My sister and nephew flew into Syracuse on Thursday night. They got to my house later than expected because my sister got very airsick. Mom hustled her inside while Z got the luggage and I got the baby. She didn’t make it into the house proper, but was in our tiny mudroom when she grabbed a trashcan and lost her lunch. I was standing outside with the baby and was so upset and worried about her that I started to cry. In the middle of her sickness she called out in a clear happy voice “Don’t cry Karen! I’m totally fine!” then she went right back to horking.
And not for the first time I was struck by how our roles have reversed over the years. Chronologically I am the big sister by two years, one month, and three days. And when we were growing up I was the big sister in every way—bossy as hell, totally annoyed by her hero worship, confident and ready to try anything. She was a quiet and shy and hesitant. She deferred to me on most things.
Now she is a strong and confident woman who has managed to do quite a lot in her 31 years. She double majored and graduated in three and a half years from a prestigious university. She not only passed the Foreign Service exam on the first try, but qualified for the most exclusive section in her early 20s. When she realized that the Foreign Service was a frustrating bureaucracy that wasn’t interested in changing for the better she got her MBA at another prestigious program and upon graduation had secured a fantastic job for herself. She rocks.
I still don’t really know what I want to do when I grow up.
We were pretty darn close growing up. Moving around so much will do that for you. But during our 20s I think it’s safe to say we grew apart. We turned into such different people, pretty much opposites. I’m inappropriate and sloppy and shout my liberal ideals from the rooftops. She is poised and tidy and socially appropriate. I think we sort of drove each other crazy.
Then we got pregnant at the same time. We found out within two weeks of each other. Of course I was seven weeks when I found out, and she was about 2 minutes. And mine was an accident and hers was very planned. And I didn’t feel ready for parenthood while she had told me I was required to get pregnant so we could do it together. I had told her to jump in a lake. I’d get pregnant if and when I wanted to, that she was not the boss of me. But it turns out she is sort of the boss of me. Because I had T right on schedule according to her. She wanted me to have a baby first because I am the older sister and I obliged by giving birth to T six weeks before she had Gabe.
Anyway, during our pregnancies the most amazing thing happened. We started to get closer and closer. A really strange thing about pregnancy is you start to forget the details as soon as you are done with it. My sister in law and one of my closest friends both had daughters who were just over one when I got pregnant. I was astonished to discover they didn’t remember specifics. But Barb and I were going through a lot of the stuff at the same time and we really leaned on each other. It was the absolute best thing about pregnancy for me. I felt more connected with her than I did with the baby.
The closeness has not diminished at all now that we are mothers. Barb calls me every day while she is pumping at work and we catch up on what the boys are doing and how we are doing. We are still very different, but it no longer gets in the way. In fact, just about everything makes us laugh. My mom who has always wanted a sister and who constantly tells us how lucky we are to have each other gets annoyed at our incessant giggling and inside jokes. Z rolls his eyes at our shenanigans.
And I am happy to have this relationship with my sister back, even if I’m now playing the role of the little sister.