I saw my nieces who are 8 and 11 yesterday. They are my two favorite girls. One is super smart and engages easily in conversation. The other gives really tight hugs and is always asking you to play. Oddly these two girls with great personalities annoy each other. Some would say, “Their sisters. They’ll grow out of it.” I wish I could give them a simple recipe to accept each other the way they are. I think life is too short to make the mistake of hurting the person who will one day be the best friend you’ll ever have.
It’s not like I’m some far off idealist. I know what I’m talking about. I have four sisters. Three older and one younger. My older sisters love to tell me the stories about when my baby sister Walesa was born and how I took on the role of her big sister. I would translate her baby gibberish to, “She says she wants a peanut butter sandwich. No jelly.” I would pour a whole box of cheerios on her high chair and say, “She told me she wanted some….a whole lot of them…she’s really hungry.” When she would try and stand up on the swing in our backyard she would cautiously watch for my discriminating eye as she did it. The moment I would see her I’d yell, “Sit down!” and she would immediately comply. We had the perfect relationship. We all knew who was boss…ME!
That was all until the dark and gloomy morning at our dining room table when my sister learned to talk. Not that she didn’t have the cutest baby voice in the world, it was what she said that morning that shattered our relationship of two years. My mom had just given us both bowls of rice crispies. We were told to add a spoon full of sugar and stir and my mom walked back into the kitchen. I told my little sister, “I’m not stirring my sugar. I’m leaving it on top. You can taste more sugar that way.” My little sister then did the unfathomable, she yelled, “Mommy! Irvina isn’t stirring the sugar into her rice crispies she just letting it sit on top!” All I could think was, “Backstabber!” How could she? After all I’ve done for her! Did she forget that I was always the one who did the James Bond operation to sneak her out of her crib to go peek on our parents dinner parties downstairs? Did she forget that whenever our mother lost her in the mall that I was the only one who could ever find her? (No one had the sharp eye that I had to find her little white Keds.) Did she forget hat I was the one who told her “back up and cover your eyes” when our dad showed us how to crack open a coconut with a hammer and a nail? And what about the time that there was only one more glass of milk for chocolate milk and I had “chocolate water” so she could have chocolate milk. Yes, that bowl of rice crispies marked a turning point in our relationship.
Over twenty years have passed since the morning in the dining room, and if I put emotions aside I would realize that I am blessed. I am blessed that I have four women in my life that aren’t afraid to tell me when I am in the wrong and eating too much sugar. No one quite like my sisters. Of course while growing up my little sister and I fought and at times couldn’t stand to be in the same with each other. The age difference with the older ones left me feeling distant at times. I remember being annoyed that my mom let my older sisters correct my etiquette at the dinner table. But, now more than ever I appreciate having all four of my sisters. Each one of us with different personalities, tastes, values and beliefs.
I have friends who tell me, “You’re like a sister to me.” As nice a gesture as that is to hear I don’t know if a lot of people would put the time into a friendship as the amount of time it takes to have a sister. I mean how many friends do you have who have completely forgiven you after you have hurt them for years? How many of your friends still call to hang out with you when the two of you have nothing in common? How many of your friends totally accept you for the way you are and your differences and don’t try to change you? How many of your friends really understand your mother? Maybe I’m the odd one out, but I don’t know many of my friends that would or have done that for me. Except for my sisters.
It makes me sad to know that at one time we were able to all sit on the same leather sectional sofa and watch a movie without making an appointment to do so. Now, flights have to be arranged, vacation days need to be requested and husbands need to watch children in order for quality sister time to take place. I feel foolish for having taken my sisters for granted. Yet, I’m glad that at least now I know what it really means to be a friend, it’s being a sister.
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