You Always Have Your Sister
by Nicole Freire
I know that the photograph accompanying this article could make a reader say to themselves, "How many pictures of herself can Nicole put into her own darn columns?" And I might say something like, "But I'm wearing makeup in this one!"
But the real reason there is another picture of me in this column is the other woman wearing makeup standing next to me. That's my sister.
I just returned from spending a few days with my sister, an early 40th birthday gift from her and her family. She was kind and generous enough to realize that taking me out to dinner and then to see Swan Lake would help cushion the blow of me getting older. I got to sleep in her cozy guest room, we went shopping, and I met some of her coworkers.
She bought a house because there is a cupcake bakery only two blocks away and didn't mind me asking her every day, "Can we go to the cupcake bakery today?" Actually, she and her husband might have had other reasons for buying the house but I think the cupcake bakery is a bonus. She let my brother-in-law take me out for sushi because she doesn't like it (and we do) and let me accompany her to a fancy black tie auction event. That is why we are wearing makeup and shiny clothes.
She encouraged daily napping during my visit and let me bully her into trying my various teas. She did not laugh (at least not to my face) when I let slip the fact that not only do I slather my feet with lotion before I go to bed but that I also put lavender oil on the bottoms of my feet to help me sleep. She also did not make fun of me for suggesting that the oil on my feet and a cup of chamomile tea helped me sleep, when in fact it's probably the Ambien I take that really helps. She also didn't sigh when I handed my 6-year-old nephew a 20-dollar bill and told him that he could only spend it on Legos with really tiny parts.
She is my little sister by 3 and a half years, and an inch and a half in height.
She is big beyond belief. And I mean big in the nicest possible way. Big as in, big deal.
My little sister just happens to be a surgeon and a damn good one. Her education and CV would fill pages and pages of nicely woven linen paper. In fact, one year she was the number one surgical fellow in the country. The whole country! And that included Texas.
If she knew how much I bragged about her to just about everyone who listens she would be so embarrassed. If she knew how often I sung her praises to the many medical professionals I seem to run across daily she would crawl under an exam table.
In fact, yesterday morning I showed up to my dermatologist appointment to have some stitches removed from my arm, only to pull up my sleeve to show the doctor that I had let MY SISTER THE FAMOUS SURGEON take out the stitches instead of him. He didn't seem to mind too much, but he did prescribe some sort of ointment that he said would "burn and sting when applied". Maybe he did mind.
I brag about my sister not just because she is an amazing surgeon and a funny person and has a nice husband and two cute little boys, but because she is my sister. I find it amazing and incredible and humbling that the little girl I grew up with is such an accomplished and fantastic woman.
I used to tease her mercilessly. Told her she was adopted. Convinced her that Vaseline was invented by the Egyptians. I would hide next to the fridge and jump out and scare her when she walked into the kitchen. I would force her to stay up late with me to watch Saturday Night Live and kicked her when she started to doze off. I climbed up onto the top of the bookshelf that divided our bedroom in half and threw wads of paper at her. Told her about vampires. When I was a senior in high school and she was a freshman I made her late for school almost every day because I hated high school and being on time and she liked both.
And when she was 18 years old she moved far away. She went to a school with ivy on the walls while I meandered my way through a state school. She stayed up late studying while I stayed up late doing..........um, I don't remember. Her studies and her work kept her hundreds of miles away for years.
I missed her.
Because you always have your sister. Sisters are not allowed to fall by the wayside the way some friendships might do. Sisters are there to gossip with you about your parents. And thank goodness, sisters will eventually forgive you for telling them that they were adopted. (Right?)
I have two daughters now and I try to tell them, as I pry them apart, as they scream at each other, "You always will have your sister". When my oldest daughter won't let her younger sister use her brush or won't share the computer, I tell her, "You will always have your sister". When the younger one cries at being left out, I tell her, "You will always have your sister".
I tell them that they will only live together for a short time. That school and work may keep them miles apart. That someday their father and I will be gone and they will still have each other. To not take each other for granted. To realize they won't be sharing a tiny bedroom forever.
I want them to know that their sister will always be their best friend, their ally, their partner in crime, and their own personal cheering section.
To know that someday you will look at your sister's beautiful face and see traces of your mom and your dad and know that she sees the same in you.
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Nicole Freire is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara.