Ode to my sister

I once wrote a blog post full of musings on my brother—I concluded that as far as pretentious hipsters go, he’s not so bad.

Well, I am not just “blessed” with one sibling, I also have a big sister! My sister is the oldest, my brother the wretched middle child, and me the baby—the best deal in sibling world order.

My sister represents the quintessential first-born: responsible, intelligent, driven, overachieving.

At five years older, my sister seemed a generation away from me while we were growing up. Unlike my brother and I, my sister and I never fought (unless you count the time she and my brother plotted to kill me by submerging me in excessive toys while I napped innocently in my playpen). The only conflict I recall having with my sister involved a few scathing, feisty jabs while she was pregnant with her third child—it was like a demon had invaded her body.

Early memories of our sister-sister bonding involve a significant amount of crying. At ages 3 and 8, we sat cross-legged on the floor discussing our brother’s chances of survival during his appendectomy. We concluded that he was a goner, never to return from the hospital. This devastated us because, at that moment, we still liked him. Another emotional memory, only a few years later, involved my sister and I huddled close together with tears pouring down our youthful, freckled faces in the aftermath of my brother’s attempt to kill my dad. Our dad was toiling away behind the car when my then 8-year-old brother crawled into the driver’s seat and put the car in reverse.  I believe this was my brother’s first try to oust a family member.

Before my brother grew to a giant, we could all fit onto one couch!

Before my brother grew to a giant, we could all fit on one couch!

Tears are a common thread in our relationship, whether it’s the aftermath of the first viewing of Titanic or Fried Green Tomatoes, a Christmas monopoly game gone awry (attributed to our mother’s aggressive thimble tactics), or the loss of a pet, I know that if I shed a tear, she’s already shed a dozen more.

As we grew up, even with a 5 year cushion between the two of us, it was hard not to compare one sister to the other. While we both were emotional, curly topped redheads with hypersensitive, burnable skin, we were, and are, quite different people. I tended, and tend, to be the wild child who makes everyone in our family prematurely age and my sister tended, and tends, to be the more mild-mannered sister with full possession of logic and poise.

To further demonstrate our differences, in high school, my sister was in the band and I was the cheerleader. My sister was in the National Honor Society and I made exceptional doodles in geometry class. She studied romantic French and I studied the dead language of Latin. In athletics, she was timid and I fouled out almost every basketball game. My sister turned down Penn State and I graduated from PSU.

Sisters, Sisters...

Sisters, Sisters…

Not that I am even remotely dumb (obviously) but my sister is exceptionally hardworking and smart. Even before graduating college, she had a magazine job lined up just outside New York City. She married in her early 20s and popped out three little ginger tykes like a gumball machine. She aimed high and landed ten feet higher.

As I entered my early 20s, it was hard not to feel lost in her shadow. She was already climbing the career ladder, two rungs at a time, and growing solid roots of family and friends. I was too busy gallivanting about the world to even consider building my resume or kindling relationships domestically. I mean, can my sister say she’s been kicked out of a country? I don’t think so, score one for the little sister!

But I did want roots, my own version of stability: career and friends, a normal relationship, a place all my own. I looked to her for secrets on how she achieved it so seamlessly.

I realized my sister is like the ballet (or insert another simile that best suits the reader), it looks easy but it actually takes a lot of work to make a career, husband, and three kids look that good and simple. When I understood this, I looked at my perfect sister in a new light and I began looking at my own life decisions differently—with a degree of accountability and an extra dose of birth control.

The past year has been, at least to me, a turning point in my relationship with my sister. She now asks me for advice, we talk more about relationship items (boys [giggle]), exchange insider information on the newest Anthropologie sales, and hold lively discussions on NPR programming.

I’ll always be the bratty little sister who looks up at her big sister as if she is the North Star, never jealous of just how brightly she shines or how high she reaches, as long as she’s willing to guide me, the one who watches from way below.


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