Family ties: A story about sisterhood.
I am writing this column riding in the car on the road between visiting my sister for a day and going to see my mom and dad for a day. As I was trying to think about what to write this month (I have, after all, been writing this column for years and feel sometimes I am starting to run out of good material), I realized that I have written a lot about my kids and some about my parents, but I don't think I have ever written about my sister and that's a shame because she is a pretty cool woman.
Besides, I really need to write a formal public apology to her for the time I gave her away to the neighbors. Yes, when we were very little (that's my excuse anyway) I packed her suitcase and took her to the neighbors, telling them I was done with her and they could have her now. Lucky for me they didn't take her because I would have missed out on a lot without her.
My sister is an incredibly hard worker, incredibly funny, and just an all-around nice person. While we are the same in some ways, we are very different in others. It has always been interesting to me how people who came from the same parents can turn out to be so very different. For some families this ends up meaning that siblings grow apart as they get older and lose touch with each other. But for us it has meant that we have grown to appreciate each other in different ways as we have gotten older.
She lives in a small town on top of a mountain in the country; I live in a townhouse in the city. She has no children but has had several dogs that are like children to her. She rides a Ducati motorcycle; I only ride on the back of them. But for all of our differences we have a lot of similarities as well. We both value family. We are both loyal to a fault. We both have trouble saying no to people. And we are both pretty cool women, even if I do say so myself.
My sister and I were typical sisters we got along sometimes and fought others. When we were little girls our mom used to let us clean the glass in the back door of our house. We would take the paper towels and one of us would breathe on the window (or "hah" on it as we called it) while the other wiped. We often fought over who would get to "hah" and who would get to wipe, once leading my sister to bite me on the knee when she didn't get her way. But these fights were not common and more often than not we got along pretty well.
We have lots of photos of us in matching outfits one from Easter has us in matching coats and hats that our mom made, both of us with a little purse that was shaped like a piece of fruit. Hers was an orange and mine a lemon. According to my mom this was because it matched my personality at the time.
We would spend hours playing together and although we drifted apart some as we went through high school and into college, we came back together as adults. My sister has always been the one that lives closest to my parents so she became the primary one who went to help out when they need something done-something I have often felt guilty about. She has always been there for me too.
As we get older we find ourselves talking to each other about more and more and sharing things in new ways. Every morning she starts an email to my parents, me, and my daughter telling us what her day has in store. We each respond back to all the others with the usually not so interesting details of our upcoming day. It keeps us all connected and for me it is the little ritual that sums up who my sister is-a woman who is steady as a rock and who keeps things all pulled together. I have often wished that my daughter had a sister. Brothers are good but they are not the same as sisters. I think that pulling her into this ritual will give her a flavor of what it feels like to have a sister. And now that my daughter is grown, I think her relationship with us will be more like a sister relationship as we all share stuff about our lives with each other.
The whole sibling relationship thing is fascinating the assumption that because you were born in the same family you will be close as adults is just not true. Siblings have their own personalities and behaviors and for many this means that they simply are not people you would choose to be friends with as an adult and that is okay. I am one of the lucky ones. I have a sister who I would choose to be friends with even if we were not related and it makes me happy that now you know a little more about her too.