It happens to be my big sister's birthday (I won't say which one) and as I knew it was approaching, my eyes fell on this photo that sits on top of my bureau. When you're young, and if you're the younger one, you always want to be like your big sister.
I remember going to Howard Johnson's in the middle of our hometown on Cape Cod during the summer when she was probably 16 or so, which means I would have been an awkward 12 and a half. It was just the two of us and I remember everyone paying attention to my pretty sister (rightfully so by the way); I might as well have been transparent. My big sister was so stylish with a perfect shape, always perfectly dressed and her hair ... why couldn't my hair flip perfectly like hers! I was proud to be with her and so wanted to grow up like her, but I was beginning to have signs that that wouldn't happen. My sister had curves where I was straight as a board, her hair fell beautifully into a nonchalant flip where mine was inclined to a pageboy - on a good day, her braces were off and her smile radiant ... my braces were still on with head-gear during the day!
As the years passed, my sister traveled south to Virginia to school, leaving the family roost at the fine young age of 14 and me behind - a little lost without my role-model. She'd begun her young adult life and would come home appearing oh so sophisticated. When I reached the age of 14, I too would leave for school, but near Boston. We both began depending more upon our own friends for companionship and role models.
During the summers at home on Cape Cod, when we did live under the same roof, we chose different paths - she would work in Dad's retail shop or a local children's clothing store - working day and/or evening shifts. I worked in a family restaurant as a salad girl, a bus girl and then a waitress - working breakfast and dinner shifts only. We were like ships that passed in the night ... or day. We no longer had friends or interests in common and yet we were related.
We each worked in a city and then married; she had two children, I've had none. We both divorced; I just did it one more time than she did! Our lives have been distinctly individual and completely different, and yet we are related.
I'm still very proud of this big sister of mine. Over so many years, despite living thousands of miles apart, we're aware of what the other's doing and done. She's raised two incredibly grounded and happy children (and she's about to become a grandmother by her son), and is reveling in an even larger family with her husband, his children and their children. She's a master at researching "the family tree", and is collecting and organizing incredible amounts of information and photographs about those "who came before" - a rich legacy for her children and theirs. She established her own business, which she retired from when she met her husband. She's a remarkable crafts artist, creating quilts, sewing stylish "briefcase bags", and knitting ... anything.
Our paths have gone in very different directions and we've become very different people which is no surprise since we haven't shared a common roof for decades ... but we are related. I am still very proud to say she's my big sister and to wish her a very happy birthday.