And in the morning, please be sure to pull up your bed covers.
“I don’t have to do that anymore!”
Ummm… Why would that be?
“Because Annie said she’d do it for me!”
“We made an awesome deal. And Annie’s part of the deal is that she promised to pull up my covers in the morning.”
What’s your part of the deal?
You don’t have to do anything in return?
Sounds like you got the better end of the deal.
“I know. That’s why it’s so awesome!”
I always wanted a sister. This does not say anything negative about my brother, but simply that I always wished I had a sister. We’d spend our days looking at Seventeen magazine, braiding one another’s hair, sharing secrets whispered behind cupped hands into one another’s ears, giving manicures, agreeing that Corey Haim was hotter than Corey Feldman, trying on one another’s clothes (which would always fit perfectly), and hanging out at the mall food court. Although my brother and I shared many things growing up, hair-braiding and Corey-debating were simply not among them. For that, I’d need a sister.
More than once, I snuck our family’s photo albums into my bedroom, looking for pictures of me that bore a tattered edge — the tell-tale sign of a torn photograph, with the missing half containing my twin sister (duh), who’d been given up when we were infants. (What? Like you didn’t watch The Parent Trap [the original, not the Lindsay Lohan version] and just knew with all your being that your identical twin was out there somewhere…) When I first went to sleep-away camp, I scoured the faces of the other campers, certain that I’d discover my sibling in cabin 4. Shockingly, I never found her.
By the time I reached college, I had resigned myself to the knowledge that my sister had been no more than a figment of my imagination (unless my mom and dad are exceptionally good at keeping secrets…), but my freshman-year roommate, Kelly, and I had such fun together — indeed, braiding one another’s hair, papering our ceiling with magazine cologne and perfume ads, and sharing one another’s clothes — that I understood, for the first time, what it might have been like to have a sister.
We actually did share one another’s clothes, which was handy because our sense of style was clearly amazing.
Not really sure what the “Dance Break!” thing is all about, although the photo is next to a picture marked “Sunrise over Harkness Green, November 23, 1993” (the morning after my birthday; surely not a coincidence), so I can only assume we stayed up all night and, at some point, decided to take a Dance Break! in our super-sylish jammies. Of course.
I met Nick’s sisters at the end of freshman year, and was immediately awed by how closely their sister relationship mimicked the one in my imagination. Emily and Nelle are incredibly different people, but their sister bond was like nothing I’d ever witnessed before. I admit, a part of me was envious.
As the years have gone by, I’ve come to see how their relationship is similar to my fictional version… and how it differs. Yes, of course, there are whispered secrets and hot-guy discussions… But there are also arguments and tears. There is a shared apartment and then a hasty move-out, because their living styles are just too different. There is, “Hey, I’ve got something stuck to my butt — would you wipe it off?” And there is the time we were standing in line for the bathroom at the state fair and, without provocation, one of them reached out to the other and pinched her boob. Just because. And, in retaliation, the other reached down her sister’s shirt to get back even more fiercely. While in line for the bathroom at the state fair. Just because.
When Annie was born, Ella didn’t warm up to her immediately; she didn’t try to smother her in her crib or put her in the trash or anything, but she did show some predictable, two year-old, I’m-pissed-because-now-I-have-to-share behaviors. Still, it wasn’t too long before she not only accepted Annie as her sibling, but took strongly to being her big sister. Annie – having, you know, had a big sister since birth – sort of fell into the relationship by accident… But they’ve been superb partners ever since.
Their version of sisterhood is probably quite typical – and, as such, not terribly remarkable – but, to me, it is fascinating. Perhaps unlike some otherwise “close” siblings, they have always been one another’s best friends and greatest champions. They seek each other out in the morning and after school, and truly miss the other when she isn’t here. In recent months, they have started vigorously defending each other to Nick and me, letting us know just how deeply wrong we are to have called them out or given a consequence. It’s both completely maddening and surprisingly endearing, although they’re usually quite disappointed to discover that the time-out still stands, despite their arduous pleas.
Naturally, they have their not-so-stellar moments. Pretty much every day, in fact. There is pinching. There is hitting. There is one stray finger over the imaginary line that’s been drawn down the middle of the car and one last “la” after a demand to stop singing. There is, “You can’t come in my room again EVER!” and “Are you seriously thinking about wearing that?” While on a 30 minute-car ride a couple of days ago – ironically, as I was thinking of stories for this post – they got so deeply involved in a verbal battle of who hated the other more, they actually exhausted themselves and had to stop the debate… And then dissolved into a fit of laughter not three minutes later.
Watching my own girls be sisters together has all but taken away any sister-envy I might have experienced in years past. Their relationship is pretty much exactly what I’d always imagined sisterhood to be (deliberately destroyed Lego creations and all), and I feel unbelievably lucky to be able to witness it. Any remaining pangs of jealousy that remained have been eased by the relationships I now have with Nelle and Em. Although, obviously, I am not – and never will be – their actual sister (aren’t you glad I sorted that out for you?), and although I will probably never quite share the bond they have, they feel enough like almost-sisters that my sister dreams have been fulfilled.
As we all gathered together at Bill and Mary’s house when he was so very ill, my connection to Nelle and Em grew even stronger. Yes, some of that was due to us sharing a traumatically gut-wrenching and life-changing event; they understood my black humor and came right back at me with their own Too Soon? zingers. But some of it (at least, I like to think) was simply due to us being pretty fabulous people, and to developing a true and real – and sister-like – friendship.
At one point, I was sorting through pictures to use for the slideshow at the memorial, with Nelle sitting near me in the living room. The conversation turned to our kids, and then to ourselves as mommies, and then to breastfeeding. When she and I began contrasting pumping and latching stories, complete with sound effects and bite mark comparisons, I knew that we’d had our Corey vs. Corey moment; our relationship had really arrived.
Likewise, I was quite a wreck when Ella, Annie, and I left Bill and Mary’s house (to return home for the girls’ meet-the-teacher days, while Nick remained in Minnesota), heartbroken that this might be the last chance I’d have to see Bill before the end (as it turned out, I returned a few days later and spent a little more time with him, but we didn’t know that this would be the case). Tears falling fast, I approached Emily, who gave me an enormous hug; and then, arms still surrounding me, leaned into me and whispered, “By the way, I just used your deodorant.” Shared secrets in one another’s ears; yes!
I feel truly privileged to be an observer of both Ella and Annie’s and Em and Nelle’s relationship, and I am so fortunate that they’ve all taken me into their fold. As Ella and Annie grow older, I can only hope that they’ll remain one another’s strongest supporters and allies (and button-pushers), and that, as adults, they can share the same sort of terrific relationship that Nick’s sister do – boob-pinching and all.
A few weeks ago, we were going out and Ella needed to use the bathroom before we left. Annie, who had been ready to go, was suddenly nowhere to be found – not in her bedroom, not outside, not near the car. After quite a bit of searching (during which I called for her many times over, but received no answer), I finally thought to open the bathroom door… And there she was, leaning against the wall, while Ella finished her business. When I asked if Annie needed to go to the bathroom, too, she looked at me like I had three heads. “Um, no, Mom. We were just talking. Could you please close the door?”
Nelle and Em would be so proud.
So, you just asked Annie and she agreed to fix your bed for you?
“Well, not exactly. I untied her and then she said she’d make my bed.”
Uhhh… ‘scuse me?
“You know how we had the chair up in the tree in the front yard?”
You’re not really helping your case, here.
“Well, Annie had tied herself to the…”
I think you can just stop there.
“And anyway, she asked if I’d untie her, and I said, ‘What will you do for me, too?'”
I love how she needs untying and you’re trying to negotiate.
“So I asked her to pull up my covers, and she was like, ‘Hey, that’s a really good deal!'”
All righty, then.
“I’m going to think of all of the other things I can get her to do.”
I’m feeling the love from here.
“I know, right?”