I sometimes wonder who got the better deal, my brother or sister or me.
Michaela is the oldest, and the only girl. This means she got her own room growing up, while James and I fought for space down the hall. If Mum has a favourite, it’s probably Michaela. “She’s my first-born,” Mum always says. “My only girl.”
The first-born child is always the most fragile; anything can go wrong. Michaela wasn’t allowed to chew gum until she was ten. I chortled when I learned that and noisily chewed some of Dad’s PK at her, then took it out of my mouth when no one was watching because I thought it tasted spicy. She is the first child and for two years she was the only child. I don’t know what she remembers of life before us, whether she had time to prefer it or not. I think I wouldn’t mind being the oldest so much, but by being the only girl she’s been deprived of ever knowing a sister. James and I are lucky in that respect; we have a brother and sister each.
James is the middle child, and sort of our moral compass. Though we’ve all been to court, James is the only one who hasn’t taken drugs. He doesn’t have a tattoo and the Bible doesn’t damn him for his sexual preference. He’s studying to be a preschool teacher, a less self-indulgent career move than his two writer siblings. In themselves these are not such remarkable things, but given his Jan Brady position in the family they are admirable, at least. As a baby he was force-fed “potions” by Michaela and her friends, which from what I’ve heard were just cups of mud and lawn. When he was fifteen he had an annoying, in-his-face younger brother who would provoke him mercilessly by systematically breaking his football trophies.
As the middle child, he had not the power of the oldest or the innocence of the youngest to escape these situations unscathed. But there is a uniqueness to being the second of three, in that neither Michaela nor myself will ever know what it is like to have both an older sibling and a younger one. He is closer to understanding Michaela’s and my positions than we are to his. He keeps a foot in each world and keeps us steady with both.
I am the youngest; last. The last to know things, when aunts and uncles get divorced or family pets need to be put down. I am the last to move out, so it will be me who leaves Mum in the house by herself when I go. I am the last to grow up. But because I am last, I have been able to learn from first and second place. I could watch James and Michaela solve all the levels on Spyro before trying it out for myself.
I knew how to handle fights with Mum and Dad about grown up problems by the time I was nine. I had Michaela to drive me when I needed lifts, James to wade through the same high school a couple of years ahead of me. I am the most spoiled now, probably, because Mum must know that I won’t be home forever. I’m starting to feel like a grown up now, almost, and I often wonder if, sometime down the track, James and Michaela will still feel older, or maybe just familiar.