"Of two sisters, one is always the watcher...
...one the dancer."
--Louise Gluck, poet--
Yesterday, I stole my sister away for an hour on her birthday eve to take photos of her in a state park near our homes. She was uncomfortable with being photographed, ambushed as she was by the little sister with big ideas. What I wanted to do? Record her as she is emerging into a new decade, capture how beautiful she is to me...how strong. All of my life, I have watched her move several steps ahead of me...struggling to catch up with her...wishing I had her intellect, her blonde hair, or her boldness. Imperfect sister that I am, at times, I haven't been open to her...clinging to our prescribed roles of "the smart one" or "the sensitive one" without giving any thought to how much we both have evolved and grown.
She embraces life, whatever it brings to her. She laughs when anyone else would be weeping. My sister is not a woman easily thrown off-course. She knows how to hold on and how to let go. When I was just nine years old, my sister left for college--I had a hard time, writing her sad letters and crying to my mother. At nine, I guess I already realized we'd never really live together again. By nature of our age difference, I wouldn't have a day-to-day sisterhood experience: going to school together, lounging around on our beds dreaming of the future, whispering scary stories in the darkness, getting into trouble, bickering over friends and boys. I was envious of her worldliness, how she could strike out into life as she did when I was just an awkward, painfully shy girl.
I didn't know enough to be a real support to her as she had been to me...I was flawed, uncertain, confused--the little sister. As fate would have it, I started having children early and the lines between us blurred. Baby in my arms, I was spontaneously "caught up" to my married, child-bearing sister. But, while she was the mother...I was the mess. It was my sister who finally convinced me to seek help for my first round of PPD, driving me to the doctor, holding my infant daughter while I was checked out and prescribed the medications that reduced the voluminous roar of new motherhood to a gentle song. Gratitude flooded me, but at the time, I remembered her juggling two babies in under two years without flinching--and felt I was second-best yet again.
My sister has been ill with a serious condition...she doesn't second guess it. She doesn't ask "why me?" or consider her health "compromised". It is what it is, and she moves forward anyway. I struggle with the pain of my own (insignificant by comparison) health concern with far less grace than she bears hers. I have been the watcher...she, the dancer.
Yet, each year moves me closer into the center of things...colors me just a touch bolder...makes me that much closer to living my life without reservations. I abandon the labels I once used to define myself and others. I look on the bright side...I care less "what people will say". At a dear friend's recent full moon wedding, I found myself whirling on the dance floor like a fallen star...inexplicably incapable of sitting another one out.
Today, her birthday--and always...I want her to know that I have reaped the benefits from watching her all this time. I hope she keeps living as an example for this imperfect little sister...and that she saves a dance for me.