My sister's birthday is today. I'm an English major, so I'm always thinking of favorite quotes to celebrate various days. Here's one of my favorite quotes about sisters:
“For there is no friend like a sister
In calm or stormy weather;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands.”
from Christina Rossetti's wonderful poem, "Goblin Market"
I didn't always feel this way about my sister. When she was born, I had chicken pox, so not only could I not go stay with the family of my friend (her brother hadn't had chicken pox and back then, there was no vaccine), I couldn't go home right away either. I was 4 months away from turning 5, so I sort of understood, although I couldn't have fully understood the complexities of immune systems. After all, I hadn't asked for chicken pox.
Here's a picture of us, with my cousins and my grandmother, at my grandparents' house in South Carolina. With those 70's hair cuts and clothes, you might not be able to tell who is who. I'm the one hamming it up in the back. My sister is the one on my grandma's lap.
Later, during our teen years, we had the typical, albeit minor, fights. I wanted all my cosmetics on the counter, while she preferred clean countertops. We didn't approve of the way we each dressed. I'm glad we moved beyond those disagreement years fairly quickly.
We were close through her college years. She went to the University of South Carolina as an undergrad, while I was there as a grad student. Those were great years; we saw each other frequently, but had our own social circles. We even went backpacking once. I have not yet uploaded any of those photos to the computer, so I'll go with this one, where we're in a tent that we've set up in the living room--no, not for us, but for my nephew:
We've remained fast friends through the years. She's the one I can always call, the one who knows everything about me and loves me anyway. Here we are on her sailboat last summer:
Here's my favorite Barbara Kingsolver quote about sisters:
"We had exactly one sister apiece. We grew up knowing the simple arithmetic of scarcity: A sister is more precious than an eye" (p. 46 of Animal Dreams).
Maybe I should reread that book. Of course, that book holds my every terror: a father descending into Alzheimer's, people fleeing evil dictators, corporations with no regard for human life, the heartrending loss of a sister. But it offers hope too.
I love a work of art that offers hope. I love that Kingsolver's works show how we can be family, even if we're not related.
My wish for us all: that we have the fierce love of sisters (regardless of blood relation or gender) in our lives.
And my wish for my sister: the happiest of birthdays, now and through the years, so that we can grow old together.