Growing up with two older sisters and a younger brother, each about two years apart, I longed to gain entry into ‘the big girls club.’
My brother, Kevin, was in a club – and room—of his own.
We three sisters shared a room, although I was a bit isolated on the top bunk and viewed as the baby girl in the family.
The oldest, Karen, and second child, Patrice, tended to pal around together, only grudgingly taking their “baby sister” with them to play outside or down in the basement. Two was company; three a crowd.
Dressed in their starched white cotton shirts and navy blue Catholic school uniforms with lunch boxes in hand they marched off to school as I stayed behind, longing for the day when I would get my own lunch box and join them as part of the ‘big girls club.’
The big day finally came. Looking back on a faded family photo of the three girls in front our twin house, lunch boxes in tow, I felt pure joy at finally joining my two older sisters on the walk to school and a closer glimpse into ‘the big girls club.’
Once there, I hesitated at the classroom door, looking at a nun whose wrinkled face scared me to no end. On that first day Sister Egidia asked me to stand up in front of the whole class and shared with the newcomers that she had taught my mother. Gosh, she was ancient. I felt so humiliated by being singled out and upon returning home vowed never to return to school again. Of course that didn’t happen.
What did happen that year opened my eyes to the disciplinary actions those nuns meted out on any given day. Early on in first grade, Charles Beaver was given a bar of soap and told to eat it to clean out his dirty mouth. He took a bite and spit it out and was sent to the principal’s office. We never found out what happened there. Then came the day that Sister found a brown bag containing an egg salad sandwich abandoned in the rear coatroom.
When nobody fessed up to owning the lunch, Sister made each student take a bite of the sandwich. Gross. To this day I can’t even look at egg salad without my stomach churning. Yuck. Here I was finally in the ‘big girl club’ and I wanted out – big time. Kindergarten was a piece of cake compared to this.
My next entry into the ‘big girl club’ came later that year. Up until this time, I had believed in Santa Claus. Just before Christmas, I saw my two sisters snooping around in our parents’ bedroom. Hovering at the door I asked what they were doing.
“Shh, get in here or we’ll be found out and in deep trouble,” Patrice said. I hesitated, but wanted in on the ‘big girls club.’ They then showed me toys stashed under he bed and clued me into the fact that Santa did not exist. While I was devastated inside, I was also happy to be invited into ‘the big girls club.’ After the holidays were over, I was again banished to the little girl’s club because my mother found out that they had shared the fact that Santa did not exist.
The next time I remember coming back into the ‘big girls club’ was when I got my first training bra. Being the third girl, I typically got hand me downs, but somewhere around 11 years of age, my mother took me and me alone out for my first bra. I wore it proudly as an outward symbol that I had gained entry into the ‘big girls club.’ My sisters laughed when they saw it as it was just a ‘training bra’ and not the real deal like the ones they modeled behind closed doors in our room.
On my 12th Birthday my membership into the ‘big girls club’ became official. That morning I woke up to discover “I had become a woman.” My sisters were thrilled and congratulated me.
I was somber most of the day, fearing that everyone coming to my first boy-girl party that night would be able to tell. I let my best friend, Donna Fitzgerald, in on my secret, but none of the other party goers.
I do remember we turned the lights off and played spin the bottle in the basement briefly until my father flipped the light switch on at the top of the stairs and threatened to come down.
I also remember visiting the powder room every half hour or so to check that everything was in order and I wouldn’t be ‘found out’ by the boys.
In my sisters eyes I was officially ‘in’ the big girls club, but it was a membership I now wanted no part of – but at this stage had no say in the matter.
I loved your story! I am the youngest girl of 4 in my family and you hit the nail on the head several times for me! I never will forget the day when I had to stop hanging around with my second to the oldest sister. We were riding our bikes when all of a sudden some of her friends were yelling to her to join them. She turned to me and said Chrissy you'll have to go back home now I will be going with my friends. It was one of the saddest days for me thinking that I wasn't as important as her friends or why couldn't I go too?
I quickly learned to make my own friends and we never spent time playing together again.
Thanks for sharing, Christine