The other day I asked someone how her sister was doing. I was surprised—no make that stunned—when she said she didn’t know, because she hadn’t talked to her in months. They’re not quarreling, there’s been no falling out, they just don’t communicate much.
It’s hard for me to imagine not talking with a sister for months, and not feeling somewhat bereft. And in thinking about sisters, I decided that today my post will not whine about how hard it is to write, or how disappointing my vacation was, nor detail my many misadventures with clothing. Instead, I am going to celebrate my good fortune in having sisters. I have four of them, which is perfect for an introvert like me. They expand my social circle, but require me to attend almost no formal social functions.
My sisters have the qualities I look for in friends: they are smart, funny, thoughtful, truthful, reliable, and almost always up for dessert. But there is something about sisters that transcends even the strongest friendships. Maybe it’s that in my experience, there’s nothing you can say or do in the sister relationship from which there is no coming back. And that there’s nothing you can’t ask, no time you can’t call, no crisis you can’t share, and no honest answer you won’t get.
If you ask a sister “Do my fat rolls show in this dress?” she will not waste time telling you that you don’t have fat rolls. She will just say “Yes. Try this one.” And you know that her response is practical, not judgmental.
If you’re in emotional crisis, and it’s 2 o’clock in the morning, and you’ve already tearfully repeated to everyone you know, as well as to several startled strangers, the entire story of the unhappy unraveling of a relationship, you can still call a sister and say it all over again, and she will listen. And if you have more than one sister, they will pass you back and forth until you settle down.
If you are an adult sharing a house with your sister and you run out of clean underwear, you can take hers out of the dryer and wear it, and she won’t get mad.
If you have an ethical dilemma, a sister will listen to you pro and con and equivocate, then be the moral compass that sets you on the right path.
If you are so hungry for chocolate chip cookies, but so lazy you can’t get off the couch, she will go to the kitchen and make you some.
If you need to hear something you’d rather not, your sister is brave enough to say the words, and strong enough to deal with your anger, and steadfast enough to forgive the unforgivable things you might say in hurt response.
When we were growing up there was much fighting, stealing of pantyhose, unsanctioned borrowing of clothes, and occasional mean-spirited teasing. Our dad, who had long imagined the joys of a big family, would sometimes say more in sorrow than in anger, “Why can’t you kids just get along?” To which whoever was involved in the battle of the moment would likely callously answer: “Because I hate her.”
I’m happy that he lived long enough to know that we grew into the relationships he always hoped we’d have. And that among the best gifts our parents gave us were each other. That of course includes my two brothers as well, who are worthy of a post of their own, but not today. Today I celebrate my sisters, and all sisters.
For there is no friend like a sister, in calm or stormy weather … Christina Rosetti