For those of you lucky enough to have a sister or two, you know this dynamic well. Relationships between sisters tend to contain the following dichotomous elements: loyalty and rivalry, protection and distance, affection and annoyance, shared secrets and borrowed clothes, compassion and competition. Only sisters can be sworn enemies in the morning but soul mates by dinner. Hell hath no fury like a sister given less than equal time with the straightener before school in the morning. Yet at the same time, there is no one scarier than a woman whose sister has been wronged by another. Seriously, jail time is not a deterrent for a sister determined to dole out a little vigilante justice.
Growing up with a sister is both aggravating and comforting. My little sister and I shared a room from the time of her birth (I was 3 ½) until I left for college. Throughout those many years we divided our room by alternating between a line of duct tape on the floor and a hanging curtain made out of a bed sheet strung over a rope nailed to two corners of our room. My Garth Brook posters were hung on one wall, her kitten posters on another. My decorative water globes on one shelf, her porcelain dolls on another. (I still blame her fascination with porcelain dolls for my inability to walk into the toy room at night for fear of an unblinking army of dolls coming to life and attacking me with their unbending knee joints and fixed expressions of evil.) But despite the dividing line, I remember many nights of giggles after bedtime and whispers in the moonlight. In the event of a thunderstorm or a bad dream, it was my bed she would crawl into. It was my sister who slept on the floor if I had a friend sleepover—giving up her bed so that she could still hang with the big girls. And it was my sister (and frequently our cousin Chrissy) who would cover for me as I slipped out of our bedroom window to meet up with friends at an hour well past my curfew. To her credit, she kept this “sneak out secret” until after I left for college (much to our mother’s dismay and surprise).
The vast majority of my childhood memories involve my sister. Whether it was her tagging along with my friends to help out with Homecoming float building my freshman year (breaking into an impromptu dance routine to “Whoop There It Is” on top of the trailer in an attempt to impress the older kids), wearing matching red and green plaid dresses made by our mother to the family Christmas party (Oh, don’t worry, my Mom made herself one too—twinsies!), or playing catch with our Dad in the side yard (usually resulting in her getting mad about a rogue throw or a missed fly ball and, subsequently, storming back into the house to fall asleep angrily in our room), she was always there—my lifelong companion.
Our lives continue on parallel paths today. We both have two girls of our own (I added a boy to the mix as well and she has another bundle of joy on the way). We both settled down in our hometown to give our babies the same idyllic childhood that we enjoyed and that only small town living can bring. We still share clothes. (Clarification: she buys cool clothes, gets tired of them, and gives them to me after a few seasons.) We still eat our parents’ food and dote on our little brother. And we both plan on outliving our husbands and causing trouble together at the nursing home. We will probably share a room there and we may or may not put down a line of duct tape again to divide up our “sides.” It really depends on if she plans on bringing those creepy porcelain dolls or not.
That’s the beauty of sisterhood. You get a friend for life…a truth-telling, makeup sharing, hair curling, favorite dress stealing, tattle-telling, dream encouraging friend for life. So as I look at my two girls this morning—big sister pushing little sister around in a baby doll stroller—this is what I hope for them.
I hope they continue to build the bond that has developed between them these last fifteen months. I hope they let me dress them in matching outfits for just a little while longer. I hope they crawl into each other's beds to whisper secrets past midnight and comfort each other during the stormy times of life. I hope they encourage each other along the way to make good choices but also to take chances. I hope they will have the courage to speak up if one of them starts down a dangerous path, and the strength to pull that sister back home. I hope they become each other’s biggest cheerleaders, staunchest allies, and fiercest defenders. I hope they argue over clothes, but miss each other when they leave for college. I hope they create as many beautiful shared memories as I have with my sister with the one small exception of providing an alibi for sneaking out. But because I know the power of the bond between sisters, I’m getting alarms on my windows just in case.