Sibling antics: How my younger brother fulfilled my childhood wish

May 25, 2023
Source: Getty

From time to time, something reminds me of the antics my two siblings and I would get up to in our early years.

When I was younger, I would often wish to have a sister instead of two younger brothers. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I love my brothers– we had the best of times– but I wanted a sister. And as the old adage goes: “Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it”.

My youngest brother, Mal, would take on the role of a much-wanted little sister, especially as he was too young to object at the time.

He was about two or three years old and I would have been around six when it struck me that with a little imagination and dressing him in one of my dresses, that I had grown out of, he could be my little sister…”Maryanne.”

Maryanne would dutifully don that frilly little yellow dress, black patent shoes and white socks, topped off with a ribbon tied around her top-notch brown hair. “She” would then sit dutifully in my doll’s stroller and we would set out on a journey around the block. 

It was safe in those days to go on such an adventure, although I do remember Mum asking me what I was doing and where we were going (and I am sure she wasn’t far behind us) 

Pushing a small child (being one myself) up the hill of our Paddington Street, in a doll’s stroller, was no mean feat, but I was a very determined child and was not about to give up. Reaching the top of our hill, it was a right turn toward the small group of shops that serviced our neighbourhood. 

I really had a liking for the butcher shop; the floor was covered in sawdust and they were always a happy, rowdy bunch of men. This was my first stop. What they must have thought, seeing me on my own, with my youngest brother dressed as a girl, pushing my way through their door.

They played along though, they knew who I was, (could see Mum outside) and greeted my new little sister, Maryanne, with the pomp and ceremony I thought, introducing a little sister, warranted.

Feeling chuffed, we continued on to the milk bar and fish and chip shop. Mrs Comino, the shop owner, was laughing hysterically as I huffed and puffed, pulling my doll’s stroller up the shop’s two front stairs, backwards, with my little “sister” clinging on for dear life.

Unfortunately, the stroller didn’t quite make it to the top of the second step, and our “Maryanne” toppled. 

Mum, of course, was not far behind us and ran to our rescue. Scooping up my now screaming, little “sister” in her arms and making sure that there was nothing broken, other than my doll’s stroller, she asked Mrs Comino for a chocolate milkshake and a couple of pennyworth of lollies for us to share. Of course, this made us feel much better and Maryanne stopped crying instantly.

As I grew older, Mum would give me a note and a string bag, and send me off to Mrs Comino’s corner store for items needed to complete a recipe or for some other bits and pieces that could not wait until we made the weekly journey into town, on the tram, to Coles or Woolworth’s. There wasn’t a supermarket as such, in Paddington, until sometime in the ’60s

My reward, from time to time, for doing the shopping, was a chocolate milkshake, which I would drink greedily in the shop, from one of those, frosty cold, aluminium milkshake tumblers, while waiting for Mrs Comino to fill our order. Of course, money was not necessary as it was all booked up on ‘the tab’ for Dad to settle at the end of the month.

I would waddle home, with my purchases, carefully placed in that string bag, my stomach so full from that chocolate milkshake, I felt like I was about to explode.

Once home Mum would inspect the contents to see all that was written on the note was there, including the necessary box of Bex powders every housewife ‘needed’ in those days. Goods put away, she would pop the kettle on the gas stove and the burner was ignited, to make a cuppa for her to have with ‘A Bex and a lie down’ before starting dinner, and of course…. before Dad got home.

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