One summer day, my mother took me to my grandparents’ place. She’d packed a small bag with some of my clothes and favourite toys. As we drove to their townhouse on the hill, I could tell that something was different about the visit; my mother was bigger than usual and she sweat more: she seemed distracted. I started to cry as soon as we walked into grandma and grandpa’s kitchen.
“Momma, where are you going?” I cried.
“I’m going to get your new sister from the hospital. Aren’t you excited to meet her?”
“How long will you be?”
“I’ll be back very soon. Probably tomorrow.”
My grandpa sat at the kitchen table with his pocket knife in his hand.
“Nicholas, come sit on grandpa’s lap! Look what I’ve got for you; a spoonful of your favourite syrup and some sausage.”
I grabbed ahold of my mother’s leg and shook my head.
Tears welled up in her eyes.
“I want to go with you momma.”
“You can’t, Nicholas. Go see grandpa.”
Two days passed before I saw my mother again; when she returned, she was not alone.
My mother carried a strange, hairy little creature into my grandparents’ kitchen. I ran to hug my mom, but her arms were full so I clung to her leg until she sat down in a rocking chair in the corner of the room.
“Nicholas, this is your baby sister, Jaclyn.”
I looked into Jaclyn’s squinted eyes and she immediately started to cry. My mother covered the baby’s head and held her close. I wasn’t able to get onto her lap; I felt angry and sad.
I have very few memories of my infant sister. She drank a lot of milk and never grew. My grandparents filled her bottle with thick cream to no avail; she remained lean. She was much darker than I.
Jaclyn came to life as a toddler. A natural acrobat who dramatically rolled her eyes, she soon gained the attention and affection of all who gathered; I, the quiet, pale older brother, hid in my bedroom and listened to records.
While I grieved the loss of my two year monopoly of my parent’s affection, Jaclyn argues that there was never any competition. I remain the main character in my family’s tattered photo album: she played the interesting and mysterious supporting role. Competition, my sister and I’s shared, deadly twin.
Our parents enrolled us in sports when we were very young: my sister, in gymnastics and me in soccer. Jaclyn got a brand new gymnastics outfit: it was purple and white and it’s texture reminded me of an exaggerated weave of luxurious toilet paper. My soccer uniform was borrowed from the previous year’s team– it was green and yellow and smelled of violent, pre-adolescent BO.
Jaclyn excelled at her sport. She was a preternatural gymnast. Even as a toddler, she easily ascended the vaulted backs of rocking chairs, turning the living room lights on and off while rolling her eyes. Everyone laughed, urging her on to more daring exploits. Her experience climbing, jumping and cavorting translated directly onto the padded mat of the gym. Family came from far and wide to see her get perfect tens for her complex routines.
I, on the other hand, remained uncoordinated and scrawny. My family looked on, and quickly away as I slipped and fell into the muck of every soccer field in the North Eastern quadrant of Calgary. I cursed myself with embarrassment and my asthmatic lungs revolted: the phlegm I coughed up matched the colours of my second hand jersey. My experience with soccer set the trend for every sporting experience I’d ever have.