Childhood and Sisterhood; It’s All Relative

Photo Sister

Enjoying my morning cup of tea while watching a hedgehog have minor surgery is not how I usually start my day. I am a guest at my sister’s home and “Animal Planet” has replaced the “Today” show this morning. 

There are plenty more items on my sister’s animal to-do list. Before the week is over, she intends for me to get chummy with the Dixie Chicks (her four chickens), pet Meeko (her cat) at least once and pal around with Spanky (her dog) who, having sniffed me from head to toe, seems to be considering whether to include me in the same daily welcome status as the mailman. 

This morning, we hear a combination of a honk/crow coming from the chicken coop. This is the signal from the chickens that an egg has been layed. It’s time for my tour of the chicken coop. I learn how to pick up a chicken from behind and choose Dixie to pose with. When I proudly send the photo to Mr. Wiz* and Big A*, they have a good laugh, asking if there was any photoshopping involved and if I will confirm my identity once home and succumb to the family secret handshake. I pick up the eggs from the nesting box and a few minutes later they are being scrambled for our breakfast; delicious! 

I am the city girl, she is the country gal and we are as different as an egg soufflé and a hard-boiled egg. My sister is my dad with a skirt on (which is probably why I love her so much); she is tough, resilient and says what’s on her mind. She cannot seem to sit still and operates at a fast pace, multitasking her way through life. Case in point: while I am methodically preparing and steeping my tea, she has entered her kitchen, executed 40 squats (thus fulfilling her morning exercise regimen) and prepared two dozen of my favorite muffins.

I know it must be bewildering to her as to why the books in my bookcase at home are arranged by author and date of publication and why the chairs in my living room are in perfect alignment to the coffee table. And I’m sure it’s perplexing how I am able to share with her the menus from her visit back in 1984 or produce an Excel spreadsheet on just about any subject. 

Why are we so different? In a recent article from The New York Times, studies by behavioral scientists have revealed that siblings are influenced more by their microenvironment. As it turns out, the family setting does not operate the same for each child. Since each child is unique, personality seems to be formed from experiences not shared, rather than common experiences. 

My sister and I do share an unusual amount of eye rolling, trying to comprehend why we are who we are. Grocery shopping is a good example. She demonstrates her free form, no list technique. As I run down the aisles, trying to keep up with her, I feel lightheaded and anxious, marveling at how the cookbook in her head is planning menus at lightning speed. 

In the hopes of proposing that my shopping list by aisle strategy might be of interest to her, I send a colorful shopping list pad along with her birthday gift. I get the message that, though this will not be a bonding experience, our sense of humor is, when I receive her thank you note written on one of the pages of the pad. 

The night before I leave, we drink wine and dance to our favorite Fleetwood Mac songs under the same sign that, surprisingly, is displayed in both our kitchens: “Never Enough Thyme.” I smile and am reminded that variety is the spice of life and we need to spend our time/thyme together toasting those glimmers of similarities and celebrating our yin and yang.

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

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Sibling Revelry       

Photo Sibling Revelry

No one seemed to know why so much time had gone by since we were all together, but it didn’t matter. We were here, right now and from the first hugs, it seemed as if we just took up where we had left off. There’s a magic in that; it’s that fast-forward gear to life that glides right over the past with all its crevices and back alleys and propels you to the clear, open vistas of the present moment.

Fun loving matriarch that she is, it was JC* that brought us together. It’s hard not to be all in when you are invited to the warmth of Austin, Texas in March. This was not her first rodeo, but it would be her guests’ initial experience attending one. Everyone was urged to bring their inner cowboy and cowgirl and dress for the occasion.

There would be seven of us: my New York sister and her son (note to self: remember that inviting a younger person means smooth sailing with any possible technology questions and glitches), my brother and his wife (law, shmaw; a sister-in-law is just like a sister), JC, Mr. Wiz* and me. With JC doing the planning, Mr. Wiz doing the driving in the seven-passenger car we would rent and me, all too eager to get started on the spreadsheet that would document and guide us through each day’s plans, there was no doubt that a good time would be had by all.

The days went by much too quickly. Funny stories from childhoods past intermingled with present day discussions of our lives. We learned that we were all foodies, were very health conscious, worked hard to be physically fit and still had no concept of potlucks nor had any inclination to participate in one (not a thing in and around New York City where we grew up).

My sister brought a special guest and with much fanfare introduced Zippy the monkey. A popular stuffed animal at the time, we could not believe she still had him after all those years. His new clothes (complete with a cowboy hat just for the occasion) helped to hide his shopworn look. We agreed it was fortunate that he could not talk or many a childhood faux pas would have been unleashed.

Once the floodgates opened, we all shared our favorite stories about my dad. After passing away so many years ago, it was testament to our love and devotion to him that he would still be so admired and thought of daily. What better tribute than that?

Though we agreed that we don’t really look alike, we decided that my sister resembled my dad and we saw his strong personality in her (we laughed to think that she was my dad in a dress). Though my brother looked more like our grandfather, he had that strength and determination inherited from our dad. I looked more like JC, but was a composite of both parents, personality wise.

When it was time to say goodbye, it really didn’t feel like a farewell. It seemed as if we were just getting started, restarted and it was one of the happiest days of my life. We instinctively held hands for just a minute and that old feeling came back and overwhelmed me.

The sibling connection is a strong one. It can withstand anything that confronts it. It’s a private club with lifelong membership. It’s a connectedness to the past, present and the future. It’s a feeling that, wherever you go, whatever you do, there is a fan club out there with your name on it.

In time, we plan to include our children in our get-togethers and reintroduce them to the family that almost got away, but was saved by a spirited, loving mother, a rodeo and the strong bond that time could not destroy.

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.