ANIMAL CRACKER DRESSES

ANIMAL CRACKER DRESSES

From Chicken Soup for the Sister's Soul

Animal Cracker Dresses

Only a sister can compare the sleek body that now exists with the chubby baby hidden underneath. Only a sister knows about former pimples, failing math and underwear under the bed.

Laura Tracy

I never thought having a sister was particularly enjoyable until I grew up and realized how much more annoying people who aren’t related to you can be. My sister, Lori, was born four years after I was, which in kid years is the difference between two lifetimes. Growing up, I had already seen it, done it and figured it out by the time my little sister got around to it, therefore I was omnipotent and she, well, wasn’t.

I wanted a buddy, like a girl version of The Hardy Boys. (Shawn Cassidy was my first crush.) Instead, my buddy smelled like peanut butter and was prone to running around the house sporting a bumper sticker—only a bumper sticker. I wanted someone more dignified for my adventures. My buddy created adventures rather than helped solve them. Case in point, it was the first grade, and it had taken all year for my turn to take the class hamster home for the weekend. Guess who freed Fluffy at 6:00 A.M. Saturday morning? None other than my three-year-old sister who proclaimed to a sleeping household, “De wat got out!” The adventure came in the form of my mother chasing Fluffy around the house with a tennis racket.

Payback came a year later when I persuaded Lori to take a candy cane from the supermarket unbeknownst to my mother. Once in the car, the evil truth surfaced—my mother had raised a four-year-old thief. Back into the store they marched, clutching the now sticky candy cane. I got to wait in the car. My sister did not reveal until years later the identity of her accomplice.

I was very aware of our age difference since it usually meant I was allowed to do more grown-up things like stay up late or ride the scarier rides at the fair. Lori, however, never saw an age difference and was forever attempting to copy everything I did. This was irritating because I was much too sophisticated to be emulated by a child.

When you are ten, fashion discoveries occur frequently. I thought I had found a new way to wear my hair that was sure to catch on in photo shoots around the world—the side ponytail. Never mind that in 1979, someone was bound to have done this type of thing before. There I was, sporting my new hairdo for all to admire and the only person who even acknowledged my true fashion greatness was my sister, who was more than willing to follow the trend. This became the standard for the rest of my great discoveries: miniskirts, U2, Nicholas Cage in the classic movie Valley Girl, and so on. She was perfectly willing to give me credit on these, which strengthened our relationship and my confidence.

Best that I can tell, sisters come in two categories: ones that look alike and ones who don’t. Lori and I don’t. People often commented on our lack of resemblance; she has dark hair, skin and eyes, while I am very fair. Our mother once dressed us in matching red and blue animal crackers dresses for our annual picture at Sears. That was the only day where I heard the “Oh, you two must be sisters” comment. To this day I inspect her for something that I can recognize as mine and say, “See we do have the same elbows!”

In spite of our opposing looks, we happen to have the same voice. Hers is capable of singing, mine is most assuredly not, but otherwise identical. This was an instrument of torture for my boyfriends in high school through college. Often there would be the prerequisite quiz at the beginning of every conversation, “What color jacket did Mr. Peters wear today in economics?” “Aha! Mr. Peters teaches trigonometry, put your sister on!” To this day when I leave a message on voice mail for my husband, and I call later to check my messages, it takes me a minute to realize it’s me and not Lori telling my husband I am running late.

My sister and I have this thing where we will send our mother the same birthday, Mother’s Day or Christmas card without knowing, despite living a thousand miles apart. We also tend to call her or each other at the same time even though we are in separate time zones. I don’t feel it if she burns her hand on a hot stove, nor are there any plans to start our own Psychic Sisters Network anytime soon, but it is comforting to have a strong connection with my sister. We have started collaborating on cards before we send them to ensure our mother gets a well-deserved variety.

Sisters teach you many things, and mine is no different. The most important thing I learned from Lori is how special our relationship is. I hit her once during one of our “You wore my shirt” brawls and the look that came across her face was not one of pain, but of betrayal and devastation. I had crossed the line and become a bully rather than a role model and trusted ally. The regret I felt that day provided me with a clarity in which I saw the full meaning of our relationship. Lori had always grasped the importance of our friendship; I did not understand it until that day. I gave her the somewhat stretched shirt as an apology. She accepted and we never fought again . . . that day.

We shared a room until I was ten. When nights became spooky we shared a bed as well. We shared bowls of dessert, until I spit chocolate pudding back in the bowl. Ultimately we shared a lifetime. Our mother taught us to love each other and reminded us daily that each of us is the only sister the other would ever have. I have learned that she is the only sister I could ever want.

Cricket Hardin Vauthier

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