A sister is both your mirror – and your opposite. -Elizabeth Fishel
I was about 14 when I answered the phone. Even though I had never spoken to her before, I knew immediately it was my step-sister on the other line. When she came to visit, I was completely taken aback at how beautiful she was.
Then came the news that she was going to live with us! My first thought: “You expect ME to share MY room?”
My second thought: “Her eyelashes are prettier than mine, this isn’t working for me!”
My third thought: “Wait a minute, she likes the mall, this might be salvageable…”
I was the big sister. I had always been the big sister, and suddenly, there was someone a little older than me in the mix. I think I started out feeling a little threatened, that maybe she would take my place, or out shine me, or force me to give up my pack rat ways, but somewhere in the conversations of that little bedroom, came the start of a beautiful friendship! (Once I got over my eyelash envy.)
This weekend I thought a lot about sisters. I have five of them. Two share the same biological parents and three are technically step-sisters, but I don’t really do that whole “step” thing. When you’re family, you’re family. That’s it, end of story, it doesn’t matter if you came by blood or marriage or if truth-be-told you’re a friend, not really an aunt. Family is based on love, not genetics. It’s the people who are there to support us and give us the foundation to build our journey upon. Plus, my step-sisters have been around all my life. My dad remarried when I was 6 and my mom a few years after that, so I’ve got 30 years invested in these “step-sisters”.
Somehow, the sister I reluctantly gave a tiny corner of my room to has become my biggest supporter, a true ally, and in every way my very best friend. She’s every thing a sister should be, and more. I used to look at her life and think it was so perfect. I almost missed out on getting so close to her because the pretty package made me think she couldn’t understand my struggles. Her house looks like a page out of Better Homes and Gardens. In fact, my kids think visiting there is as good as Six Flags! Her kids are cute enough to be an Abercrombie commercial. And yet, it took her appreciation of my home to make me see what was right in front of me.
She once said to me that I had more love in my tiny little walls than most people could even dream of. She made me stop looking at life for all the things I wished I had- a nicer house, a newer car, better clothes, and start seeing what a treasure chest I live in with a beautiful family that laughs together! She made me realize the laughter glitters more than gold. What I cherish most about her is that we don’t always agree. We can challenge one another, and instead of a drama filled argument, it becomes a chance to find perspective, to learn, and to grow. She wasn’t always as spiritually grounded as she is now. She had her own share of roller coaster rides, but somehow that makes the journey more amazing when you can look back at where you started and see how far you’ve come.
This weekend I went to Fort Worth to see another sister get married. The whole time I was there, I couldn’t help but feel sorrow for the fact that I don’t have 5 relationships that add as much to my life as that one does. I miss my sisters. I miss the time when we were “little peas in a pod” all growing together, all sticking together.
Siblings are the ones you share the most history with. They’re the ones who sat through the same Thanksgiving dinners where embarrassing stories were told year after year. They had the same crazy uncle. They spent the same summer watching Top Gun 954 times. They wore the same shoes! They went on the same vacations, where a million stories were generated. They were the first passengers in my first car. The slept with me on Christmas Eve even when we were nearly grown. My sisters and I are stair-stepped, which of course means we’re all basically the same age. We did the teenage years together. In fact they beat me to the first kisses I do believe. But at my dad’s house, we shared our first nights of sneaking out and strawberry wine and summertime. At my mom’s, I remember her going out of town, and my sisters having a big party, and instead of ratting them out, I helped them clean it up so well that my mom was actually convinced we’d spent the weekend on a Spring Cleaning Spree to surprise her! We covered for each other, we helped each other. I did many pages of homework for them while they did my share of the yardwork! And the one time I ran over one of them with my car, nobody, and I mean nobody ratted me out.
A few years ago I finally told on myself. I’ve already confessed that my feet are made of lead. My sister used to think it was funny to jump in front of my car as I passed her. I guess it was sad that I let her stand there at the bus stop, but hey, I had things to do. I was in high school. One day, I thought it would be funny to gun it just a little right before braking, thinking she would jump back fast. Unfortunately, I skid in the gravel, and ended up running her over, dragging her about 15 feet through the rocks. She went home covered in blood, grass, pebbles and sticks. My mother was horrified when she saw her, and couldn’t believe it when my sister confessed to being clumsy! According to her, she fell, and rolled down into a ditch. I remember being shocked that she didn’t tattle, but I guess she wasn’t gonna tell on me and risk losing her ride on Friday night! We were really close like that.
We had nothing, but we had each other, and somehow it was more than enough. This morning I was sitting with one of my dearest friends and we were talking about how we have worked so hard to give our kids everything we never had, and that perhaps it cheated them out of the memories that come from having nothing. It’s both a blessing and a curse that my children have never lived a life where they only had each other. They’ve got smart phones and laptops and PSP’s and it’s never occured to them to look forward to Wednesday Night Yahtzee.
I really don’t know exactly when we shifted and headed down such different roads and I don’t think any of my sisters know how much I love them. It’s sad to me that our journeys are in such different places that we can’t even cross paths from time to time. I have seen their struggles, their weaknesses, their triumphs, their strengths, and I have always done my best to be there, to be the big sister that lifts them up. I can’t say I’ve been perfect, but I can say my hearts always been in the right place. When the years of drama started to take their toll on us, I thought for sure that by the time we hit our 30’s we’d be through it all, but it seems as though this is the most challenging decade yet. Maybe in our 40’s, maybe that’s when we will finally be able to love another despite our differences.
I wanna be able to call them up and have a family gathering without carefully planning who can and can’t be in the room together. I wanna be able to text a funny picture of the plumber crack in line in front of me at Wal-Mart. I wanna be able to resolve a conflict without digging up 35 years of history. I wanna smile at old pictures of terrible prom dresses. I want our children to run and laugh and play together and know each other, and make their own memories of ghost stories and marshmallows. My sisters and I had that once, somewhere long ago. I can’t help but dream that we will have again somewhere down the road.