A few years ago now, C. and I went camping in Virginia to celebrate her October birthday. The canopy of these trees shaded us as we hiked Pocahontas Trail early on our second afternoon. I am thinking today of how much I would love to take her back to that same small campsite with our crazy neighbors who brought a boom box, a TV, and some kind of oven to "rough it" for the weekend.
I'm not sure how we got to the places we are now--birthdays have come and gone for the both of us...we've each given birth to daughters in the time since. But, that weekend looms large in my imagination as almost the only chunk of time I've spent with my sister alone in my adult life. And, if I think deeply--perhaps in my entire lifetime...when I was nine years old, my brilliant, blonde, beautiful sister left for college. At that tender age, I missed her madly. Or, maybe I knew life would sweep us up in the current--I saw how little we had in common then...a fourth grader and a college freshman.
Those differences would remain, it turned out: I wasn't the honor role student, athletic, popular, genius, driven young woman my sister was in high school. I floundered, kept to myself, cultivated a few close friendships, and penned poems about death and the meaning of life. C.'s friends were just like her--all Model U.N. and top of the class. Mine tended to find trouble everywhere--and I was always there, too afraid to participate, but guilty by association just the same. People gently teased her and called her "Madonna" by her senior year...I got "hippie chick". C. lived in the world of numbers and linear thinking--I could literally pass an entire afternoon watching the shifting patterns of light on the hardwood floor.
Even now, we don't have much in common...she is stronger than I am, she is more patient and dedicated to her whole life. I am still shifting around in my roles, still seeing how they fit, falling short--getting up--and trying things again. I guess we really haven't changed all that much. When my third child was a girl--one of my first thoughts was about the joy of the two sisters I would be raising together. My eldest is driven and genius--like my sister...she is scientific and well-liked. Her classmates call her "the expert". But, she will cry for children starving a world away and pass a morning counting clouds...just like her mama. My younger daughter is strong and physical--like C.--but, look at her the wrong way and she'll break down about it, like yours truly, and you can bet when she's old enough, she'll write a poem about how it all went wrong.
I see glimmers of my childhood in my children and my sister's children...they have our memories embedded in their DNA. I am thinking of my weekend away with C. and how badly I want to have another one. We'll find another shelter of trees to light our too-tall blazes in with the firewood neither of us had the heart to steal. (see...we do have some similarities!) Day and night...fair and dark...Republican and Democrat...it doesn't matter. We are sisters.