Memories of Bancroft
I never knew why my sister was so angry, it hung about her like a dark cloud, and I was often afraid of what she would say and do.
When I was about nine years old, and Susan was fourteen, I watched my mother and my sister engage in a bitter altercation. My vantage point was the doorway of the bedroom I shared with my little brother, Ian, half way down the hall. My mother stood at the entrance to corridor, and at the opposite end stood my sister in the doorway to her bedroom. Like a show down between two cowboys at the OK Corrall. Susan was red in the face and sweating, her chest rising and falling rapidly with the effort of shouting, her eyes full of tears. My mother was siloutted against the light from the dining room and they stood a couple of yards apart, facing Susan, with her fists clenched and legs astride, looking utterly exhausted. As they exchanged vollies of anger and demands, my head swung from one end of the hall to the other, like someone at a tennis match,
I shared my mothers hurt and frustration and I felt sorry for her, but I had learned long ago not to particpate in such exchanges with Susan. I always lost, she was the Big Sister, and was older, very articulate, and often malicious. I realised my mother was trying to teach her something, that she wanted her to participate in our household.
I do not know what the argument was about. There were so many. But I remember looking at my sister and having the conscious and clear thought "I will NEVER do this. This way does not work. This is not the way to do things".
It ended, as it often did, with Susan slamming her bedroom door behind her, my Mom walking away with her head in her hands, sometimes in tears, asking Jesus, Mary and Joseph for strength and patience.
Without knowing it, my sister helped me define a way of being, a way of communicating. She taught me what not to do.