I worshipped her and her remarkable powers – her ability to read, to ride a two-wheeler, to talk intelligently, and to entertain.
Our parents were different from us - so seemingly old and unapproachable (but not really, I realized as I grew up). But my sister was like me. We went to school, played with toys, were made of the same supple material except that her hair was dark and mine was light and not as curly. The difference in size and abilities was huge when I was 5 and she was 9, when we were 7 and 11.
There were three or four occasions in my childhood when we worked together against my parents; at those times we were a solid unit. We must have wanted the same thing, like a later bedtime.
I held out hope for most of my life that we would be friends if only I could try hard enough to figure out how to please her. It didn't happen.
I was lonely. We shared a bedroom in the small apartment and she didn’t want me there. Once I was looking for something in our shared clothes and toy closet when she came in, grabbed a hanger, and scratched my throat with it from ear to ear. I had intruded on her expected privacy.
I made my own friends, fell in love with music, played the piano, and drew a lot. I rode horses and danced. When I came home from school tired, I would wait at the big front door hoping to hear her inside so I could go left or right – whichever was in the opposite direction of my sister. A kind of war. To this day I’m good at making my own happiness. I don’t depend on others.
I thought the stork had left me with the wrong family. I couldn't escape. My real home was somewhere on the opposite side of the Earth. Our parents should never have left us alone.
When we were young children, my sister
• tickled me regularly by pinning my four limbs down to the rug and reaching forcefully far into my gut. A reflex made me laugh though I was in pain. I felt humiliated. When I hit her back she slugged me tenfold. I was no match for her brute force.
• never referred to me by my name, but by words like Stupid,
Nincompoop, and Weed (because I grew fast, I was tall and she was not).
• pulled me into a garage used for storage in the middle of winter and locked me inside with the spiders.
I suffered over these transgressions but they’re kid stuff easily forgiven. The trouble was that my sister never warmed up to me in all the years my mother was alive. I didn’t know how to reach out to my sister lovingly either.
The more naughty my sister was, the more good I tried to be. I clammed up and seethed. She had tantrums and dominated the meals with her ranting. When I was 4, I dreamed that as we ate dinner, the three of them were killed in a fire and I escaped. Now Mom and Dad are gone. We stopped speaking after our mother died. The loss didn’t happen then, it happened during my whole life. It started the day I was born and my sister didn’t like having a baby in her house. I adored her until I realized with difficulty that she felt differently toward me. I was maybe 5 years old when I began mourning the death of the
sisterhood we never had.
When I was in my thirties, I made a conscious effort to make women friends. They were a lot like sisters, but it's never the same as having your own sister.
In my forties, my sister took my mother and all of her belongings out of her house in the dead of night and moved her in with her without telling me. She sold her house and managed her money and told me I couldn’t visit. That was how badly the little girl who didn’t want a sibling wanted her mother to herself.
I visited my mother often anyway until she died of Alzheimer’s. I often think of my sister in the days when we were tiny and I thought we both had good feelings for each other and hope she is doing well.