These are my favorite pictures of my little sister (on the left in both photos) and me. One was taken in 1951 and the other 10 years ago this summer. In between, we provoked squabbles with each other, slapped and tattled, vied for our mother's attention, and everything else that goes along with sibling rivalry.
For most of our adult lives, we've lived in different states. For years, we'd talk on the phone once in a blue moon, see one another on rare occasions when I went home or she came to visit, and keep up with each other's news largely by relaying it through Mother.
Then, in 1996, we took a trip together for the first time as adults. We went back to our hometown for a family reunion. Shoulder to shoulder, we stepped forward to meet relatives we hadn't seen in nearly 40 years, and we relaxed together as we felt the warmth of their welcome. We visited schools and parks and shared our separate memories of being there long ago. We mourned the fact that our childhood home had long since been demolished to make way for a university tennis court, but we went to that spot anyway and stood together on the very ground where we once rode our bikes, pulled each other in the wagon, and drew hopscotch squares with colorful Missouri rocks. We looked at each other in surprise and fought back tears as an unidentified fragrance from our childhood suddenly wafted through the air and reminded us we were home.
On the trip back to our present-day homes, we stopped overnight in the majesty of the Ozark Mountains. We sat together on the balcony of a Victorian-style bed-and-breakfast inn and soaked up the beauty and tranquility of the evening. We talked about the places we'd been, the people we'd seen, the things that time had changed, and the things it hadn't. We sweltered together in the heat of an un-air-conditioned auto dealership after we encountered car problems. We stopped over and over at fast-food restaurants to use their clean restrooms and bought cold drinks as a thank-you, whether we needed them or not. We got lost. We struggled through mixed-up hotel reservations. We worked it all out. We talked, we drove, we talked some more and drove some more, and we left the miles and the years behind us.
We both knew when we started out that it would be an emotional trip down memory lane, but we had no idea it would be the beginning of our journey together into the future. We talked--and listened--more on that trip than we'd ever done in our whole lives, and we got to know each other as the women we'd become. We discovered that our differences would fit in a thimble and that our similarities are too big to be confined by time or space.
I've always loved my sister, but from that trip forward I've loved her more, and I've learned to appreciate her to a degree that makes my heart swell. She's fun-loving, quick-witted, whip-smart, rock-solid, and beautiful to boot. She may not always agree with everything I do or say, but I'm convinced she'll have my back either way. And I'll have hers.
Last night I e-mailed my sister about a silly little thing that had ticked me off. Mostly, I wrote to her because I wanted to vent to someone who knows me through and through and wouldn't need an explanation as to why my feathers were ruffled.
I got her reply at lunchtime today. As usual, she didn't disappoint me. If she thought I was right, she didn't feel the need to validate my opinion, and if she thought I was wrong, she didn't find it necessary to point out the reasons why. Instead, with one simple, typed sentence, she let me know she heard me--and understood.
Thanks, Sis. Again. I love ya'.