Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Golden Thread

"A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life."  
~Isadora James

I remember very clearly my parents taking my brother (aged 9) and me (aged 11) aside and sitting us down.  They told us they had something big to tell us and that we had 20 questions to figure it out.  My brother, Brian, and I were desperate for a dog so we narrowed our questions down in this way:

1) Was it alive? Yes.     (check, excellent...keep going.)
2) Was it breathing? Yes.  (check, really move.)
3) Did it have fur? Sort of.  (huh? what?  what does that mean?)
4) (excitedly, jumping out of chairs, up and down) Is it a dog?
   No.  It's a baby!

Our reaction couldn't have been more classic.  Together, Brian and I ran screaming from the room.  Crying. Sobbing. Heart-broken.
A baby???  Why?  Who wants a baby?

It took several long months to choke down the idea of  an anchor a cute baby and wrap our heads around the concept that someone tiny was coming to stay.

My mom's due date was March 2nd, 1976.  I was in 6th grade, my brother in 3rd.  I waited and waited mostly in competition with my brother.  Who was going to get the match?  He was convinced it was a boy.  I was hoping for a sister.  Not for any glorious, noble,  or kind reason.  No, my hopes were based solely on the idea that I would beat my brother.

March 2nd came and went but on March 5th I woke up to my dad telling me I would have to make my own lunch, my mom had had the baby and it was -- a GIRL!!! 
I won.

I had no idea what I had won.  No clue that this baby would be a lifeline for me, a joy like no other, a precious, precious sister.

My sister is 11 years younger than me.  To an outsider that might seem like a huge distance.  It might be questionable that we would even interact or have a relationship. But ever since that little pink bundle came through the doors of our house she's had a piece of me.

Her room was next door to mine and my parents' room was upstairs so it was natural that any late night scary dream would come my way.  Mary Claire would routinely slide into my bed in the middle of the night and I would just roll over and let her in. She cuddled on my lap as I sobbed through Love Story and at the perfect moment peed on it.  It's a testament to just how smitten I was by that little cherub that all I could think to do was laugh out loud, let us both be wet and continue crying until the movie's tragic end.

She was my baby.  I dressed her up, braided her hair or curled her pigtails and paraded around town with her.  I cried heaving mother's sobs at her college graduation and watched in astonishment as she became a talented teacher, a mindful wife and the most amazing mother around.  Whenever I confided in her, she surprised me with her often funny, keep-it-real, astute observations.  She's smart, this little sister of mine.  She's hilarious.  She's irreverent and honest.  Best of all, she's always on my side.

I will never, ever forget the countless acts of grace that have accompanied her love.  She came to my house as I braced myself for Patrick's open heart surgery and lotioned my feet and painted my toes.  She couldn't fix Patrick's heart but she sure could work on mine.  

She sat on the other end of the phone as I sobbed and wondered out loud how I could allow poisons to course through Patrick's body in the name of healing after his leukemia diagnosis.  How was I going to tell my bigger kids?  How could I possibly do this? Somehow she could be calm and make sense of things that made no sense to me.

Together we were silent on the phone in wonderment that our worlds were going to collide: in 2006 we were both pregnant...found out on the same day...and all we could do was be stunned.  I was convinced that I would miscarry at my ripe old age but miraculously the universe conspired to have my last baby and her first baby born four weeks to the day apart.  Our girls share the same middle name, Claire, after our mom Linda Claire.  They are stunning and amazing and connected in a cosmic way, the very best of friends.  

Caroline Claire and Elizabeth Claire

Like some sort of sustenance, Caroline can only go a few weeks without requesting Lizzy's physical presence.  Thankfully, Lizzy only lives about an hour and a half away. So, when it gets bad, we meet halfway or find a way to get together.  Seeing them together is magical.  They are like two brightly colored legoes...they just fit.  There is never any catch up time.  Never any real discord.  Both of these big personalities can somehow take a backseat when needed.  They compromise, share and find a way to balance things in a remarkable way.

Five years into this journey and still I can't believe I get to share it with my sister.  

I am so grateful for my sister.  Grateful for her wisdom. For her love.  For her ability to make me laugh second only to my little brother, Brian, and John.  Grateful for her unabashed love for my kids and her care and kindness in the moments when I couldn't even breathe let alone think straight.  She is the gift that keeps on giving and I know it.

If you have a sister...get out there and love her.  Crap happens.  Bad words or actions might be said.  Mistakes made.  It doesn't matter. The universe wrapped up a package and sent it your way. Find a way to remove the wrapping and treasure it.  Trust me, I do.


  1. Your sister is the closest thing I have to a sister and I couldn't agree more with your sweet words about her. Aren't we lucky?! Thanks for sharing her with friends like me and reminding all of us how very wonderful she is.

  2. Awww Amy, Yes! We are so very lucky! She's the bomb! And, you have it so great! I wish I could live down the street from her. :) I also agree that there are many, many amazing women in the world who can be like a sister, including my one and only. <3 Friendships that women share are truly the things that get us through some of the most difficult moments of our lives...and some of the best!