She was slender. I was overweight.
She had a happy social life. I was a loner.
She was the perfect child. I was the problem child.
We are sisters.
This past Monday was her birthday, and so I have been thinking about her.
The birth of a younger sibling is a problem for any older child. The older child — especially the first — goes from being the center of attention, the adored apple of the parents’ eyes, to having to share that spotlight with someone else — someone who is initially cuter and in need of more attention.
My grandson — my first grandson — is adjusting to the birth of his younger brother. They are 17 months apart, and there’s no way the older one could anticipate the change that his younger sibling was about to bring.
Five years separate me from my younger sister. Even though I had words to intellectually understand it, the adjustment must have been hard. Since I was 5 at the time, I started school and had a younger sibling to contend with at the same time, and it’s difficult to say whether it was kindergarten or my sister that I disliked more.
Parents who decide to have more than one child are, right from the get-go, giving their already-born child a traumatic experience. But they are also giving that child the greatest gift ever — a friend for life.
I don’t see my sister very often. She lives in New Jersey, the state where we grew up, whereas I live in Ohio. But when we speak on the phone, it is with the complete understanding of sisters who shared the same home, the same parents, the same culture.
Our voices sound similar. In fact, when my sister came to Ohio to help out when my second child was a newborn, he felt as comfortable in her arms as he did in mine – perhaps in addition to our voices, our heartbeats are the same, or the way we smell.
We both love the beach and the ocean, something we learned from our parents’ early-morning family trips to Jones Beach where we had to walk to the most remote spot and eat our crunchy, sand-coated hard-boiled eggs. We are of the same political party, share the same liberal outlook and believe strongly that all human beings deserve to be treated with dignity.
I know that, as children, we got angry at each other — for a long time, I had a scar on my arm where she scratched me, whereas I, the older child, had to restrain myself. She was cuter, less socially awkward, more comfortable in her skin than I was. She stayed close to home and was the one to take care of our parents as they aged; I did my best from 500 miles away, but it was never enough.
More than anything, I know we are always there for each other. I know she will listen to me when I call on the phone; she knows I will listen to her. There are some things we don’t have to explain because we just know. This past December, without having spoken about it ahead of time, we both bought the same gift for my brother-in-law (her husband) — an odd gift, too, a head massager. How could that happen, except that we are sisters?
By the fact of our birth, we both have green eyes, the same parents and each other.
Happy birthday, Carol.
Debbie Leffler is a free-lance wrier who lives in Norwalk. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.