Updated: Feb 3, 2022
By Jillian McWhirter:
This is not a scary story for Halloween. This is about having siblings, all sisters—and not just one or two, but three of them. Including me, four girls under one roof. Sure, there are studies about the position into which you are born, but I’m just going to talk as the "third born," me.
Let’s start with when my parents brought my baby sister, Amy, home from the hospital. I never had the chance to meet Amy when she first came home because I was sent to live with my grandparents. I was five years old, and to this day I remember looking out the window of my grandparents' home with a little tear running down my cheek and thinking, Why me? Why did they ship me away? Do they like a baby better? Did I grow up too fast? Little did I know it was because I had a cold and they didn’t want the baby to get sick. Side note: please, parents, explain to your children why your child may have to stay with someone else when a new baby comes home . . . and explain it again when they are old enough to actually understand it.
When I was allowed back home, Amy was in my room! What was that about? My big sisters had their own rooms, so why me, the third child, the one no one really thinks about? I had my own room for five years, but how easily one's status can change.
Flash-forward, we’ve grown up some, and we’ve gotten along for the most part. But don’t dare wake my big sister, Lyn, from a nap. Out of all of us, Lyn was the most petite, but she was also the toughest, and you did not want to get on her bad side. If you did, she would track you down and throw a few good punches at you. Boys are not the only ones who get rough. Then there’s Nan, the second, the biggest heart you could ever imagine. Always there to help out, always there to keep me away from her friends. I was just a little too young to hang with them, and Nan would tell me to go play with Amy. “But Amy only wants to play with dolls, and I don’t like dolls!” I would yell and stomp my feet. But Nan never gave in and kept me away from the older kids. Little did I know she was protecting me.
One fond memory that has always stayed with me was the time Lyn and Nan decided they were going to brand me with a hot fire poker. It was a cold day in the South, and a fire was roaring in the fireplace. Lyn took the poker and let it sit in the fire, making it beet red. Then she instructed Nan to hold me down so that she could brand me like a cow. I was fighting so hard to get away, but Nan was strong. So I yelled, I yelled as loud as I could, and Momma came running in! Talking about being saved.
How our mother raised four girls and worked full time with none of us getting branded is beyond me.
After that, I thought playing with dolls and Amy could be a good idea.
At Christmastime, we would turn on the stereo player and play "Sleigh Ride." Nan, Amy, and I would be the horses, and Lyn would swing the pretend whip and we would dance around. There was the yearly trip when Momma would take us shopping for our Easter dresses. It was one of the few times Momma could get a dress and hat on me, so she took advantage of the holiday.
It was a house of girls, and I can still hear Daddy saying, “Even the dog’s a girl.”
Well, years have passed, and we are all grown up and have families and lives of our own, but I wouldn’t trade one day growing up with my sisters for anything! And I know Lyn will still beat up anyone who tried to hurt us. Nan will always lend an ear when we need to talk, and Amy will always be there to hang with and laugh with—and me, well, I’d do anything for my sisters, anything at all.
Raised in Mississippi, Jillian McWhirter moved to Paris and New York to pursue modeling before moving to Los Angeles to start her film and television career. She has written numerous feature film scripts and has published over thirty educational books that are used by health and safety organizations all over the United States.
Read Elizabeth Gracen's interview with Jillian McWhirter here.