I grew up as the oldest of two sisters and a baby brother. My sisters born 3 and 5 years after me are 17 months apart. For a long time we were referred to as “Tara and the girls.” I liked it, them probably not as much.
Growing up my sisters, either as a team or individually, could make me crazy. They could make choices that would confuse me to no end or they would do things that were seemingly done for the sole purpose of aggravating me. Yes, l could and did complain about them on any number of occasions. (And I even tattled once or twice. Ahem.)
But don’t let me hear anybody else say anything bad about either one of them. That’s how it was growing up. I could fuss about either one until the cows came home and then some, but the first word out of someone else’s mouth and I would come undone. I guess I was (and maybe still am) the kind of sister who came out, bat swinging, saying “Where are they?”
In the past two days, I’ve been reminded of us as the team we were growing up. Mess Cat, Sister, and I worked together and made some big stuff happen. Because we love each other, and because no matter what foolishness we were talking two, six, twenty-four, or 144 months ago, that’s what our family does. Steps up and takes care of their own.
I can remember when Daddy would drive us all to school together in his truck. Mess Cat’s hair wasn’t done one morning because we were all running late, and it was our own faults. I reached over and fixed it as best I could while we were in the truck. I felt so bad for her and wanted to make it right. Years later when my previous life fell apart, she was the one who came to me and walked me through the journey of moving–walked nothing, she made it happen.
I remember going and getting Sister from her first grade classroom after school and watching her hug her new friends goodbye. I took her hand and we walked together to where Mama had parked to pick us up. The night before my college graduation and the day we had to be moved out of the dorms, Sister came back to campus and took my hand–she helped me pack and eventually told me to go to sleep and she’d finish up.
That’s how we roll. Together we can be a force to be reckoned with. Ask our brother, I’m sure he’s felt the Force a time or two.
So I reflect on the experience of the past two days–Mess Cat taking the littles so I could be with Sister as she brought new life into the world, Sister being so much stronger than I could ever imagine, and the tears I held back in the face of memories and fear and exhaustion. We were a team, and it just felt right.
This new life that has been thrust upon us–of being the grownups now that Mama and Daddy are beyond–is hard. And I think the hardest part is not being able to fix everything simply by holding a hand or by brushing bangs this way or that. Life is so much more complicated and painful than that. So. Much. More.
Because no matter how aggravated I get with either of them (and it doesn’t happen much at all anymore–this new life of grownuphood is teaching tolerance and respect and that life’s too short for all that junk), I still want to throttle anyone who is hurting them. I want to fix whatever situation is frustrating them. And I want to tuck them in at night and wish them sweet dreams or stay up late and giggle once again, all of us together, sharing whispered secrets under the cover of darkness and quiet and innocence.
But it can’t be. So we visit when we can. We listen to each other’s concerns and support whatever choices each is making the best way we can. In the midst of the chaos of spouses and children and washing clothes and dishes and working and taking care of pets and houses and vehicles and (every now and then) ourselves, we somehow try to communicate that if one ever needs another, we’re all here.
And yesterday we proved that.
If you have a sister, call her. No matter what junk has come between you, if there’s any joy in the memories you have of her at any time in your lives, tell her. Hug her if she’s close by. Because life is too short to let all that get in the way of love and sisterhood. And there’s just way too much that sisters can’t fix when we get older. That’s what is breaking my heart the most.
And if you don’t have a sister, call your friend. You know, the one who makes you laugh because she tells the greatest stories about life and real stuff and can laugh with you through all your stories too. That friend who tells you to take care of yourself and threatens to hound you until you do. That friend that takes the time to check on you and see how you’re doing on a regular basis. Give thanks and give a shout out to her.
And if fixing things for her is not an option, and way too often it’s not, give a hug, lend an ear, and just love her no matter what. They are gifts, sisters and sister friends, and those are the kind of gifts to be treasured. Life begins and ends and what comes in between is what we make of it, with the ones with whom we surround ourselves.
So what I’m saying is, go love on a sister. Love may not be able to fix everything, but it can hold your hand when things are a mess, give you a high-five when “you done good,” and wipe your tears when your heart breaks.
May your days be filled with more joy than sadness, more peace than turmoil, and lots more laughter than tears–and for the days that seem broken and lost, may you find a sister or sister friend there to hear you and to walk alongside you through the pain. I love you all, my sisters and sister friends.