This is how it went: We carried a big sheet out to the shaded backyard. The sun hoovered high in the sky and its rays sneakily found their way through the leaves in the trees. We took great care to find an area where our dog had refrained from doing her “business” and since I was the older one, I shook the sheet from its folded position. We watched as the sheet danced in the summer breeze before letting it fall gently to the ground. We carefully made sure that each of the four corners were fully stretched so that each thread could be used.
Next, we carefully laid several boxes and our 2 foot by 1 foot tape player on the sheet, took off our shoes, and sat down. While NKOTB blared out of the boom box, we removed lids from their boxes and oohed and aahed at the contents. Dresses, skirts, gowns, pants, shirts, blouses, sweaters, heels, tennis shoes, sandals, accessories. . . the box seemed bottomless. One by one we took out our dolls and dressed and redressed for hours. We changed the dolls hairstyles from long locks swaying down their back to fashionable up-dos. . .or as fashionable as a 10 and 6 year old could do.
That’s what we did, my sister and I.
When you’re that young you don’t think much about what it will be like when you grow up. All you know is what is right in front of you. Back then I didn’t think about whether or not we would be friends or what kind of aunt she might be. I didn’t consider where she would live compared to where I would live. At that age you think, certainly we will always live four steps down the hall from each other.
But of course, time marches on and marriage happens, jobs happen, families expand, and life changes. You grow up and she grows up and you call each other and swap stories and when you can, you visit. And even though you are both adults, there are moments when in a flash you are transported back under that tree with those dolls and, for a moment, if feels so real. And as quickly as you were back on that sheet you return to the present and smile because there she is, on your living room floor, playing with your kids.
My sister visited this weekend. Charlie and Chanelle counted down the days to her arrival and were so excited when she finally walked through the front door. As I watch them together, my sister and my children, I have to shake my head to remind myself that it’s not a dream. . . it’s real. We are no longer sitting and playing with dolls, we are sitting and playing with real, live, breathing children. My children.
It’s all so surreal.
It’s funny. There are actual moments when I almost slip and call my sister, Chanelle or call Chanelle by my sister’s name. I’m not sure why I do it, but I think in my mind my little sister will always be that little girl from way back when. Even when she’s right in front of me, I still see the scrawny girl with long stringy hair and an orange Kool-aid mustache.
|She brought Charlie a Toy Story book that included Charlie as a character.|
|She brought a princess book that included Chanelle as a character.|
She’s not, though. She’s all grown up and now she is part of the story of the lives of my children. Thoughts like how did we get here? and are were seriously old enough to be caring for these precious lives? are ever-present. This circle of life thing completely floors me.
My sister and I are so different from those two girls that sat in our backyard on those warm summer days. Not only are we different from those girls, but we are so different from each other. Life looks different and so do we. That doesn’t matter, though. We are forever connected by the memories we made during those years when our rooms were just paces away from each other. I think that is the coolest thing about family.
It makes me wonder about my kids. I wonder how Charlie and Chanelle will remember these formative years. Will they feel that sibling connection? Will they know that their relationship is important because of the common experience they had as siblings? I hope so. As much as I’d like to, I know I can’t control it. I can, however, do the best I can to facilitate an atmosphere where they might always be connected to the memories.
And maybe, just maybe, someday when they are on the other side of the circle they will smile and remember that they are who they are, in part, because of the experience they had as siblings.