This morning I drove my sister and her daughter to the airport. I’ve been laughing and talking for three days straight, in a way that only happens when my sister is around. She’s the one person who will travel with me from the cradle to the grave, the person with whom I can have a five-second conversation in which no words are spoken, but advice is offered and answered and argued and resolved by means of eye contact alone. With my sister, silliness is unavoidable (dying to tell the marshmallow story, Jen, but a promise is a promise) and adventure is optional. We can putz around the kitchen or get hopelessly lost in the suburbs of Portland, drink lavender cosmos at a riverside bar or walk laps around our neighborhood park, and we’ll spend the hours perfectly entertained in each other’s company.
It wasn’t always like this, of course. We are seventeen months apart, childhood rivals for mommy’s affection. I watched her prepare for her role as Betsy Ross in the school play with such bitter envy in my heart that I appropriated the memory as if it were my own; to this day I see myself on center stage in Mom’s homemade bonnet and apron, fake-stitching the stars and stripes in time to the piccolo, when in reality I was eating my little heart out from my seat in the fifth row. (Which may explain the time I carved her initials in our dining room table in a diabolical attempt to incriminate her.) You’d understand in my place. She had the pink fake-fur beanbag, the Farrah Fawcett hair, Chemin de Fer jeans with laces up the back. Her skin didn’t break out. She could play hacky sack. She was a rebel in liquid eyeliner, banging her head to the Scorpions and smoking with the big kids. I was a dark little emo chick who could not make the boys understand just how easy I wanted to be. Oh, big sister. I stuffed my bra full of cotton balls, trying to keep up.
We are grown women now and the playing field has long since leveled out. But admiring my sister is a lifelong habit, as comfortable and homey as my mother’s kitchen. I wish I didn’t have to do it from afar.
What’s it like with your siblings, then and now?