Thursday, 23 May 2013

A Treatise on Sisters

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

I've not always had sisters, but I've always been one - from the very first moment of my life - because I'm a twin.  For four years it was just Paul and me.  And then our brother Mike came along and I was out-numbered.  Happily a few years later Emily joined our family, and then shortly after that Elizabeth.  I finally had sisters!  And god, how they drove me insane.

Me, on the left - Emily and Elizabeth in the middle

I'm seven-and-a-half and nine years older than Emily and Elizabeth.  Now that we're all adults the age difference isn't a problem, but as a child and then a teenager I certainly didn't appreciate them fully.  My brothers had each other to hang out with and Emily and Elizabeth, being so close in age, were pretty much a pair from almost the first instant.  And that left... me - alone at the edge.  
Gardening with Emily
I was always sort of a 'little mommy', changing diapers and watching out for every one.  I helped teach them to read and to ice skate, I cooked dinner for the family (our parents both worked) and helped shepherd the bunch of us when we were out and about. I suppose that's probably common for big sisters of large families.  I took care of my siblings, and I loved them, but my friends were outside of the family - school mates and girls I met through Brownies and Guides.  

We lived in a small rural village, so summers were spent at home - either avoiding my siblings, mediating between them all, or spending my time buried in a book.  I certainly didn't consider my annoying little sisters to be my friends.  

Swimming with Elizabeth
 By the time I was in high school I could almost pretend they didn't exist - except for the amount of noise and laundry they made.  When I was sixteen, Elizabeth was only seven; what in heaven's name could I possibly have had in common with a seven year-old?  We didn't fight, certainly not like we could have, but I seem to remember there being a lot of impatient eye-rolling on my part at that age.

I went away to university at nineteen - my first time away from home - and it was finally then, in a city 350 kilometers from my family - that I realized how lucky I was.

We were a big family, yes and certainly didn't have a lot of money, but we had a lot of love.  It shames me now to think that I didn't realize that until I was practically an adult.  Suddenly these siblings, these sisters weren't so bad.  Every visit home was filled with laughter and chatter and I watched with awe as the little girls I knew grew into beautiful young women.

By that time Christopher had entered my life.  At nineteen I never imagined I'd eventually marry him (I might have daydreamed about it, but I certainly never thought it would happen!).  It was fun to see my little sisters through his eyes - especially since he didn't have any of his own.  He was always at a loss for what to say to two curious, creative, and outspoken girls.  Dating him and becoming part of another family (one SO different from my own) was a real education in just how magical my family really was.
And then, the year before I graduated university, our parents marriage (like so many others) fell apart.  In hindsight it was for the best, but at the time it felt like the world was ending.  Everything the five of us kids had always known was crumbling around us.  Paul and I were twenty-one, Mike eighteen, Emily fourteen, and Elizabeth only twelve.  That was the summer the five of us became a family, one apart from our parents.  The siblings sat down together, just the five of us, and decided that no matter what happened, no matter how bad things got, that we had each other, and that we always, always would.  I made up my mind that if things got really bad that I'd give up school, move home, and take care of my younger siblings - that I'd give them a place to live which was stable and happy.  Luckily, we never got to that point.  We had a few rough years, ones in which we all made a lot of sacrifices, but all of us, including our parents, got through it - somehow.  And on the other side of that life-changing event, I've come to realize we were left a special gift.

Going through that experience together forged something between us which wasn't there before.  I'd always loved my sisters, but now I love them fiercely.  They are phenomenal, amazing, brilliant women - women who I would step in front of a speeding bus for, women who I would move mountains for.  I have other friends, yes - but the relationships I have with them could never come close to the one I have with my sisters.

They represent all the good sides of me - we look a little alike, true, but there's more than that.  We've come through the same difficulties in our lives, from the same place, and when I look at them I see spines forged with steel, resolve strengthened by stubborn determination.  They don't back down, they never shirk.  They laugh loud, and love hard, and they always say what's on their mind.  They make their lives and lives of the people they love a thing of beauty.  They find joy when most think none could exist.  They make the best of what they are given.  They are, truly, the most amazing women I know.

We live far apart now, the three of us (well, all my family actually).  We're scattered to different corners of the globe and you would think that would make us less of friends, but instead it's made us more.  We chat every day.  We send each other photos and videos.  I know I can come to them with my problems or my triumphs and always receive their support.   And when we are fortunate enough to all be in the same room at the same time... it's chaos - sweet, loud, wonderful chaos.

Unless they are beside me, I miss them so badly it makes my throat ache.  My twin brother is getting married this September and that gives us all a reason to be together and I can hardly wait.  I am, quite literally, counting the days until I see them again (it's 127).  But in the meantime we have our online chats, our Facebook updates, emailed photos, and this... a project to work on together, one which I hope reflects who we are as individuals, but more importantly who we are as sisters - and as friends.

Never change Emily and Elizabeth - I'm so proud of you both; proud of who you have grown up to be, and proud of how you have always made me want to be a better person.  I promise I will always take care of you, listen to you, and laugh with you.  I will always love you and nothing, not even stealing my piece of pie at dessert, or trumping me in a hand of euchre, or borrowing my shoes and not giving them back, or swiping the last sip of gin, could ever make me love you less.

xo. Jacqueline

No comments:

Post a Comment