From Chicken Soup for the Sister's Soul

We Sisters

Gossiping on the phone with your girlfriends for ten minutes will firm up the jaw and chin and is far better than plastic surgery.

Dr. Jane Curtain

Diana likes the brownies in the middle. I go for the corners first, then the edges. She loves muffin tops. I like the stumps better. Her hair is long and thick and curly. Mine is stringy, straight and baby-fine. We lament over one another’s hair. She is right-handed, I am left. She is taller and looks like Dad, while I favor Mom. Still, when we sit across from each other in a downtown diner, we look into a mirror of mannerisms and expression. Our hands move in the same way. We both sip our coffee before we bite the toast. (Hers is pale, I order mine burned.) We catch ourselves acting like each other, and we smile wide, covering our lips with our fingertips . . . just like each other. We suppress a giggle. “Hmm,” we say. Sometimes people ask if we are twins. We’re not, but we are sisters.

Growing up, we were best friends. Running barefoot in our seersucker jammies under the streetlights, we chased lightning bugs and rinsed the day’s dirt from our feet in the puddles on the sidewalk. Then, if one of us saw a bat, we shrieked our way back to the safety of the porch, hugging each other and giggling. I know we must have looked silly to anyone passing by, but we never thought about it then. I never looked silly to my sister.

We spent almost all of our time together. We had other friends, but none were as close as we were to each other. We shared everything then. We shared a room, a double bed, the bathtub, our clothes and our toys. We shared our secrets, our fears and our dreams. No confidence is stronger than a sister’s.

Our Barbies acted just like us. Hers was older than mine, owned all the clothes and was bossy. My doll was a whiner and a real baby who stomped away in a huff if things didn’t go her way. We never said so out loud, but we knew they were sisters.

I got married first. She was the first one I told of my engagement. She was the maid of honor. She told me first when she promised to marry as well. I was her maid of honor, too. We wondered whether I should be called the “matron of honor,” but decided not. We thought of matrons as old, as big, as women past thirty. We were none of these, we sisters.

Diana was the first to know when I became pregnant. Some things, like the “tell me first” rule of sisters, never change. She carries photos of my sons in her wallet and shows them to anyone who will look. “See my baby nephews?” she asks. The boys are seventeen and fourteen years old. She doesn’t have any children of her own, so she claims her sister’s.

After I married, I moved away. Now we see each other only a few times a year. We still share our secrets, fears and dreams, but we have added our memories, our history and our hurts. We call each other by old nicknames. I can’t recall that we ever used our given names. She is “Goon,” and I am “Hoot.” Our husbands, who always call each other by their given names, look at us as though we haven’t a wisp of a brain between us. Mine in particular is confused by this sometimes-unflattering name-calling. But that’s to be expected. He doesn’t have a sister.

Her husband just gets out of the way. He doesn’t understand the long embraces and the tears we share when we meet and part. He doesn’t understand the language we speak only with our eyes. He doesn’t read the volumes spoken with a glance, a gesture, a secret silence. I’m not surprised. He’s not a sister.

We call each other three or four times a week. We don’t talk that often because we try to call when the other is not home. We leave messages that sound like code. See, we don’t need to say a lot. We just need to connect and know that the other knows that they were being thought about. If I told you that I can tell when the message light on the phone is a call from her, you might think I’m nuts. Unless, of course, you have a sister.

We try to get away together. Just us from time to time. We need the kind of rest that comes from conversation that requires no explanations. It is comfortable predictability that is closer than a marriage. She is my right side. I am her left. I think you know what I mean, if you have a sister.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I hear the phone. Betcha I know who it is.

Ann Marie Rowland

Stone Soup

STONE SOUP. © Jan Eliot. Reprinted with permission of UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE.All rights reserved.

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