The truth is that growing up, we hated each other. We could not be in the same room for an extended period of time without a judicial interjection, either from our parents and occasionally city law enforcement. Sure, when we were kids, some of our torment took a physical form but very early on, a psychological torture began to take place. Exclusion, jealousy, parental manipulation, even bullying occurred for many many years…until I moved away. I moved across the Atlantic and began my growing up in the land of tea and crumpets. Perhaps this newly established distance would heal childhood wounds, creating a ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder’ solution. Alas, this was not the case. The war continued, battle by battle, to the point where our rivalry became an international newsworthy watch. I am pretty sure CNN have a Michela/Natalie tension meter broadcasted right beside their ‘Terror Alert’ meter. I assumed this was the way we would be…forever. We would hate each other…forever. I may be testing fate by writing this but I had a compulsion to record this feeling, even if it only lasts a short while.
I always wondered what it would be like to have a sister that really loved you: what would it be like to have an unconditional partner in crime who knew you inside and out, whose happiness meant as much to you as yours did to them, a person who would always be a phone call away at most? Yes, there were times that I felt that with my sister (short lived) but I think I fully understood the concept of ‘sister’ once I began a close relationship with my boyfriend’s sister. Very rapidly, she began to encompass all the aforementioned features I assumed belonged to ‘sister’ and took a role in my life that previously sat unfulfilled.
So you can imagine the intensity of my anxiety when this autumn, my sister and I decided to live together in London. I anticipated the worst: a full blown war zone with WMD’s, napalm and anthrax. I was unable to prepare myself…I was nervous…unsettled. Once I arrived in the country, I attempted to gage her tone via a brief phone call but was unable to grasp her exact emotion. I approached the enemy…slowly… in a black cab…my heart raced- a lump raised in the throat…and then I saw her- standing at the edge of the road. Our eyes met and…the biggest smile I had ever seen grew across her face! She grinned, beamed even, and held out her arms, bringing me in and hugging me tight. She was actually glad to see me…and surprisingly, I to see her. She helped me with my bags, down the stairs and into the new flat she had been building for us in my absence. She had put a few of my personal things into my room in a bid to make it more homely. She knew how hard leaving Canada was for me and it was clear she had tried to ease the inevitably hard transition. I was gobsmacked. Was this the girl with whom I shared parents? I was wary at first (and even more so now that I have written this) but decided to embrace this new found camaraderie she was introducing.
As the days have gone by, it has continued. We go to the gym together, we eat together, we watch movies together, work together, drink together, dye our hair together and even make houses out of cardboard boxes together. I like that I can come home to someone who cares about me and that I can give her that same support and love. I like that my day matters just as much as hers. I like that I have a ‘partner in crime,’ an individual who understands what I have said before I even speak and knows the answer before I have asked the question. I like that despite what anyone in this city says, my sister will always laugh at my jokes, wipe my tears and back me up…(then tell me off later)…and she is only a phone call or a text away.
I don’t know why things have changed. Maturity perhaps? Or perhaps the fact that I am entering a new chapter in my life and she doesn’t know me at all? Or maybe the realization that when push comes to shove, we are family and 50 years from now, after we have stuck our parents in old folks homes for wetting the bed and stealing our booze (no names….Mum…), we, together with our adorable little brother, will be the only blood related family we have left….I know that no matter how old I get, how fat I become, my sister will always be there to lend a shoulder to cry on, build a cardboard rocket ship (our next project), dance to the Jackson 5 and remind me just how important I am.
(But just in case, I always keep a few loaded water balloons under my bed.)
A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost. ~Marion C. Garretty