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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sisterly Love

It's my sister, C's birthday today.

Growing up, my sister C and I were not overly...sisterly. With a twenty-one year age gap between us, that's pretty understandable.

We were also very different personality wise. I was described by my mother as being a lot like my other sister, Valda, who died when I was almost seven months old. Vivacious. Creative. Opinionated. Bubbly. Outgoing. My sister, C, on the other hand, was more serious. Studious. Responsible. Polite. Reserved.

Craving the kind of sisterly relationship I felt that I had missed out on, I spent a fair amount of time in my youth thinking about my sister, Valda. I imagined - seeing that my Mum thought we were fairly similar personality wise - that she and I would have been close. To be honest, that was unrealistic. Even if she had lived, by the time I was old enough to have a close relationship with her, she would have more than likely have been married with kids of her own - just like C. There still would have been a seventeen year age gap between us.

I grew up wishing I had the sisterly relationship I saw my friends experience. My friends P & B are sisters, and even though they fought a lot when we were all younger, they were also very good buddies and spent a lot of time together socially. In fact, they are still very close today. I would never invite one somewhere without the other. They're a package deal, if you like. I think I really wished I'd had that. I used to spend a lot of time bemoaning the fact that my sister C was 'too old' for me, and my other sister had died, so both relationships were 'taken from me'.

I recall shopping for birthday cards for C when I was younger. Even in to my twenties, I couldn't choose the sisterly cards on the market with sentiments like, 'To my sister, my best friend' or cards that said something along the lines of, 'I'm so glad you are in my life, sister, and I love when we spend time together' because they just didn't accurately describe the relationship we had.

To be honest, until I reached my thirties, I had spent literally less than a handful of times one-on-one with my sister, C. I really didn't feel like I knew her that well at all. Can you imagine how difficult it must have been for her too? Obviously there were times when she took on the role of carer with me; like when I would stay at her house during school holidays. How can you be the responsible adult and the sister at the same time? It's virtually impossible. Add to that my move from my hometown of Perth at the age of twenty-five to Sydney, and the fact we saw even less of each other - our relationship never had the opportunity to blossom.

And then I had my first son.

When the 8yr old was about 6 months old, Hubby took an overseas work trip. He was always concerned about leaving me alone with our baby, and suggested we invite someone to come stay. As my parents had recently visited, as had my mother-in-law, Hubby suggested my sister, C.

I hesitated.

Why? Because to be honest, I imagined how awkward it would be having C here. We weren't close. We were very different. What on earth could we possibly have in common? I imagined us sitting together in awkward silence, both trying to find something to say to one another. In the end, I invited C to come stay, because I knew it was 'the right thing to do'.

Imagine my surprise then when the very moment my sister, C, walked in to my home we didn't stop talking? We talked and talked and talked. In fact, we'd sit down to watch a show on tv, and wouldn't see even half of it, so busy talking were we. I soon realised we had far more in common than I ever imagined we would. (For example, we could both sit and eat a truckload of brie in one sitting. No problemo!) It was as if the years of not having that opportunity to connect meant we had a lot of catching up to do, and our connection was unbelievable.

By the time my sister left, about two week's later, I stood on the front porch - tears rolling down my cheeks - as I watched my sister's taxi drive away. I knew I was going to really miss her. I was 32 years old, and I had finally found the sisterly relationship I had always longed for.

It was right in front of me the whole time.

Now, years later, I regret that I didn't spend a lot of time getting to know C when I was younger. I spent so much time mourning what I could have had with my sister, Valda - when I had a sister right there to love. By the time I reached my twenties, I figured that was it. It was a lost cause trying to establish a sisterly bond with C. I resigned myself to the fact that that was my lot in life. We were too different both in age and personality.

How wrong I was.

It's not like we talk every day on the phone now, but our connection is much stronger. When we do get together, we enjoy every moment. C was here when I gave birth to my 6yr old. She was here not long after the 3yr old was born, and she has visited us many times since that first trip when the 8yr old was a baby.

On one particular shopping trip together at a local shopping mall during one of her stays, we were having a blast buying up big. We'd bought shoes, bags, clothes - we were on a roll - and had walked in to a clothes store when I picked up a belt that caught my eye. I turned it over, and on the tag was written the name of the belt. I gasped. It was called the 'Valda belt'. I called C over. "Look at this," I said incredulously, pointing to the tag. "It's like she's here with us," C said - referring, of course, to our sister, Valda. We smiled at each other. We both felt that Valda was right there shopping with us.

Sisters. Together.

Now, when I shop for birthday cards for my sister, C, I can buy the cards that truly reflect the wonderful sisterly relationship we have. It may have taken us 32 years to get there, but I'm just glad we did.

Happy Birthday, C. I love you and I miss you. See you soon, sis.



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