“Sister. She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities. She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway. She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink. Some days, she’s the reason you wish you were an only child.”
― Barbara Alpert
Most of my relationships are complicated, but not the one with my sister, Renee.
It’s simple with her.
She knows me, I know her. She is the first to get excited over whatever I’m excited about (from new clients to new lipgloss), and the first to say what needs to be said, often with less regard for delivery than she would afford her ‘other’ friends. We don’t need to rehearse for each other, and are (thankfully) generous with do-overs.
I know what annoys her, what makes her laugh (which is pretty much everything except what annoys her, and then, trust me, NO ONE is laughing). She knows when I am trying not to cry and when I need a bossy-big-sister-pep talk. At time she delivers one even when I don’t need it. She helped finish raising meafter our mother died, helped with my wedding(s), came immediately after the birth of my first baby to help me learn to change diapers and bathe little toes. Then, she came for every baby after, just to be there for me.
She’s my best ally. And can open up a can of whoopa$$ on my behalf like no one else.
I would back her on anything, everything, anytime, even if she was wrong. I see the best in her, think everything she does is dazzling and am always wowed by her smarts, sass and presence. We don’t share similar childhoods in most ways, because I am (substantially :-)) younger, although she is often mistaken as the younger sister because of her natural beauty and Michelle Obama-esque biceps.
We share a deep love for our father, now 88, whom we talk to, and about daily. He is a central part of our lives, and his delight in us, our families and our friendship multiplies the privilege we feel to have been raised under his umbrella.
Some friendships evolve into sisterhood, over time, or circumstance. My friend, Catherine and I evolved our sister-friendship from a significant, often dramatic distaste for one another over a period of years (possibly decades). Misunderstandings, competition, an inability (or refusal) to see the world through the others’ eyes fueled the fire between us. Then a funny thing happened. When another person would throw a barb Catherine’s way, I’d react with a vehement “Stop IT! If ANYONE is going to mess with Catherine it’sME! That’s MY JOB! Back OFF!” And, she did the same for me. I became her defender, and she became mine, and from there, a friendship formed based on respect and admiration of our (big) differences, and joy in our similarities. She IS the smartest person I know, and I cannot imagine my life without her in it.
When I first met my friend Ratna, I felt her love for her sisters immediately. They are such an important part of her life and her identity that she holds them out ahead of her the way we naturally do with the parts of ourselves closest to our soul. She says, “My sisters are my best friends. We can talk for hours, and laugh at jokes no one else gets. Now that all three of us are raising families, we need each other more than ever.”
My (new!) friend Andrea crazy loves her sister, Melissa: “We have been together since the beginning of our days and we’ll be there at the end. I am the only one who knows exactly what she wants when she wants it, I can finish her sentences, I can read her mind. I can make fun of her, but if anyone else does, they’re done. I love her and am SO glad I have her as my sister.”
“My own Auntie Jan says of her relationship with her sister, “The older we get, the better it gets- it’s one of the benefits of aging!”
Not all sisterhoods are like these.
A few of my friends have sisters to whom they have not spoken in years, decades even. Sometimes it’s anger, sometimes indifference. They don’t have that ‘thing’ with their sisters, but do with friends, or brothers, cousins, etc.
And, there are sisterhoods that have ended before their time, and the pain of that loss is immeasurable.
My sister-friend Lee Ann shares, “I was blessed with two sisters. I have a tenuous relationship with one, and the other I called my “good” sister when I was a child. She was the one who understood me, the one I told everything to, the one whose giggle I will remember for the rest of my days. She took her own life 24 years ago. Life changed profoundly that day. In her death, as in her life, she taught me so many lessons, and I am better for them. I will miss her always, and mourn the loss of that sisterhood forever.”
So, friends, hug your sister(s) today, or the people who fill that space in your life. Rejoice for those who are blessed with a strong sisterhood, and send love out to those who have lost their sisters, by death or circumstance.
I love you, Renee, and am grateful for the blessing you are in my life, and my families’ life- I hope that my girls are always as important to each other as you are to me.
This blog was originally published by the Times Union and can be accessed here.