Tuesday, March 27, 2012


When I think of my sister and I, it's always us as children and it's always stained in shades of turquoise and sun-bleached blond. Us in sandy bathing suits with chubby red thighs. We're always damp with lake water or covered in crumbs from sandwiches on the deck. We're always in the peak of summer and we're always at the lake cottage. I think of us with rope marks from the hammock imprinted on the backs of our legs and arms, with flour gone awry on our faces as we stand on stepping stools so that we can see the cookies we're making with our Nan on the counter top, or searching for petosky stones in the clear shallow water.
When I think of my sister and I, we're practically babies, alabama wild women with hair flying artfully astray and butterfly nets in tow. We are never wearing shoes. We are drinking ginger-ale out of rocks glasses while the adults, freshly changed and combed to perfection, sit down for cocktail hour together out on the porch at five o'clock. We're making giant nests out of pine needles. We're collecting berries on the long gravel driveway, covered in shade.
If we're getting along at all, we're always at the lake.
I was kind of a bitch to my sister when we were kids and my family likes to remind me of this constantly, but my own memory has sort of edited all of that out. I mean, who wants to remember themselves as a bully when I was always also equal parts precocious and adventure-starved?
She was always my baby sister, equal parts partner and ball-and-chain. That's what I remember.
I've spent somewhere around the past nine months watching my sister do something I've never done, grow a baby. She is my only sister and this will be the first baby to come from the team of four that my parents reared. It changes everything. It changes nothing. We're a family. We grow. We care for each other. There is no other way but to consume and apply each new development as we evolve and expand, push out the edges just a little further to find that there was always plenty of room for more. To find that it was never a question of needing to stretch to grow, but rather unrolling the magic carpet we're flying on a little bit more. There's always so much more love than we ever knew held in the reserves, waiting to be implemented.
Still, it's hard for me to think about us being grown enough to have children of our own. We're old enough to be in charge of something so important now. That fact is terrifying when I remember us as practically babies so easily, I can conjure a vivid memory with minimal effort. It's so good back there, so little needed to be repressed. Of course I can call upon it for comfort when I need it.  And it's easy to find comfort in the fact that we are the product of happy childhoods. We felt love and encouragement in abundance.
I always think of that word when I think of my childhood. I love that word because it signifies some sort of more-than-enough, it whispers 'above and beyond' without feeling too braggy and in-your-face. Sure, it's a little pretentious, but it turns out I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to childhood, so be it. It's not about money because we were certainly not rich. Maybe it's about safety, or plenty of laughter, or eating a balanced diet. Maybe it's about rules and boundaries or the kisses-per-scraped-knee ratio. Whatever it is, it's all I know.
I guess I could mention that today is the day that my sister will actually have her first child, and I'm tripping out over the excitement of it. Seeing the preparation that goes into introducing a new human into the world and family unit has been eye-opening, and frankly, exhausting. I can only imagine the feat that growing one inside your body actually is. My sister has made it look easy, as she does with most tasks that she dives into head first. She is decisive, rarely squeamish, and self assured in her decisions. She was a ballerina for most of her childhood and maybe that instilled a sort of grace of spirit that she retains in even her smallest actions. She grows constantly and stubbornly, like one of the wildflowers we'd pluck out of sandy soil and stick haphazardly in our hair.
Although I relish in change and chase unsure paths, I do so in an almost constant state of near-panic and neurotocism. I approach every situation steeled for catastrophe while my sister floats through still and stormy sea with the same quiet, calm determination no matter how high the stakes.
She will be a good mother, there's absolutely no doubt in that.
I can't help it though, the way that I am. The way I need to worry myself with logistics and trivial details until I'm far enough away from the situation that I can process everything that has happened. I can't help but feel like something is somehow out of my hands and then work myself into a frenzy about it until there is, quite literally, a healthy baby in my hands and I can from there formulate a course of action. Even if that is just to stick my finger in a tiny palm for them to grasp onto. No one has told me where and stand and what to say for this one.
I can't help but work with what I know. What I know was a happy childhood. What I know is love that is loud and messy and sometimes allow to run a bit wild. What I know is abundance.
What I do not know is this title "Aunt." What to do with it. What the duties being passed to me will entail exactly.
Maybe the best I can hope for is to pass on what I know.

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