I’m one of five. Youngest of the four girls but not the youngest of all the McCrory kids – my brother Jamie takes that honour.
There’s a lot been written about birth order and how our personalities are shaped by the order in which we came into the world. They say that first borns will be the most responsible, ambitious and serious, the middle child feels overlooked but innovates and adapts to compensate developing strong social skills, and the youngest will be the happy-go-lucky baby of the family, a little bit risk-taking and definitely attention seeking .
It’s true that my sister Susan is responsible. In my mind, she’s always been a grown up. When I was small she was like a little mother, a little bit bossy, telling us what to do.
I remember coming home from school one cold December day boldly stating with dramatic effect that there was no Santa Claus. Earlier that day Andrew Walker and Linda Christiansen in my grade 3 class had delivered this startling revelation to me. I was devastated and testing the new theory. Rather than comfort me and assure me that my classmates were mistaken, she commanded, “Shhh – Don’t tell Jamie.” (I had just turned 8).
Susan is also very accomplished. She not only has an undergraduate degree in theology, she completed a post-grad in teaching while her daughters were young and is the only one in our family to have completed a Masters. And while she can be serious, she can also be extremely goofy. When I’m looking to dance or do something silly she’s the first I turn to. She will sing nonsense like me, stand on her head if you ask her, and laugh with you until you pee your pants.
Janet is a typical second child who also happens to be a middle child. A little overshadowed by a clever older sister she had to carve her own path. She has highly developed social skills. In a crowd or in new situations she will be the first one to initiate conversations and ask questions. She will glean information from complete strangers and can uncover their life stories in a matter of minutes.
She’s also a gamer. When it comes to cards or board games she knows how to play the game. She can navigate a game of Risk or a hand of Euchre better than anyone. And when it comes to jigsaw puzzles she will tenaciously figure out where that elusive piece goes. If you want to win, you always want Janet on your team.
Heather is the beauty of the family. She’s the only blond-haired, blue-eyed one among us. She’s also extremely capable, organized and generous. Even though we would have played together as children, I tell people I didn’t truly become aware of her until I was a teenager. The sister closest to me in age, she’s a full 3-and-a-bit years older than me. Those bit years really make a difference.
When I was starting high school Heather was completing grade 13. To my 14, she was 17. She had a boyfriend, she was smart and hung out with the Math Club Geeks – you know, all the kids who had accelerated twice and who were most likely to be class valedictorian. She epitomized everything I knew to be #myteenagedream:
It’s fair to say that of all my siblings I’m probably closest to Heather. That doesn’t mean I love her more, it just means that I talk to her the most.
We have a lot of the same interests and we’ve spent the most time together. When she was at university in Waterloo, I would travel by bus once a semester to visit her. After she graduated, we traveled through Europe together. When we were starting families we both had two daughters who would become close cousins and friends.
Heather is my inspiration and my muse. She’s my fitness guru who introduced me to running and yoga. She will always run faster than me and challenge me in a race. A talented cook and gifted gastronome, she makes a mean meal and will act as my consultant whenever I’m planning a party. She will also help me declutter my house and my mind whenever I’m overwhelmed.
Jamie is the baby of the family. He’s also the only boy. Mum loved him best. He was a preemie born two months before his due date. But that didn’t stop him from growing to more than 6 feet.
There’s no denying he was pampered. One of the stories I’m best known for in my family is my personal lament that I never got a bike. Sure I rode one as a kid. It was a hand-me-down of Susan and Janet. My first and only bike is the one that I bought myself when I was 24. It still sits in my garage and comes out once or twice a year.
But Jamie? Oh no! He had a 10 speed bike when they were first becoming popular. AND he was given a banana seat when they were first introduced in the 1960s. I got him back though. I conveniently forgot I had laid his bike in the driveway one day when he had deigned to let me ride it. My dad drove over it.
Jamie and I are also very close. Only 18 months apart we definitely played together as kids. I once told my neighbour we were nearly twins because I heard my mother say something along the lines that we were tied at the hip. He and I share a love of music together – and believe it or not, of cycling.
Growing up, we were always sent as a pair to our grandparents or our cousins while our sisters and our parents were doing something else. His kids too are the same age as mine. Our families get together every Canada Day just to hang.
Heather always said that Jamie and I were our parents’ second family. Susan, Janet and Heather were the first family and then we came along and were the second family. As the younger two, we were given more leeway than the older three. We never had curfew, we were given more liberties, offered more experiences and we had the benefit of travel opportunities our sisters never got.
I once told my mother she loved me the least. She loved Susan because she was the eldest and had moved to another province in her early 20s, she loved Janet because she was a congenital amputee and needed her support, she loved Heather because she was beautiful and smart and she loved Jamie because he was her only boy and her baby.
My mother had the audacity to laugh at me. She told me that when you have 5 kids the one you love the most is the one who needs you most at any given moment. According to her, I never needed her.
Now of course that’s not true. What she was telling me is that I was always independent. I was always quietly confident. From the start, I was never afraid to try new things to meet new people. I was the risk-taker, the attention seeker. I would assuredly take the #roadlesstraveled and see things through my own imaginative lens.
These are the traits of a youngest born. While Jamie was the baby, because he was the only boy, studies will tell you that he also assumed the characteristics of a first born or an only child. He is responsible (most of the time), serious (except when he’s relentlessly teasing my youngest daughter) and quietly gentle. A man’s man and a woman’s man – the type of guy who was raised among women and understands how to see things from both POVs.
My sisters will tell you that when I was a baby I was so ugly I was cute. I knew I was an accident of birth. Heather was right in that I was the start of family number two. Jamie was planned because they didn’t want me to be raised alone. People would always assume that because I was the last of four girls and quickly followed in birth by my brother that my parents were holding out for a boy. “Not true,” said my parents.
My mother would always share with me the delight she and my father took in having a fourth daughter. While they had both hoped for Susan and Heather to be boys, for Janet and me, she said they wanted girls. They wanted same gender siblings. Pairs of daughters or pairs of sons. Two peas-in-a-pod, so to speak.
As you can no doubt tell, family means a lot to me. The legacy our parents left us is to be a close and loving family. We’ve had our fair share of family dramas. There have been rip-roaring fights and disagreements but we always settle them. That’s what family does.
I may go for weeks or months at a time from seeing one sibling or another but I know that each of them would be there for me at a drop of a hat. In fact each of them has.
I can relate umpteen instances where one or all of my siblings has rushed to help me when mini or major crisis has struck. Like the time they banned together to get me to the airport in time to make a family wedding. Or the time they rushed to be with my kids when my husband was taken to hospital and I was stranded in a snowstorm in Calgary. Or the time they were simply a sounding board when I was trying to figure life out.
My siblings are my rock. It doesn’t matter to me if they’re oldest, youngest or middlest. Whether they’re bossy, competitive, beautiful or smart. They are all kind, generous and compassionate. And reliable. And fun.
Being among the youngest I could argue that my parents saved the best for last. Rather, I see it that I’m among the last of the best.
Last summer was the first time in a long while that we hadn’t all gotten together as a family. I’m looking forward to 2017 when we can reunite as our original Party of Five.
Hugs, kisses, tickles and an I love you. XOXOX