My big sister had a birthday on the fifteenth and I thought about her all day long.
I thought about the summer camps and the Girl Scout cookie sales…how I was too scared to ring people’s doorbells but she made me anyway. It was the same way at the concession stand at football games. I was always too scared to order nachos for myself but she pushed me to speak up. She forced me step up and make the effort to accomplish what I needed to do even if I was afraid.
I thought about the years of shared rooms and how my sloppiness made her crazy. I thought about the years of fighting and yelling and butting heads and of the endless games of boob punching that drove our mother crazy.
I thought about the zillion times we watched movies and she “got to be” the best character because she always remembered to call it first; Dorcas in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Judy in White Christmas. I thought of the times she hid from me, under the stairs or under my bed, waiting the scare the ever-living shit out of me and how we both laughed until we cried (or cried until we laughed, in my case) over it. I thought about the time she taped down the nozzle on the spray hose to the sink and then asked me for a glass of water and of the time she tried to teach me to drive her stick shift.
I thought about when she moved away to college and I realized I had seriously underestimated how much I’d miss her. I remembered the Spring Break I spent in Virginia in her dorm room, and how that was the first time I ever flew by myself. I felt so young next to her friends and so excited she was willing to open up her college experience to me.
I was always in awe of my big sister. She has always been the brave one, ready to cross the country for school, the ocean for the Peace Corps, to start over and reinvent herself and cross the ocean again for work and love and life. I really admire that about her.
And I see all of it echoed in my girls’ relationship with each other.
I see us in them.
I see us in the “shows” they put on and the endless games of “Present Me” they play, in which they announce each other and then barrel into the room like the stars they are.
“Nooow presentiiiiing Lily Colette Delagrange!” (Stumble, trip, crash, applause, repeat.)
I see us in the games of dress-up, during which Lily always has to be the boy and Maggie directs every detail of their make-believe.
I see us in them while they’re talking and smacking each other in the back seat of our van, in their little heads bent over their lunches, in their wrinkly toes in the bathtub. I see us in the puddles on the bathroom floor, a direct result of their spitting water at each other.
I hear us, too.
I hear us in the serious conversations about “sick” kitties/bunnies/babies/dinosaurs and how best to treat them.
I hear us in the songs they sing…and their debates over the acceptable lyrics.
I hear us in the giggles that bubble up in the most inappropriate of places, like church or while they’re being disciplined. I hear us in this laughter that they can’t control, the giggles that will. not. subside. no matter how serious the situation.
I hear us in the shrieks over pulled hair and stolen toys.
And, though she lives literally a world away, I feel my sister in my girls, too.
I feel her when I see Maggie take the time to get Lily a cup of water without being asked to.
I feel her when I see them holding hands in a parking lot or a store.
I feel her when they hug and when they pretend to sleep in Maggie’s bed, and when they try to sneak up on me and scare me.
My girls are so little, but I already see it all. I know their relationship with grow and change as they individually grow and change. They’ll be distant and close, they’ll be competitors and teammates, friends and enemies. I see Lily look to Maggie to lead the way and I see the conflict in both of them…that desire to do things on their own, but still very pulled to the comfort and safety of doing things with a sister, however irritating she may be.
Because of my girls I’m able to see my childhood, our sisterhood, in a new light. I see how things must have been for my sister and I have a new sensitivity to how hard it is to be sisters. Our mother always told us that a sister is the one friend you’ll have for your entire life, so you’d better love her and take care of her. There are so many ways I haven’t taken care of my sister, so many times I’ve dropped the ball. And yet, she’s there. Always.
And that’s what sisterhood is about. No matter what we do or the choices we make, there will always be a bond that ties us to one another. It’s the bond that made us stand up for one another on the school bus. The same bond that hatched harebrained schemes to sneak around and get tattoos together. The bond that allows us to literally cackle over pretty much nothing on the phone. She’s seen me at my absolute worst and has helped make me my absolute best. I couldn’t be more grateful for that crazy girl in Iraq and the millions of memories we’ve shared.
Love you, sis.