I think all of us remember things and words and events in our childhood that we wish didn’t happen. Or that we wish had happened in a different way. Or perhaps we knew a friend who seemed to have everything we could only dream about in the way of love and acceptance from our parents or siblings. I remember very specific painful moments in my past where I swore on my own life that “as an adult” I’d change things. I’d never let my future kids ever feel even a smidge of what I was feeling in that moment. I wouldn’t perpetuate the cycle. I would spare someone else the heartache that felt like it was suffocating me as a child.
For me, childhood hurt doesn’t just come from my parents. It has a lot to do with my siblings. We were only one year apart but my brother wouldn’t claim me most days even though we were on the same sports teams and had most of the same friends and events. He hated me for that. If a rumor was going around about me – there was a pretty good chance my own brother started it or perpetuated it. He just didn’t want to have anything to do with me. And that nearly snapped my heart in half every day.
I spent most of my life hoping it would some day change. The only thing I ever really learned from my two brothers was that I couldn’t count on them. They wouldn’t be coming to my rescue or telling me they were proud. They would’t protect me or guard me or watch out for me. I was on my own when it came to siblings. And I hated it. It only further engraved into my head that something was wrong with me. I was “unlikeable”.
So as a mother of two children who are 5 years apart…I often wondered how they’d get along. How could I make sure that happened? How could I instill in them that no matter what – at the end of the day – they only had each other.
Siblings fight. That’s a fact. And I was okay with that but I wanted there to be a known and fierce love under all the petty stuff on top. I wanted both of them to know that no matter where they were without their parents – there was always someone else in their corner. Her sister.
To this day – I don’t know how it happened. My kids fight but I can honestly say they love less than they fight. They mainly get along.
When it really matters – I have not a single doubt that they’ll be there for each other and have what I never had.
I’ve seen it already. I’ve seen Banana, the 6 yr old, playing with all the neighbor kids and even if I’m right outside…if someone hurts Banana or says something naughty to her – guess who she calls?
It’s not me. It’s Watermelon, the 11 year old. And the astounding part to me is always that Watermelon actually goes over to her. I hear Banana say, “Sissy, he called me a bad word.” And I hear Watermelon lay down the law to the kids who made her little sister cry. Watermelon walks away like it’s all just part of the day when you’re a big sister.
In the morning when I’m in the bathroom getting ready, I tell Watermelon to tell Banana to wake up. But 5 minutes later, I also hear her say, “Want some help getting ready? I can brush your hair for you.”
When they go to bed at night and we’re dishing out hugs and kisses to them as the parents….at the end – they dish them out to each other.
Little hugs and little kisses and always, “Goodnight Watermelon. I love you.” And “Goodnight Banana, I love you too.”
It’s hard for me to hold in the tears….still….every time. I can tell you with every bone in my body that never once – ever – did I kiss or hug my brothers goodnight. Not ever. That my girls have it – without Rambo or I ever coaching it or telling them to say and do it…feels like a miracle.
I’ve heard from the teachers at school that even now – with only one week left of school – that Watermelon and her friends still allow Banana to play with them at recess every day. Watermelon almost carries it like a badge of honor. That she has taken care of Banana.
Just like when Banana was scared to ride the school bus the first week. I overheard Watermelon say to her, “I’ll bring my MP3 player for you and I’ll turn on your favorite songs and you can listen on the way to school and I’ll sit by you and hold your hand, okay?” She’d give up sitting with her older friends to make sure Banana was okay.
So Banana would go. Not afraid anymore.
My job on the bus as a little girl? Was to sit as far away from my brother as possible. So he didn’t have to talk to me or see me or take care of me.
This weekend I got another dose of getting to see that I think my two girls will be okay.
It stormed at our house Friday night. Like the big cracking thunders and lightenings and even hail. One crack was so loud that I remember Rambo shot up in bed. The rain was pouring. It was a doozy. I knew that any second one or both of my girls would come running in from being scared. So I waited with my eyes open. Waited for them to come running.
They never did. Neither of them.
So I figured they slept through it.
In the morning, Watermelon came in and said, “Did you guys know Banana slept with me last night?”
I said, “No. Why?”
She was scared. She came in and was crying and said, “Sissy, I’m scared.”
"So I pulled her under the covers with me and rubbed her back until she fell back asleep."
Later that day I asked Banana why she went to her sissy’s room instead of our room if she was scared and she said, “Because Sissy takes care of me and she’s right next door mom.”
Duh indeed. I can’t really explain what that one event symbolizes to me. That she goes into her older sister’s room for comfort – knowing she’ll get it – knowing she’ll be accepted and not yelled at – knowing she’ll be protected…makes the tears fall down my cheeks.
To know she has what I didn’t surpasses nearly every emotion I’ve ever felt. It heals some of the pain of the past. It means I kept a promise to myself though I don’t know how it happened. I didn’t make them love each other. It just happened. Thank God.
If it sounds like I’m bragging – I’m not. I’m writing stories like this so I never forget how amazing things like this are. This kind of love between sisters isn’t always common or normal. And maybe some day they’ll go through a phase and not like each other much…but for right now I want to remember that my girls had what I always wished for.
I want to remember to never take little voices that say “Sissy” in the middle of a thunderstorm for granted.
And I want to remember that things don’t always stay the same or hurt forever.
These days, when my older brother emails me or texts me…because he talks to me and needs me now…do you know how he starts out every single message?
He calls me Sissy.
Sometimes I just stare at the word in his message. Him calling me an endearment – hits me really hard. I waited a long time but we got there.
Today – over 30 years later – we talk. We have each other’s back. He’ll stand next to me and claim me. He loves my children. He cares about me and I know that.
I’m his Sissy now....even if he wasn't able to let me be back then.