A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves – a special kind of double.
The photo was taken in 1972. We were either at the Tower of London, or at Windsor Castle. It might have been Scotland or somewhere in between. She was 14 and I was 18. We were on a bus tour of England and Scotland with our parents. I always glowered. She still always has a beautiful smile for pictures. We tried to stay awake during the bus rides but invariably we both slept until there was another ruin or a castle or a church to see. We were the youngest by probably twenty plus years. I still like the picture which tells a story of two girls who shared a room for most of their growing up until I graduated from college and got married. It was no castle and we were hardly princesses.
I always wanted a baby sister and my parents cooperated…the narcissism of thinking something will make it so. It was February 18th, 1958. I remember going in our 1950-something hunter green 88 Oldmobile, with a velvet rope on the back of the front seat, and driving with my father to pick up my sister and mother from the hospital. I wore a light blue dress, my best dress, because this was a very important day, and a very important baby. I liked staring at her in the bassinet and watching her. I would stand outside the crib as she got bigger and encourage her to stand up. I could barely reach over the railing but would try to get her up by her hands. Finally, she stood and held on and screamed like bloody murder. She was so afraid but I was so proud of what she had accomplished. It was the beginning of being proud of her although I rarely treated her that way as time went by. We shared a very small room which was about nine feet by ten feet. It contained two beds, two dressers, bookshelves and maybe a desk. I wanted the window and she wanted the closet. I was older by four years, three months and five days. It was never easy. We were, however, in cahoots, when it came to being in trouble with the adults. We were sent to our cell (room) and had to manage to tolerate our differences. I was a pain because I constantly wanted to rearrange the room so I could have privacy. I insisted, when I got to high school, that my parents get a folding three-panel screen to which I installed a small doorknob and cordoned off the window area so I did not have to deal with her, and her with me. She had the closet because I couldn’t figure out how to effectively assume all the real estate. She was a great student and the antithesis of how I learned. She excelled academically and I actually liked her friends. It would not have been cool to let her know that at any cost. We were very different but we knew how to make one another laugh.
It is inconceivable to realize that I truly have known her for her entire life. I was too young to remember a life before her. We grew up and managed to both end up living in Massachusetts. I remember when she called to say that the silver lining for moving from NYC to Massachusetts, was that we would both be in the same state. That was quite a while ago and I would have to say that as a result, life went from silver to platinum from my perspective. She is a good woman who can keep my secrets and know my myriad of flaws but is still kind and such a good listener. We have mothered our children together and grieved losing our parents together. We both live full lives and when we stop for a moment and share a few hours, I realize that I could still share a room with her. I would even give her the window. I love you, my kleine Schwestie. The world is so much better with you in it. Happy 60th!