" You can’t think how I depend on you, and when you’re not there, the color goes out of my life.” (Virginia Woolf)
No matter what she’ll tell you, mind my words: it was NEVER a competition! Not when we were not in school yet, for my parents’ attention; not in school, for who made the best grades, not during high school, for who gets a boyfriend first! It was never like that. For me. But society, friends, and family made her think that it was.
As the younger sister, everyone expected her to deliver “just as her older sister” did. With no regard to her unique personality and skills, with no regard to her rebellious (vs. my please-everyone) nature, they kept expecting her to match me. Or even go higher than me.
"A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost"
- the innocent years, cca 1980
And she will tell you she always tried to learn from me, copy me, deliver just at the level I delivered. Well, all that, until she hit teenage-hood, of course, when she told the world to go scratch, and she will be the opposite of me, because she felt like no matter how hard she tried, she could never “be her sister”. That’s when the spite and the difficult years (for both of us) started.
The truth is, and we only now realize it, we’ve learned from each other. It was never trying to overdo each other as much as trying to complement each other, in everything. Until it was time for me to fly away (literally), we were two perfect halves of the same beautiful whole mom treasured! She’s taught me just as much as I’ve learned from her.
She’s taught me how to make crème brulee, and I introduced her to cheesecake; she’s taught me adventure, and risking it all for the thrill of it, because life is short, I taught her about permanence and her own precious value, that she needs to so carefully hone and guard; I taught her to read, she taught me how to pick books; she taught me about loving animals, and protecting the weakest of creatures; I taught her how to be strong and weather storms; she got me addicted to Sex and The City, and I bought her The SATC Movie. I taught her about honesty; she showed me the life-or-death importance of a white lie! I taught her about pain, and sadness, she showed me how to love – unconditionally, wholly, completely, helplessly.
I showed her how to be a good daughter, she showed me how to be a good mother. I showed her how to smile politely, she showed me how to laugh out loud. I showed her how to travel, she taught me how important it is to have a home to come to. I taught her about jewelry – she’s trying to this day to show me all about fashion. And I fail – every time!
We split the chores: I’d dust, while she’d brush the carpet. We’d split the chicken for dinner: she’d let me have my wings and breast, I’d let her have her leg. Oh, how she hated the breast!
I taught her about the importance of eating healthy, she’s taught me how to viscerally love food, indiscriminately, with the same passion she does everything else! She’s done just that: taught me unbounded passion! My life has the bright colors it has because of her encouragement and daily support!
I look back at our lives, and I see the same two little girls, trying to figure it all out. The quarrels about who gets to wear what sweater today; the yells and fits we threw about who gets to go where with which grandparent; the fights over boyfriends, and who gets to get drunk tonight, and who gets to cover for the other; the love at the end of the day, when we laid in the same bed, hugging, and heard each other’s breath. So calm. And peaceful. So … home.
How I miss it all – although all is right here, available, at hand, inside our hearts and memories. Forever locked away and close, no matter how many continents separate us!
Shared beds and bathrooms … shared friends, schools and loves … Birthdays and name days, and family parties with their gossip about relatives too fat, too skinny, too annoying … Oh, the gossip! The homemade, mom driven, “girly” beauty school: when to dye our hair? When to tweeze our brows (evidently, I was skipping that class!)? When to shave? How often? How we discovered it all – together, side by side. No competition
She’s turned out to be the one person in my life that I admire the most. An accomplished mother and wife, she’s about to celebrate her nine year anniversary this month – married to her high school sweetheart this whole time, after four years of dating. The younger sister who never could keep up with my teachers’ expectations in high school, is now flaunting a law degree(from
She is the best mother I know to date, and she’s the best sister anyone could hope for, most of all - because she keeps me real, and grounded She makes sure my head stays screwed on, and the right size, and she’s holding that mirror in front of me, relentlessly! She’s helped me realize my own mistakes growing up, and my own faults as a daughter and a failed wife and partner. She’s given me the privilege and trust to be her only son’s godmother and guardian! How can I ever repay her, in a lifetime?!
I am not sure who declared us a competition, at any point in time, but, my dear sorella*, if it is indeed a competition, I am pretty sure you’ve won it!
Happy birthday, my love, and so, so, so many more healthy ones, too!
I love you now, and forever …
Your older sister, who was lost and lone, for the first three years and four months of her life, when you were not there …
*sorella (Italian)= sister