I followed her in every way. She wanted to do Girl Scouts, I wanted to do Girl Scouts. She wanted a rabbit, I got a rabbit, too. She started horseback riding, I hopped up there on my own horse and trotted along right behind her. She was my big sister; this was how it always has been and, I wonder, how it always will be.
I'm tougher than most. But not tougher than my sister. Once when we were hiking in Colorado as a family, she went off in a huff to be by herself (this happened a lot--then and now), to whittle a stick she'd found along the way. Now at the halfway point of our hike, she wanted to be alone to work on transforming the stick into something unique. One cut into the wood was too strong, and my sister cut into her hand instead, from top of her wrist to the tip of her thumb.
She stood up, turned around, and walked to where the rest of us were standing. "I cut myself," she said calmly. Blood dripped down her arm. We packed it with snow and wrapped it, and my father put my 10 year old sister on his back and hiked back to the car at his insane Ranger pace. Once there they found a little clinic that took the wrapping off if it--the wrapping which had stuck to the wound. She got 5 stitches under her skin and 23 stitches outside. She never cried. She watched the doctor stitch her hand.
I'm a good friend to many. But my sister is more loyal to a few than I'll ever be. Once when in sixth grade (me) and eighth grade (her) she and her best friend in the whole wide world got into a huge fight. Who knows what it was about--then and now--but both my sister and Jenni were furious at each other. Having borrowed each other's wardrobes for over a year, Jenni stormed into our house while we weren't there (this wasn't unusual--we lived on an Army post where locks on doors are for decoration) and took back all her things. My sister was furious. She stood over her ransacked room and declared, "I will never talk to her again."
But I liked Jenni just fine. And so, a few days later, Jenni and I chatted about who knows what while my sister looked on at us. Later, my sister angrily spat out a few choice words towards me. Loyalty was the common theme. "If I hate somebody, and you love me, then you need to hate them, too!" I was caught between wanting to be my usual, happy-go-lucky self and my sister. I did my best to choose blood over water most of the time, but I forgave too easily for her liking and couldn't measure up to her level of loyalty. Not ever.
This month I wrote, for a few reasons, mostly memory slices. Some involved my sister. Writing the essays in which my sister showed up made me realize I have a hefty amount of memories in which she's mean to me, but not many in which she's kind and supportive. The tough love she admonished on me while the two of us were growing up still stings, and I sure wish I had stuck up for myself a whole lot more. What does that mean? Why does my memory only remember the bad stuff? How can I learn from our first few decades together? Why do I still need her approval for choices and people and things?
We're sisters. And sisterhood is tough. Our sisterhood has been more challenging than many of my great friendships, much more difficult and complicated and...important. I am still dumping out the contents of our relationship and figuring out how to separate the important from the trivial, the stuff that's unique to her. The good news is that we do love each other, and since we are sisters, we're committed to each other with a bond that isn't easily broken. So I will, as I do, take my time in unraveling and examining our relationship...