YASMIN ALIBHAI-BROWN recalls her heartbreaking family history
, 2022-01-06 02:00:00,
Julie loved her red shoes. I’d given them to her just before Christmas 2017. They were scarlet and shiny like lipstick, flat, with straps over the instep.
She loved them so much she only took them off when she got into bed.
But this past November, when I spotted those same shoes in a catalogue, I wept.
Because I realised then that I didn’t really know Julie. And now I never will. My older sister’s gone, taken by Covid last March.
Most sisters have intensely close, if sometimes fraught, relationships. There are jealousies and quarrels but also loyalty and fun.
I envied my friends with this sort of sibling connection because, for most of my life, Julie was a stranger to me.
We might have shared a love of books, floaty dresses, Joni Mitchell and socialist values. Yet we never bonded. And I’ve never been sadder that we didn’t have the chance to be proper sisters.
In the months since her death, I have gone through cycles of deep sorrow, as well as regret, guilt and exasperation. My feelings are partly due to the circumstances that conspired to keep us apart.
Growing up apart: Yasmin and her elder sister Julie
It was our mercurial, irresponsible father who sent Julie to England when I was six — a move that sparked a chain of events that led to many years of separation.
Throughout my childhood there were a host of secrets and lies when it came to Julie. And then, I must confess, in the last two decades I was too immersed in my own career and busy life: I should have tried…
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