Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Not everyone can say they’ve had a best friend from the very second they arrived in this world. I can, and I count myself very lucky for it. My sister has been my best friend from the moment I was born 32 years, three months, and 20 days ago. I can’t remember a single day in my life when my sister hasn’t been by my side, literally or figuratively, helping me navigate my way through what has been a complicated journey thus far. Looking back, there are times that I’m not sure I would have managed to get through with my sanity intact had it not been for her.

My sister and I have always been a team. Four and a half years my senior, she is the quintessential big sister – sometimes bossy, usually smarter, and always looking out for me, though she may have had misgivings about having a tagalong, bratty younger sibling at times. To this day, I’m not sure I buy her story that we were playing hide and seek when she locked me in a cooler one time when I was a toddler. But I think for her, those moments were few and far between. There were, of course, the typical arguments and bouts of bickering as we grew up which usually involved me tattling to my mom about something she did in an effort to get her in trouble. I took on my role as the tattletale little sister with vigor when I was a kid. But any argument we’ve ever had has never lasted long. More often it was the case that we were having fun and getting in trouble together as kids. I have a very vivid memory of one such moment when I was on the verge of getting spanked for something stupid I had done. My mind has conveniently blocked out whatever the crime was that I committed, but I sure remember the punishment! I knew my mom was going for the dreaded wooden spoon, her punishment delivery tool of choice. (I should note here, that my mom never spanked us hard enough to leave a mark and only when it was well deserved on our part. I’ll never deny being enough of a trouble maker at times to warrant a good swat every now and then.) As soon as she wasn’t looking, I deftly grabbed a plate from the kitchen counter and shoved it down my pants as a sort of butt cheek shield, with my sister encouraging me that it was a good idea. I didn’t take into account the loud “BONG” noise that would reverberate from my rear end when the spoon first struck the porcelain hiding under my clothing. My sister, who was watching from the sidelines, burst out laughing at the noise and the shocked expression on my mom’s face, which of course didn’t sit well with her. We both ended up getting a few light swats with the wooden spoon that day, which wasn’t quite as hard for me to take as a 5 or 6 year old because my sister was right there with me.

My sister and I have always been partners in crime. We came up with more than a few schemes and terrible ideas that started off as grand visions of adventure. Of course, my sister was always the ring leader and I followed her blindly and very gladly. One of my best memories as a kid comes from one summer at my dad’s house when my sister and I were left to our own devices. My grandma was babysitting while my dad was at work one day, and my sister came up with what seemed like the best idea ever to surprise my grandma as she was napping on the couch in the family room. We’d rig up a swing of sorts I would sit on that my sister and her friend who was spending the day with us would lower out of an upstairs window and down to the glass doors leading into the family room. I would be the one on the device, of course, because I was the smallest (and dumbest). Once I reached the doors, it was my job to knock on the glass, wave to Grandma, and then give the signal to be heaved back up into the window. It was a perfect plan and we went to work gathering the piece of plywood and two jump ropes that we’d use for the swing. We didn’t take into account the weakness of the board and the short length of the jump ropes, and I started to panic once my butt was hanging out of the window, the wood beneath it making slight cracking sounds. I quickly realized this wasn’t the great idea we thought it was and tearfully demanded that my sister and her friend pull me back into the safety of the bedroom. I chickened out, and even though my sister was clearly disappointed that our plan fell through, she didn’t hold it against me. I have countless other stories from the childhood shenanigans we got into, including driving my dad’s SUV through a local park late one Saturday night, that have turned into memories I will cherish for the rest of my life.

I’ve looked up to my sister for as long as I can remember and as a kid, I always deferred to her judgment and took her word as gospel no matter what. Even if I ended up looking like a moron because of it. For years, anytime my mom changed a light bulb in our house, I would take the burned out bulb, pack it in Kleenex or some other cushiony material, and gingerly place it in the trash can. I must have looked like a lunatic, but my strange behavior stemmed directly from something my sister told me when I was very young – if a light bulb breaks, it will burst into flame and start a fire. She always snickered every time I painstakingly prepared a light bulb to go in the trash, and I could never understand why. I was saving our house from burning to the ground! What was so funny about that? She put me out of my misery one day by calling me outside to the driveway where she held a burned out light bulb in her hand high above her head. No sooner had she said “Watch this!” than the bulb careened through the air and smashed into a thousand little shards on the concrete. I, of course, flipped out and ran to get the hose while my sister laughed hysterically before calming down enough to inform me that light bulbs don’t, in fact, become fireballs if broken. I was ticked off at the time, but now it’s something that makes me laugh every time I think about it. I have a little more common sense now, but I still trust my sister as much now as I did then and seek her opinion and judgment on things as simple as how my hair looks to complicated matters, like the direction my life is headed in.     

As adults, my sister and I are still extremely close. We do just about everything together and there’s nothing either of us wouldn’t do for the other. I recently went through an extremely difficult situation, probably the hardest thing I’ve experienced in my life thus far. I feel like I’m coming out of it as a better, stronger, and happier person, but I’m also confident that I wouldn’t have made it through without the love and support I received from my friends and family, and from my sister in particular. She picked me up when I had fallen and I didn’t think I would ever get back up again. She took care of things like going to the store for me when I couldn’t get off the couch, let alone leave the house, and bringing me food and making me eat when I couldn’t even fathom ingesting anything again. She comforted me when I needed comforting, offered support when I needed supporting, and she gave me a little kick in the butt when I needed it to get me going as soon as I was ready to face the world again. She was my rock and provided the strength I needed and didn’t have in a really difficult time. But that’s my sister. That’s who she is and that’s what she does. There’s nothing she wouldn’t do to help someone she cares about. But she’s strong, the strongest person I know, and she’s no pushover. She’s fiercely protective of her friends and family, and especially of me because that’s just how it’s been since day one. We take care of each other no matter what. We’re a team, always have been, always will be.

I know a lot of people who have siblings who they don’t see very often or don’t get along with very well. It always makes me a little sad because they’re missing out on something wonderful, something I admittedly take for granted all too often. I’m incredibly grateful for the friendship my sister and I have. It’s the greatest gift I’ve ever received and something I’ll hold onto with all my might as long as I live, even if she did lock me in a cooler.

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