I am an only child. I think I fit all the stereotypes of an only child; I’m spoilt, I like my own way – I don’t like to share and I adore my own company. I never felt sad about being the only child in the house. I never felt lonely. I never felt as though I was missing out. At Christmas I had a hundred presents under the tree and I got my mum’s undivided attention. All was pretty good in my life – I had no complaints.
But I did have a cousin. Her name is Ellie. Unless she’s in trouble – then it’s Eleanor.
She had long straight blonde hair like the princesses in Disney films – while I had untamed curls in a boyish cut. She wore beautiful dresses while I ran about in shorts and she was confident while I was painfully shy.
When we were little we spent pretty much every single weekend together. I stayed at her house and went to church with her on a Sunday morning. We ate mountains of Ice cream and watched Beetlejuice till we knew every line. We could re-enact the whole of The Lion King. When we went to the beach she would sit on a rock and sing “Part of Your World” in the style of Ariel – I was Flounder.
We were obsessed with East 17, Disney and singing and dancing. I played on her Nintendo and we belted out “You’re so Vain” on her karaoke machine. When she stayed at my house we would giggle so loudly at night that my mum would constantly shout whisper at us “The neighbours! The neighbours!” which made us howl even more. We used to steal my dad’s letter opener and pretend we were Indiana Jones.
We used to believe that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were real and below every drain we saw. We repeatedly watched Tremors and ate bon bons. We went swimming and pretended to be French in the changing rooms nattering in our made up Allo Allo gibberish, “Regarde les bibliotheque couson Ellie!”
We watched Romeo and Juliet again. and again. and again. We talked about boys.
We went on holidays together to Keycamp in France nearly every summer. We took her to Greece and my uncle and auntie took me to Greece too! Every single October half term her parents took us to Devon where we stayed on a Stoney beach trying to terrify each other for Halloween. We always dressed up – it was the tradition.
As we grew up I started to become overwhelmingly jealous of her. She probably doesn’t know this to this day. To me she was always the pretty one. Boys liked her, reader: they did not like me. To give you a sense of how pretty she was, once in Greece a boy drove ACROSS Kefalonia (an entire island) to track our car after looking at her. My mum ran around shooing men away from her; “She’s fourteen! Get lost!” No one noticed me.
I wished I could be just like Ellie. The only thing I was better at was eating everything off my plate – something I’m still great at to this day.
As we got older, got boyfriends and went to University we drifted apart and she settled in Leeds. Of course we saw each other at the Christmas do – or on our birthdays – or for her wedding – but we weren’t as close as we were.
When, five years ago, my now husband and I wanted to move from Birmingham – I picked Leeds. “Ellie is there” I thought!
Over the next five years we saw more and more of each other and I finally feel like we are back to where we were. I love her with all my heart. I can tell her anything. She’s the most generous person I know and also completely potty in the most endearing way. My little boy idolises her. Special Auntie Ellie.
So even though I never got a sister – I sort of did. Ellie is my sister – and she always will be.
Yesterday she took me out for birthday drinks, because now we drink wine on roof terraces and talk about adulting. Underneath we will always be those two girls, drinking Ice cream soda singing the song from Beetlejuice, making up dance routines to ‘We are Family’. I’m so thankful this only child got a sister after all.