From Chicken Soup for the Sister's Soul

We Chose to Be Friends

A sister is nagging and needling, whispers and whisperings, bribery and thumpings, borrowings, breakings, kisses and cuddlings, lendings, surprises, defendings and comfortings, welcoming home.

Pam Brown

When my sister was four years old, she thought it would be a good idea to climb onto the top of a Dumpster. A group of us kids were playing nearby when I heard her screaming. I ran to grab her, and like the mothers who suddenly have enough strength to lift entire cars off their trapped children, my instincts took over. I was her sister, and I was only six, but the sight of blood and the sound of her earsplitting screams made me move at a superhuman pace. Without stopping to think, I immediately hijacked a skateboard from one of the other kids, positioned my sister on it and set out as fast as my little legs could travel for the next three blocks. I ran the whole way home, crouching down low enough so that I could push her and keep her balanced on the board at the same time. My leg and arm muscles ached as I navigated the sidewalks, shoving that sister-laden board over every crack and rut—a big sister on a big mission. I was out of breath as I rounded the final corner to our apartment building. When I reached the stairs, I yelled up to my mom with a scream she claims can still give her chills.

Tawna ended up being fine. I, on the other hand, relished being the hero for a while. Over the years, my mom loved to tell the story of my little sister’s rescue. I guess I had been pretty resourceful for a six-year-old. But she was my first best friend, and I would have done anything for her.

And it went both ways. At my ninth birthday party, a posse of us girls, my little sister furiously trying to keep up behind us, roller-skated to the top of a steep street in our neighborhood. It bewilders me how much less daunting that “slope” is today, but back then it was a monster. I rolled, no flew, down that hill. I felt invincible. Until my skate caught on a pebble and I was launched through the air. The rest is pretty blurry. When I finally landed, Tawna stepped right in and organized my trek to safety. Like ants collectively marching food toward their ant hill, the girls stood me upright and wheeled me all the way home on my skates.

I nearly broke my arm, but I was fine. Tawna was applauded for her fine wheeling skills. She loved the attention but hadn’t helped me for that reason. I was her first best friend, and there was no limit to what she would do for me.

Of course, ours was more complicated than the typical friendship. There was that whole imaginary-line-in-the-back-seat-of-the-car thing. You know the one, constructed to keep your wayward sibling contained on her side. There was the hair pulling and name calling, sure. And the pleas for mercy when a tickling match would go on so long it became torture. We even went through a stage whereby we were constantly compelled to try to bite each other’s noses off. And then there was my personal favorite threat, “Ooooh . . . I’m gonna tell.” All to the soundtrack of my parents’ repeated cries of, “Knock it off, you two!”

But there were other, kinder, moments, too. When we were little and both of us happened to be crying, for instance, one of us would stop and let the other cry. It wasn’t like we took turns or anything; we just seemed to naturally figure out who needed to cry more.

I let her borrow my cool clothes (which really weren’t so cool now that I look back), and I would give her fashion tips since I was convinced she shouldn’t go to school representing our good name looking like a Cabbage Patch Kid. She patiently indulged me when I needed to analyze every last gesture of that guy in second period—even though guys still had “cooties” to her.

When I lost my first love she held me tight and told me I would be okay. She wanted to yell and scream at him for hurting me—but didn’t. When friends treated her badly, I let her vent her anger and told her it would all work out. I wanted to tell those “friends” a thing or two about friendship—but didn’t. When I graduated high school, she cried because she was proud of me and because she was losing me. When she was crowned homecoming queen I smiled because I knew she had finally outgrown that Cabbage Patch look and because I wasn’t the only one to recognize her inner beauty and quiet strength.

We carry each other’s secrets and hold each other’s deepest hopes. We pick each other up when we are down. And we do our best to wheel each other to safety. We have somehow been able to parlay a close sibling bond into a symbiotic friendship. And that makes me proud .We had to be sisters. We chose to be friends.

Tasha Boucher

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