So here’s the thing.
I have a very full heart.
But when I think about everything I would love to tell everyone I’ve ever met (seriously. I love you.), I get tongue-tied and self-conscious and have poor grammar and misuse pronouns.
So instead, I write a blog post and then direct my loves to my blog, where they will find conciseness, eloquence, and subject-verb agreement.
Anyway. There’s this girl I’ve known my whole entire life who used to call me and my little sister Evil Twins. We know this was her secret nickname for us, her baby sisters, because we read her diary. So…accurate, I guess.
Today is my sister’s birthday. Happy birthday, aged cheese!
Unfortunately, she also lives too far away for a singing telegram, but not too far for our regular FaceTime lunch date so our daughters can stare at one another, try to feed each other banana slices and goldfish crackers, and say, “Hi!” over and over again, while my sister and I try to have a conversation around the more riveting one going on between toddlers. It’s unbearably cute.
But we weren’t always this close. Actually, my most tumultuous sibling relationship of all was with her, my big sister. It didn’t help that I knew exactly which buttons to push to cause her passionate-artist-temper to flare while I with my math-formulaic-brain sat in the backseat calm and rational. (Read: she was the one who always got in trouble.)
We have had some major fights. Blockbuster ones. We fought over ev-er-y-thing, from the last glass of Kool-Aid to whether or not I had used her razor or face wash without asking (I had).
The thing is, I was insanely jealous of her. She sings. She plays music. She paints. She cooks. She designs. She pretty much cornered the market on creativity and growing up in her shadow, I wanted some. I desperately wanted to be like her, and because I wasn’t, I resented her for it, at least until the moments when admiration won out, or when she invited me into her life. And those moments, brief but innumerable, are the sweetest.
Like the times she drew comic books for my little sister and me to read. (Bobbie Thompson: The College Years?)
Or when we spent entire afternoons playing School (which we all pronounced “Skoi”), so that upon entering Kindergarten, I was already reading chapter books and writing in cursive and coloring inside the lines.
Or when she set up a “library” in her bottom dresser drawer and we “checked out” books, complete with library cards with due dates stamped onto them.
Or when I got my hair permed in second grade, and had to spend ALL DAY at the salon because my stick-straight hair wouldn’t curl, even under chemical reaction, and when they finally got it to stick after three separate treatments, she let me go to the movies with her and her best friend.
Or when she taught me how to curl my bangs for my fourth grade school picture and accidentally left a burn mark on my forehead. (But then she styled my bangs so that little pink mark wouldn’t show up in the photograph.)
Or when she helped me set up a business selling friendship bracelets called “Jessie’s Strings and Things.”
For sure, those were the short and sweet moments sandwiched between the many (many) “Get out of my room!” and “Just leave me alone!” and “She started it!” shouts that gave our parents migraines and indigestion (probably).
But then we grew up and the Enemy half of the Friend-Enemy Sisterhood fell away, and all that is left is Friend.
Best Friend, actually.
She is a confidante, a sounding board, someone who inspires and encourages. She is a beautiful mom, a devoted wife, a talented artist, a gourmet chef, a generous aunt, a wicked crafter, a bony-legged dancer, an inside-joke teller, and my big sister.
Happy birthday, sis. I love you.
(End of Conversation.)
28 responses to “The Original Frenemy”
Oh Jess! You are so lucky to have these wonderful memories stacked one on top if the other. I think my new Year’s resolution (which I don’t put much stock in) is to reach out to my brother more. I wish it could be what you describe here, but I would like more communication than a birthday text.
So thank you for inspiring me to try to love harder. Even if it’s scary. Even if he rejects me.
I know we’ve talked about our differing family relationships before – and I hope you do try. Rejection is yucky, but worth it I think.
Great stuff Jess. The pics always look so pro around here, like something on one of those sights where you pay for pictures that fit your needs. Maybe I should just start emailing you when I need pics for blog posts and you can pick me a good one only I won’t have to pay cuz we’re tight like that. I guess this comment isn’t so much about your nice post but you understand.
We are nothing but pro at the butthouse.
Lovely, lovely post! My children are like this. They fight so hard it seems like they will never make up, then they love each other with equal fire. LOL
The love-hate relationship is definitely intense! Thanks for stopping by!
It got dusty in here…sniff sniff.
Okay, so here’s the thing. At first glance, I was like, oh no she di’int entitle my birthday blog “The Original Frenemy.” It’s SO on.
Then I was like, okay, whatever, get over yourself. It’s accurate.
I’m not sure if you know this (but you’ll know it now – as will the rest of the blogosphere, now I guess), but the biggest regret of my life is that I wasn’t a better big sister to you and Maia. No, I’m totally serious. Believe me, it sucks having to live with this kind of burden.
You’re right, I was a douche. And the fake Australian pen pal (so you’d feel special because you got mail like grownups), cool bottom drawer dresser (which I totally don’t remember, but sounds pretty awesome), and totally rad music video skits against an ethereal backdrop of floating balloons I constituted doesn’t even begin to make up for the hurt I caused you and Maia during our formative years.
And, like you (though I guess you’re like me, since I was born first – ooh, burn!), I articulate myself much better through writing than actually speaking face-to-face.
(now I’m starting to think posting this on a public forum is weird and unsettling. But whatever, when in Rome…)
(and I’d also like to mention that I’m writing this during Evie’s nap time, which is actually my shower time, and as a mother, I’m sure you can appreciate the sheer value of my sacrifice)
Okay, enough random thoughts. And enough stalling.
Here’s the thing, Jess. I was so hard on you guys because you were just as good as me, and even better in some things and, as a low self-esteemed, angsty tween, I felt threatened. Threatened that I would get overlooked and dismissed, erased, loved less. And sadly, instead of focusing on what WAS important: the powerful fact that you looked up to me and what kind of role-model responsibility that requires, I ruminated on the fact that I felt small and insignificant, terrified of being replaced. I was so stupid. But in my defense, instead of pouring on more love to soften the anger and heal the hurt, I was punished. And, in turn, it manifested more hurt and anger. Ugh, what a mess.
Looking back, I wish I were stronger, smarter, and kinder.
(Whoa. Is it getting warm in here? Hi, everyone. Hi, there. Well, this is awkward.)
So… there you have it. I think the world of my little sisters and wish I could’ve loved harder when it counted the most. But I thank God everyday for our close relationship and how it’s somehow healed and grown into something beautiful. I love you so much and look up to you, Jess and I’m trying to be the big sister you’ve deserved all along.
now I’m going to shower because I’m stinky. Amen.
Also, you forgot to mention the handmade “rock concert” you gave me for my sixth birthday.
STOP. I’m crying. No seriously. You’ve topped me again.
And…wait…that pen pal was FAKE?!?!?!
I love you. Really. Let’s do lunch. Same time tomorrow?
I’m totally crying now too (okay, I mean again). I’ve gotta take another shower now. Thanks. Jerk.
I was this way with my younger sister. We fought about everything. Until we became best friends and only fight about some things. 😉
Instead of libraries we created zoos with all our stuffed animals, and I rememeber drawing bats and hanging them upside down under the table. We made pretty good fake money by charging our siblings entry fees.
Ellie, it’s like we’re parallel universe versions of each other. Except it’s the same-universe. And except I’m flattering myself when I say that.
My sisters are 15 and 11 years older than me. We became friends when I got to college. It’s been a blast ever since.
I used to joke that my sister and I FINALLY started getting along when she moved out for college. But, I think there’s got to be some truth to that.
Oh oh oh I just love this.
Especially how it is packed with inside jokes and yet still reads universally.
So I’m putting this on Twitter and directing my baby sister to read it immediately.
She always wanted to be me, too. (Ha. Just kidding. Sorry, NannyK.)
I just knew you’d get this. All of this.
I love this! My daughters remind me of what you have written of you and your sister. and Oh my the fighting drives me nuts. They are 16 and 12 now, and I only pray that some day they will call each other friend 🙂
There is definitely a strange, hard-to-explain intensity between sisters. It was never like that with my brother, but then again, I’m closer to no one in the whole world than my sisters.
This is so sweet! I’m all about writing tributes on my blog and directing my loved ones there. TWINSIES again.
It’s like we were MADE for each other!
I love both of you two the mostest (except for now I get to channel some of that heart exploding love onto your wunderbar kiddos). I don’t blog and I’m only eloquent in academic papers so unless you want a dissertation on sisters, you’ll just have to deal kthxbye.
I look up to both of you and admire the things you are capable of so much. Jen, I am always amazed at your drive and determination. No matter what, I have always known that when you set your mind on something, nothing will stop you and it will be done with more creativity and better than anything that came before. I always told mom and dad (even when we fought) that there is literally nothing you can’t do. It’s just not in your vocabulary. You don’t confine yourself to anyone area of expertise but instead make yourself excel in them all. You’ve always been a good teacher and a great role model (even if you were annoyed with me and Jess. In my defense, I don’t remember reading your diary when we were little, but Jess and I TOTES found it when we were older. “I told her I left it very far away. (back in the store, hee hee)”. Also, maybe you should take pride that your little sisters could read — since you were the one who taught us. (Mad-is-on). Tangent over).
The point is, I love you Jen Jen. You’ve always been the measuring stick against which I try for and judge myself against. I still feel like the tongue tied, uncool little sister around you, but now I’m just glad I realize that you aren’t the one judging me, but me. I’m sorry we two came along and rumbled in without even asking (although we knew each other in the womb, remember?) but even if you weren’t trying, you’ve been an amazing example and role model for us.
Back to your regularly schedule programming. Thanks for being my adorkable seesters.
What she said.
Hi! I found your site from the Good Greatsby.
Isn’t sisterhood the best? I too am best friends with my sister now, but we were frenemies for a while.
I read her diary too! Here is a blog post I wrote:
And one my sister wrote:
I WANT A SISTER. My brothers just farted in my face a lot.