Carly Simon wrote a song called “My Older Sister” the first line being: “She rides in the front seat, she’s my older sister..she knows her power over me.” That has been the anthem of my life but it took me years not only to appreciate that I have an older sister but to embrace it. I am the 53-year-old “baby” of the family and I have an older sister who is 59. For siblings, that’s a HUGE difference in age, it’s like we were born two separate, only, children.
When I was born she had no use for me and especially as she got older, I was just in the way. A nagging little sister who wanted someone to play with her. When we sang together she sang vocals, and I sang back-up. Always. I became the little sister to one of her friends, who loved me and played with me. “I wish Mickey was my sister” was said by me more than a few times. She didn’t seem to care. To this day, I am closer to Mickey (Michal) than she is, that bond never broke.
When my sister and I were growing up our parents referred to us as night and day, sun and moon. There are no two siblings that were more different than us. Even our appearances are completely different, I have a very pale complexion (known in the family as cream cheese) and she is robust and ruddy, as if she is sunburned all year round, white vs red. The only thing that we have in common is our voice, we sound exactly alike on the phone and often used to fool people by pretending to be each other. When my sister was bored talking to one of her friends she would ask me to take over and I would, them being none the wiser. We still laugh about it. We could always fool our father, that was easy, but taking mom down was much tougher; I think in all the years we tried she only fell for it once or twice. She prides herself on that.
That which separated us before, brings us together now, with humor. When my sister loves a certain Dr. and swears up and down that I will love him, I will go but sure enough I will see him and hate him. I did that two months ago, I hated his cold, brusque demeanor, his rapid (and painful) examination, the smirk on his face. After her exuberant description, when he walked into the room I thought it was another Dr. that had just borrowed his white coat. That’s how strongly I felt against him; this is my sister’s favorite Dr;. she looks forward to seeing him. Different people, different siblings.
Restaurants are tricky too, the Asian -Fusion place I adore, she thinks is only mediocre, if that. We do agree on the delicious tuna sandwiches at the Thornwood Diner and the sandwiches at Lange’s Deli. The book I have loved, the tv show I hated, all opposite opinions. It’s so unpredictable that it is indeed predictable. It’s the bond of opposites.
Movies were the first thing that showed us how different we really were; that truly separated us. When I saw the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” I called her excitedly and told her it was the best movie I had ever seen. It was witty and sharp, cute and funny; to this day I love that movie. She saw the movie and called the next day asking if I was “on drugs and questioning my sanity?” She absolutely HATED the movie, every second of it; she may have even walked out. Game on.
What used to divide us, now brings us closer together. Now she calls me plum and I call her sugar; she calls me Ferris and I call her Bueller. For years before we went to bed we would say good-night to each other through the fake wall divider and say: “Goodnight peanut butter, Goodnight tuna. Goodnight shrimp, goodnight applesauce. The Waltons had nothing on us! It was a vast improvement of our early names for each other which were “stupid” and “ugly.” And, when all was said and done and we tried to settle into sleep, I would inevitably ask “what time is it?” and she would always fall for it and tell me and then we continued to laugh.
If WE could find a middle ground, anyone can. After many years, two extremely different people, have somehow settled on this newly paved path of love, understanding, friendship and respect. Our mother always said “the most important thing is that you have each other” and it is true. We are each others piece of history, without which we would be very much alone. If we were dark vs light before, we’ve arrived at a long overdue acceptance, a mixture of colors, bright red, muted yellows, lilac and florescent green; bold and subtle, and very, very warm.
dedicated to my sister, Emma.