Remember that song from Bing Crosby’s White Christmas? No, not that song. The other one, the one where Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen dance around and sing about the joys and tribulations of sisterhood? God, that song used to really bum me out when I was a kid. I was so darned jealous that those two were lucky enough to have the chance to be sisters. I know, I know, they weren’t really sisters. But still.
Having grown up the only girl in a house with three boys, for me sisterhood was an elusive concept that remained just out of reach, something that seemed like the thing I must have been missing out on, but couldn’t, no matter what I did, do anything about rectifying. I had so many friends who had sisters, and even if they fought and screamed and stole each others clothes and make-up and sometimes even boyfriends, they still had this irrevocable bond, this thing that only sisters share.
A sister is a ready-made Barbie playmate. Someone with whom you’d fight over the most handsome date while playing Mystery Date. A sister is the one you can cuddle up to even if you’re a teenager, when your parents are screaming at each other yet again at three in the morning and you can no longer fall back asleep to the sound of your own sobs. She’s the one you turn to when your first love breaks your heart and you don’t think you’ll live another day.
A sister is the one you take along to find your first prom dress, the one who helps you pass your chemistry class by giving you all of her old exams. She is your maid of honor, your confidante, the one you diet with, the one you soothe and comfort when her husband walks out and leaves her with two small children and a mortgage. She’s the one who tells you the truth about childbirth. And married life. She watches your kids and you watch hers. You both leave the kids with your husbands and meet for drinks just to catch up on life. A sister is the first person you think to call when you just need to talk. She is the one with whom you will share the burden of a dying mother, that mother who can’t abide either of you, but together you act as a unified force to suffer her harsh words and vitriol while easing her dying days.
In a world of brothers, such bonding rarely occurs. Brothers grow up, they do things together. They’re golf buddies. They go to Vegas together. They share a fascination with fine wine, talk shop, business, politics. In a scratch-and-sniff-grunt-and-groan sort of way. Maybe they’ll watch the big game together. A sister doesn’t fit into that mold very readily, and so grows up in a salad dressing kind of world: the vinegar to their oil. Occasionally blending for the good of the family, but most often separate and not easily mixed.
I remember once as a girl crying mightily to my mother because I never got that sister I so dearly longed for. It was only then I learned of those babies lost, those possible sisters that never had a chance. Something she never shared but suffered over in silence. And for that, I always felt so very guilty, having imposed my irrational yearnings on someone who could no easier fulfill this desire than could I.
Now that I have girls, I lament the lack of bond I just assumed all sisters shared. I hold out hope that with time and age, they will find commonality in their lives, and remember to bolster each other during life’s most trying times. I don’t expect they’ll soon be dancing on stage, crowing about their wonderful relationship. But perhaps some day they’ll figure out what a gift they have.
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