My little sister is officially a senior citizen today, although she looks so young that no one is going to step forward and voluntarily offer her any of the discounts to which her age entitles her. Personally, I couldn't be happier that she's finally reached an age where she'll be counted, at least demographically, in the same group as I am.
At our present ages, the four-year difference between us feels insignificant, though it used to cause us some problems. The way our birthdays fell, I was five grades ahead of her in school, so we never attended the same school at the same time except when she was in first grade and I was in sixth. We had very few friends in common. In fact, I had very few friends, period, so it bugged me when she, who had lots of them, wanted to play with me and mine.
Those four years were also enough of a difference to make me the "responsible" one, as in the one who "should have known better." Isn't that a kicker? It didn't matter who did what to whom (and we both did plenty), I lost every fight we ever had because I should have been responsible.
My sister was little and cute, and I was a skinny, gangly thing. She was pleasant, too, and smiled a lot, while I was often cross and sarcastic. I was pretty sure our mother liked her best, and even though I could understand why that might be true, it didn't seem fair at all. Mothers aren't supposed to have favorites.
My sister became more interesting to me as she grew from a toddler into a girl, and there were more things we could do together, but we mostly enjoyed different activities. I was happiest reading a book or drawing, and she seemed happiest when she was engaged in an activity that involved running--literally running--with her friends. We played with each other as a last resort.
We became closer in our teens, though we still had plenty of spats over clothing, shared space, and secrets that could be told or not told to bargain for advantages. But we sang together as we washed the dishes, we sunbathed together in the backyard, and we played badminton together with the kids on the other side of the back fence. One time, on vacation, I muttered a curse word in the backseat. Mother whipped her head around and said, "What did you say?" My sister, without missing a beat, supplied a similar sounding but non-vulgar word, and Mother let it pass. My sister had my back.
I remember the exact moment when I realized that my sister really did love me. She was 14, I was 18. Moments earlier, I had exchanged wedding vows with my (first) husband in my parents' living room. He and I were leaving for an overnight honeymoon, then driving 200 miles away to live in the town where he'd recently moved. As we said our goodbyes, my sister burst into tears. I knew she loved me, and I knew I loved her right back.
It took awhile, but somewhere along the way, through time passed and life experienced, we both grew up. Despite the miles between us, we grew closer. We got to know each other on a different level, without the filter of sibling rivalry. I learned to appreciate my sister for the beautiful, smart, funny person she is and always has been. We've shared a lot of wonderful times together since then and supported each other through a few tough times, too. Every year, I feel our bond grow stronger. And, now that we're practically the same age, you wouldn't believe how much we have in common.
She may be my little sister, but she's a big, big part of my life.
P.S. to my sister, Judy:
Happy birthday, Sis! I love you so much.
And if I ever kept you sitting way up on that teeter-totter until you thought your little hands couldn't hold on another minute longer, or if I ever sprang up suddenly so you'd hit the ground hard--neither of which I can imagine ever having happened--I'm really, really sorry.