– Virginia Woolf to her sister
My mother went to St. Camillus’s hospital for a week in 1978. She brought home Claire.

At the time, the change in the dinner routine excited me more than the mewling bundle in the maternity ward. In the months beforehand, Mum had cooked individual dinner portions and frozen them in little tinfoil containers with paper lids. ‘Stew’. ‘Shepherds Pie’. ‘Chops’. Every day Mum was away, Dad defrosted two of these meals and heated them in the oven. I was almost six and had never eaten take-away food; this was close enough to be an adventure.

Not as much of an adventure as getting to know my sister Claire turned out to be. She’s two elegant inches taller than me, and twice as well put-together. I preen shamelessly when people ask if we’re sisters. She makes me snort coffee through my nose at least once a week with her sly emails and take-offs of our Limerick neighbors. And she calls to say ‘How are you?’ twice as often as duty demands, and I’m always glad.

She’ll be twenty four tomorrow. Happy birthday, sis.

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