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Strong sibling bond

Sherie Holder-Olutayo

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One of Harriette Skeete’s earliest memories is that of her mother’s constant cry to “take care of your little sister or brother”.  While for some children that admonition might fall on deaf ears, it became ingrained in Harriette’s psyche, even before her sister was born.
“When my mum was pregnant she used to harp on ‘Harriette you know you are the big sister, and you have to take care of this little one,” Harriette said. “I guess she put it in my head that I had to be the responsible one. So when she was born we were all excited and I remembered thinking I had to look after her, I had to take care of her.”
Though there is only a five-year difference between the two girls, it didn’t stop Harriette from trying to live up to her mother’s mandate, helping to change diapers, bring her bottles and literally watching over her.
“Obviously the bond then grew over the years but that protective nature I’ve always had,” said Harriette. “My name was the first word she said and that’s a hard name to say.”
Though these revelations from Harriette in the interview with Easy magazine, Trisha had never heard before, looking back over their family dynamic, she was better able to understand the relationship.
“Harriette has always been there to protect me, to advise, even if I had a problem it would be Harriette I went to, not even my mum,” Trisha revealed. “So it’s all making sense now.”
While Harriette and Trisha were born and raised in England and spent their early years there, their mother returned to Barbados when they were nine and three-years-old respectively.
“It was the best decision she made,” said Harriette, “because of the culture you have in England compared with Barbados.
“There’s almost no drive with the people in England to aspire for more,” says Trisha. “So many young girls have children and go on welfare benefits and that push isn’t there.”
Perhaps their relationship was fostered by being raised by a single mum. As a nurse their mother worked long hours on different shifts so the bond between the girls grew.
“I never felt like it was too much pressure,” Harriette said. “It was almost like I was born to do this.”
As they advanced in age their life took them in different directions. Harriette returned to England to attend university and Trisha remained here. 
But the distance and time apart also forced  the nature of their relationship to change, and they became confidantes and best friends as their gap in age somehow became less of an issue.    
“Trisha has been always one of those people that I could share anything with and I know that it is not going to go anywhere,” Harriette said. “The bond has come out of the amount of trust I have in her and the trust she has in me.”
The distance served as a catalyst to help both sisters grow up and come into themselves. Though they both admit it was difficult at first, being apart helped them to carve out the personalities they both have now. The distance also caused both girls to mature, to develop their own spiritual awareness and faith in God and basically to grow up.
“I made a lot of mistakes when I was away, and I learnt from them,” Harriette said. “The good thing was that I was able to share those mistakes I made with Trisha, so that she could learn as much as I did.
“But I didn’t want to go through this and then watch Trisha do it if I could save her from those things.”
While Harriette realized that her protective nature was coming to bear in that situation, she found that she and Trisha were able to connect on so many personal issues.
Even though Harriette is married and has a daughter, it has not diminished their relationship any. In fact, Trisha is her daughter’s godmother.
“Perhaps it’s from having a differnet world view and even being burnt by other females,” but I know that my sister is one person that I can trust wholeheartedly,” says Trisha.
“Even when she made me Analea’s godmother it was a reality check for me to get myself together.”
For Harriette, the years have brought a change in both their lives. Trisha has returned to London and has carved out a life for herself in a thriving career. Harriette and her husband and daughter reside in Barbados.
“Our relationship has changed where I felt like there’s been a role reversal,” Harriette said.
Trisha also agrees. “Harriette has always been able to encourage me and believe in me when I didn’t believe in myself,” she says. “I’m her cheerleader and she’s mine.”