years for my sister to adapt to the change in our relationship. We did go our separate ways but what my sister couldn't let go of was the need to dress like me... and in an irritating twist, wearing not just her version of my clothes but wearing MY clothes. I would arrive at school and find her wearing my socks... after I had spent 20 minutes trying to find my socks at home. She would take my favourite shirt, actually an Indian cotton dress that had shrunk in the wash.... purple, with embroidery, and little mirrors sewn on. That shirt became the lightening rod which really broke our bond.

    She would arrive home from somewhere wearing my shirt.

    "You're wearing my shirt!"

    "You gave it to me!"

    "I didn't!"

    "You did!"

    "Why would I give it to you? It's my favourite shirt!"

    "You gave it to me!"

    "I didn't!"

    Round and round it went, eventually culminating with "Mom, she's wearing my shirt!"

    "She gave it to me!"

    "I didn't!"

    "She did!"

    "Why would I give it to her? It's my favourite shirt!"

    "She gave it to me!"

    "Mom! Tell her it's my shirt!"

    "Well... I don't know..." Mom would say. I never understood that. Why did Mom not defend me? Why did she prevaricate every single time? I never understood. I still don't understand.

    It ended the day Deannie walked in after school one frigid March evening wearing my shirt. I was cooking dinner.

    "You're wearing my shirt!"

    "You gave it to me!"

    I snapped and chased her out the door in her stocking feet, with a steak knife in my hand. I probably would have killed her if our boyfriends hadn't restrained me. There were no repercussions. Our parents never knew. But she never wore my shirt again.

    Our twinship ended firmly and unequivocally that March evening.
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