Thursday, February 21, 2013

Happy Birthday, Sister-Friend! Celebrating Christina, and what it means to be & have a sister

It’s my sister’s 40th birthday, which is hard to believe. Aren’t parents 40?  Grown-ups?  What does this mean? Starting to write what her life means to me, what it means to grow up with a sister, was too long for a birthday card. I decided to take to the interwebs, because I think you all need to know what an amazing woman my sister is.

"Sister. She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities. She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway. She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink. Some days, she's the reason you wish you were an only child."
~Barbara Alpert

Having a sister barely three years older made for what I thought was a tough childhood. Sharing a grade-school, I had find ways to defend myself from her barbs and teasing. She was (is) smart and funny, and often my friends found her more entertaining than I.  I learned to read early to keep up with her. I had to run faster, since she was great at running track. From my shy stance as a high-school freshman, I watched her embrace her senior status. Watched her laugh in the hallway with her friends, watched her make Todd laugh, the guy on whom I had such a crush. I got rides from her with her friends Stephanie and Johanna, to meet friends at the mall, and jumping in the backseat with them made me feel like one of those girls in an 80s movie: hair feathered, bangs big, oh so grown-up. 

As we grew into adulthood and lived far away from each other, we learned together to forgive each other so many trespasses, all the cruel things we had said and done.  We could begin to view the other as separate, but always connected. I learned from her as she mourned the death of that best friend, Stephanie, watching my strong sister crumble in grief and depend on our family for support. I watched her find her way through that, sharing stories of the ever-hilarious Steph and the adventures they had.

Watching my sister, I learned that strong-willed, bossy little girls grow up into defenders of the trampled-upon.  As a CASA (court-appointed special advocate) Christina found herself standing up against the system for a kid whom most had written off.  I learned from her dating mishaps to avoid DJs, to be real and honest and funny with men, and hope to choose as wisely as she did in marrying a good, smart, gentle, and witty man.

Together we grew into liberal, open-minded women who bounce ideas off each other’s experiences. We have rambling talks about spirituality, from what it means to be raised in the Christian church to embracing different ways of practicing faith and opening to the flow of the universe.  Together we navigate our clan, which, like every family, is lovely and amazing and has places of deep hurt that need to be healed.

As a trained life-coach, Christina has found a natural fit for her skills of empathy and encouragement. She listens and asks questions to challenge others to see the greater picture, to be open to more possibilities. We can spend hours talking about ideas ranging from places to travel, to spirit animal guides, to practical ways to achieve our goals as story-tellers: how we find connection between people, places, and the stories that grow there.

I continue to learn from my sister as I watch her as mother.  As I write those words, tears well up in my eyes, knowing the possibilities, adventures and even deeper love that her son Henry brings to our lives.  Mother has so many meanings, and she has mothered me through the years, offering guidance, wisdom, a mirror to reflect my self-consciousness, worries and successes.  I watch her grow as amazing, loving mother.

I watch her mother Henry, as she takes great care to research and understand his unspoken needs based on stages of his baby-brain development, and know that all the years of her listening and encouraging me will be even more finely honed in his life. That she is learning, and will teach Henry, the idea that "when we’re falling we should be happy because we’re being taught how to get back up."  She is fierce in her love and protection of the over-looked, under-served, and I know will raise a little man to be as sensitive to others as she is. 

As a little girl growing up in the shadow of a strong spirit, frustrated that we didn’t understand each other, unknowingly in competition, I realize now that’s part of having a sister, gaining shape and a sense of self from being different. She is my best friend, and my first phone call when I need to share joy, fear, or heartbreak. I’m so thankful that we share a laugh and a common outlook on life. That we live different lives and bring unique experiences to each other, challenging, questioning, supporting the other on her journey.

"Sweet, crazy conversations full of half sentences, daydreams and misunderstandings more thrilling than understanding could ever be."
~Toni Morrison, Beloved

Happy 40th Christina!  Here’s to all the amazing adventures to come.

Photo by Jay Haldors

1 comment:

Christina said...

love you!