I was in Grade 3 and my sister Karen was in Grade 1. Our brother Cameron would have been a toddler of two, and we lived in the teacherage in our small village, as Dad taught at the high school a block away.
In May that year, our little sister was born. Karen and I went to the stores and to the homes of neighbours, announcing that Mom had had a baby. We hoped she would be named Suzie, but were destined to be disappointed; for some reason, they called her Joan. We still don’t really know why, as there was no one in the family with that name and it was not one of the girls’ names that was popular at the time. Our parents had a friend named Joan but that didn’t seem to be the reason. In recent years we learned that one of our 4X great-grandmothers had been called Joan, and with an interest in numerology it occurred to me that perhaps this had been an unconscious influence upon our mother’s choice of names for this last addition to our family.
And what a sweetheart our baby was. She seemed to smile all the time, from the day they brought her home. She was a pink-complexioned gift from heaven, cuter than any button, a darling from the get-go. Nine years my junior, she was never a pest to her older sisters and she was the delight of our mother; she was a kind of creamy whipped topping on the cake of our family. As an infant Joan was a bit afraid of Dad and would cry when he picked her up, but this passed. She and Mom had a relationship that was close and trusting till the day Mom died; they were good friends as well as mother and daughter.
I left home years before Joan did, but when I was there she’d often follow me around, sleep in the same bed, and pick through my belongings laid out on the dresser. “I’m nosy,” she told me, holding some item up for a closer look.
“She just wants you to like her,” Mom said one time when I was home from boarding school for a weekend and had no idea why Joan’s feelings seemed to be hurt. She was only about six years old then.
And I do like her. She is the best: a kind, generous, funny and fun-loving, smart, fair, energetic bundle of joy. Still. And today’s her birthday.
Have a good one, Joanie! Keep on clownin’ around …
Your Big Sis