When Helen and I were little, our favorite books were those from the "Frances" series by Russell Hoban- the cutest little stories about a stubborn little bear called Frances and his furry family and friends.
Re-reading the stories last night (Have I got no life, or have I got no life?) it struck me that the reason we loved them so much was because Frances was silly, obtuse and eccentric and dear reader, these are without doubt, qualities both Helen and I relate to…
Take the beginning of "A Birthday For Frances:
It was the day before France’s little sister Gloria’s birthday. Mother and Gloria were sitting at the kitchen table, making place cards for the party.
Frances was in the broom closet, singing:
Happy Thursday to you,
Happy Thursday to you,
Happy Thursday, dear Alice,
Happy Thursday to you.
"Who is Alice?" asked Mother.
"Alice is somebody that nobody can see" said Frances. "And that is why she does not have a birthday. So I am singing Happy Thursday to her."
"Today is Friday" said Mother.
"It is Thursday for Alice" said Frances.
"Alice will not have h-r-n-d, and she will not have g-k-l-s. But we are singing together"
"What are h-r-n-d and g-k-l-s?" asked Mother?
"Cake and candy. I thought you could spell," said Frances.
"I am sure that Alice will have cake and candy on her birthday," said Mother.
"But Alice does not have a birthday" said Frances.
"Yes she does" said Mother "Even if nobody can see her, alice has one birthday every year and so do you. your birthday is two months from now. Then you will be the birthday girl. But tomorrow is Glorias birthday and she will be he birthday girl"
"That is how it is Alice," said Frances "Your birthday is always the one that is not now."
Now isn’t that something we can all relate to: that our birthday is always the one that is not now? That the grass is always greener on your sister’s side of the bedroom and that if it’s her party, we’ll cry if we want to?
From time to time I am a jealous cow. I want Helen’s hair and and I want a house with three floors and lots of bathrooms. I want to live in the Cotswolds and have a high powered job. Sometimes I am mean to her for no reason other than she is my little sister and I more than anyone else, know how to hurt her. Sometimes I niggle at her all day long just because I can and even at the grand old age of thirty three I am not immune to playing favorites with our parents…
The "Frances" books are all about the relationship between Frances and Gloria and the petty little jealousies that eat us all up…
I think that more than anything, being a good sister is hard.
Let’s face it I wouldn’t be human if I wasn’t an evil old cow.
I think Helen would agree.