Today is my big sister’s birthday. It’s been a few years since Jena and I have been able to celebrate her birthday together. I’ve been wanting to write something about her for awhile now and I decided her birthday was the best day to do it. When your birthday is September 11th you are always doomed to share the day with lots of tears and remembrances being written about a tragic event. I thought it would be nice for her to read something that is only about her on her birthday. So, here we go!
I’ve heard it said that siblings are the most important relationship you will have in your life because they know you the longest. Parents usually pass away before their children and rarely does a spouse come into your life before a sibling and even if that is the case the spouse usually isn’t consistently in your life the way a sibling is. If the relationship is healthy you know each other through all facets of your life; childhood, adolescence, young adult and adulthood. However just because your sibling may have longevity of relationship it does not always follow that the relationship is a good one. I’m thinking of the mother on Downton Abbey talking about her three daughters and lamenting that instead of a Little Women type of relationship her daughters fight like cats and dogs. Although I’m not really sure I’d advocate for a Little Women type of sisterhood (let’s be honest Beth is so good it’s almost annoying and don’t even get me started on that brat Amy), I’m very lucky that my relationship with my sister is closer to this picture than the sisters on Downton Abbey.
Being the youngest I have no memories of being an only child. You would have to ask Jena what life was like before a sister, but I do know she was anxious to have one. (At least before I was born she was) Growing up I was always aware of how much Jena wanted me in her life. A story told time and time again in my family is how Jena found out I had been born and was in fact a girl. (This was in 1987 so everyone didn’t find out the sex of their child back in the dark ages) My mom and dad had gone to the hospital in the early morning hours of March 19th dropping Jena off at a family friend’s house on the way. My mother had been the principal of the elementary school Jena attended which was run through our church. So when my father called to tell Jena that I had been born and everything went well the secretary, Sister Kathy, asked him whether I was a boy or a girl. My dad replied that he had promised Jena she would be the first to know that so he couldn’t tell Sister Kathy until he told her.
A big joke in our family is how I have no childhood memories. It’s true. I can look at pictures and videos of me and have no memory of the moment captured. This isn’t just when I was a toddler, I’m talking into early adolescence. My brother-in-law Tim has a theory that I always had my head stuck in a book until the moment someone asked me to look up while they took a picture. Whatever the reason I don’t have a filing cabinet full of deeply remembered memories to pull from when I talk about my sister.
While I might not remember events very well I do have memories of being very proud to have a big sister. Most of my friends growing up were oldest children and I always found it very cool that I had a big sister. I was always anxious for her attention.
Looking back Jena was always very patient with this little girl who always wanted to be around her. There is a 6.5 year age gap between us so her kindness is even more impressive when you realize that right when I was getting to the most “interesting” age of 5 and 6 she was entering her teenage years. But still we would occasionally sleep in the same bed at night and sometimes we’d fall asleep holding hands. When I lost my first tooth she was the first person I wanted to show it to. Anything Jena was doing I wanted to be a part of it and for the most part she let me.
Jena moved away to Springfield Missouri for college when I was 11. She was only home for short breaks for those 4 years and in the fall after her graduation she got married and moved to the Midwest where she still lives today. I call the years from when she left for college until I went to college the “lost years”. We talked of course and still were close in many many ways (including being her maid of honor when she got married). But it was only natural that a college student and her teenage sister should connect a little less than they had. We were living very different lives! She was dating the man she would end up marrying, and I had braces and was trying to not freak out about going to high school.
When I decided to go to Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri Jena and Tim were just about to move back to Springfield for Tim’s job. The summer before I moved was when Jena told me she was pregnant with her first baby. This time in our lives I would call “The Renaissance”. Now we could truly connect in a way we had been unable to up to this point. We were both adults and the gap between us seemed to shrink to minuscule. This period was when Jena went from being my sister to being my friend. Getting to be with her while she went through her first pregnancy and being a part of my niece Lily’s early months of life is one the sweetest memories of my life. When we talked and spent time together it no longer felt like an older sibling giving a younger sibling advice. Instead it felt like 2 friends talking through the experiences and sharing thoughts and advice with each other. Jena became a sort of “honorary sister” to a bunch of my girlfriends in college and every time one of them would ask her for help or lean on her for advice I would be filled with such pride that I got to be in a family with someone this awesome. I look at Jena and I realized the potential within me to be a good wife, mother, and contributor to society all without having to change the basic frame work of who I am. Jena is confident in who she is and I try to emulate that confidence in my own life.
The older I get the more I realize how lucky Jena and I are to be friends. Adult sisters don’t always get along. Sometimes the relationship can become quite toxic. I don’t say this to build the two of us up as paragons of how sibling relationships should be. We have to work to have a healthy relationship. Sometimes she still drives me nuts and I’m sure the same is true for her with me. But I know that at the end of the day she roots for me. Just like I root for her. She’s the longest relationship I’ll ever have. I’m so glad it’s such a good one.
Do you have siblings? Do you agree with the idea that siblings are one of the most important relationships in our lives? What about honorary siblings? Leave your thoughts in the comments!