I come from a family of four.
I’m the youngest kid of two, and my older brother is just over three and a half years older than me. And a foot taller.
We are alike in many ways: we are curious about life — though about different aspects of life; we love to laugh loudly and uncontrollably and see the world around us as an ongoing sketch for our amusement; we would rather be happy than not; and we both have a strong sense of (what we see as) right and wrong.
We are not alike in many ways, too: I am a “live to work” person, having chosen a vocation that connects with my lifelong love of putting words together, while he is a “work to live” person — his job makes the rest of his life possible, and he loves his hobbies and friends and entertainment much more than punching the clock; I am more liberal in the classic political sense; and I’m prone to abandon routine in a way that he likely wouldn’t enjoy, since he’s got a bit of a military way about him (especially after serving in the U.S. Army.)
I’m louder than he is. He’s funnier than I am (or so my mom said once, and we never let her forget it.) He’s a better artist. I’m a better writer. I’m much more OCD about cleaning. He’s more organized.
I’ve never mourned not having a sister, because life with an older brother was a good thing. It certainly made me more of a whip cracker in male-centric situations, which is very handy. Also, he would happily (and thoroughly) dispose of anyone who would dare hurt me, and that continues to be a nice ace to have in my back pocket.
What I have also been lucky to have, however, is a set of female friends who feel like sisters.
Or at least what I imagine it to feel like.
These friends are easy to spend time with and talk to. These friends laugh with me until we’re out of breath. These friends share who they are with me, and give me the chance to be a trusted confidante. These friends make me proud with their achievements and gifts. These friends make me want to throw various men off of cliffs when they’ve been hurt. These friends make me cry at their weddings and the first time I get to hold their babies. These friends remember my words and hold me accountable (though with grace, and lots of it.) These friends accept me for who I am, but they expect better of me than I do of myself at times.
Sometimes we squabble like real sisters, although rarely. Sometimes we fall out of touch, but it’s easy to fall back into touch, too — although as the years go by, I’m learning not to rely on that, because taking people for granted is a recipe for hurt.
Mostly, I think they feel like family because they own a little piece of my heart.
When I moved to Boston — 3,000 miles across a border and a country, to a completely different life — I left behind my best friend in the world, Catherine, and my sister above all other sisters. I have not been perfect about keeping in touch, because the day to day overwhelmingness of life sometimes makes me insular (and lame.) This is one of those, “I hate it but I still do it… ARGH!” qualities I possess, and it doesn’t end with her.
But when I left Catherine behind, she blessed me in a such a big way by encouraging me to take the leap, and being proud of every new thing I did when I was here. She believed I could do whatever I needed to do to make my life work. And she continued to be the thoughtful friend she is from very far away. An example: when I had my tiny just-family wedding in Boston Public Garden, she arranged for the restaurant where our after-ceremony dinner was to bring us a bottle of pricey champagne with her love. It was a perfectly Catherine gesture, akin to the flowers she’d bring home when we were roommates, or the latte she’d get up early to buy so it would be waiting for me when I woke up on my birthday.
She’s a zillion months pregnant now with her first child, and it wallops me in the heart that I haven’t been a part of all the shopping and fussing for the baby, though I know without a doubt that she’s both organized and incredibly beautiful in all her almost-mom glory right now. No one will be a better mother. In a world where many kids are born into homes where love is not at the heart of what goes on, this baby will know true unconditional love and acceptance. And she’ll grow up into someone like Catherine someday, if she’s lucky.
I thought of Catherine’s fantastic support and friendship today because a friend of mine from Boston, Karen — another one of my “sisters” — is leaving today to head in the reverse of my journey here. Karen is one of the key folks in “my Boston”, but now she’s got a fantastic job in L.A., and after a lifetime on the East Coast, she’s making a huge step to follow her heart. I know what it’s like to say goodbye to everything, and to balance the excitement of something new with the sadness of leaving things you love.
I’m pretty sure Karen will do a better job of staying in touch with everyone here than I’ve done, but even if she doesn’t, I’ll want her to carry the knowledge with her that I am proud of who she is and what she is and where she is headed. That she is beautiful and smart and capable of anything, and that anyone who says otherwise is wrong. That she is loved and accepted just because she exists. That she can do anything, and even if it’s not easy, that she has everything she needs to keep moving forward.
I feel like I’ve gotten the best of everything in life with my family and friends. They accept me in my worst moments, even when they expect better. And they’ve given me what I need to make tough choices and giant leaps, and to be more comfortable in my own skin, even when life wasn’t and isn’t always easy.
But today I am especially thankful for two of my “sisters”: the one who people assumed was my best friend in the world two hours after we met, and who stepped seamlessly into that place in my heart as a result; and the one who extended friendship to me before I even arrived in my new city, and who has brought me much laughter and joy for the past two years.
You’re both on the edge of a huge and amazing change in your lives, and you’ll both shine in your new roles and situations.
Thanks for being a part of the family I’ve chosen.