A Sister Day

I remember not understanding my sisters, not getting along with them, and at times being in awe of them. I look back over the many years at how our relationships have changed, and then look at how the relationships are changing right now.

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All of these photos are taken by Helen McPeters with her sister

In my memory there is a clear moment of transition in the relationship with my youngest sister. There was a day when she was hurting and I did the only thing I really knew how to do. I wrote a letter and slipped it under her door. It seems, looking back in time, that the letter, the moment of putting something into words, was the moment we became friends. The letters became like a diary between us, a way to talk without speaking, and a way that then led to spoken words. I can’t imagine life without her.

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I remember the awe I felt at the next sister. She talked back to mom and dad! She stood up for herself! She did what she wanted rather than what was expected of her! She was free and wild and mother earth and all the things I dreamed of being. And yes, somewhere along the line, I pushed her up onto a pedestal where she still remains.

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She used to ask me to hike the Pacific Crest Trail with her. It’s the one thing I feel I failed my sister at. So many excuses. Life. No gear. No money for gear. Not physically in shape. Fear. I dreamed of doing that hike, and still do, even though the impossibility of it looms large over the dream. But somewhere in an alternate universe we are moving through the solitude of the mountains together.

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The oldest sister was more like a mother-figure. She was the one we woke up in the middle of the night, knocking on her door because we were barfing or had a bloody nose or a nightmare. It’s hard to say this, but after many years of health battles, her time with us is shortening. During the coming days she will be moved from a hospital to a nursing home, which feels like a strange letting-go without loss. A sign, a symbol, an arrow hanging ragged and broken, pointing to what is to come.

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So I look at the sisters around me, at how they move through their lives. And I see these two friends of mine who are young and strong and beautiful and far from the ending of times. And I see how brilliant they are to prioritize their relationship, to make sure they have a Sister Day.

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Why did we never have Sister Days? Why did we never carve out a time when the four of us managed to get together? Kids and finances and distance and commitments were so important then. But now?

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What do you think when you picture a Sister Day? Some would think of spa days with pedicures and hair and manicures. Some would think of shopping and movies and a meal out.

All of the photos on this page are taken by my young friend on her Sister Days. They head out into a world few see. They go where there are no trails. They move through forest and mountains fearless, and I want to be them. I want to be young and with my sisters with the sky over us and the earth beneath our fingers.

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I want to listen to the youngest worry about spiders and dirt in her bedroll.

I want to feast on breakfasts made by the next sister, on her oatmeal and dried fruit, or her buckwheat pancakes.

I want the oldest healthy and her spirit free, riding the wind, circling us and watching over us.

I want a Sister Day.

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Sisters

 

Markers of Age

What are the little realities in life that make you suddenly pause and think ‘how can this be?’ (with a slightly panicked tone of voice)?

What little clues rear up and bite you in the rear when you’re not looking, that make you whip around in shock, thinking, rather hysterically, ‘hey now!’?

Let’s list them, shall we?

When your little sister is older than you and you don’t know how that happened.

When your baby comes home for a visit. Think about that a moment. And then, when you ask your husband if he has any cash so you can get a coffee to keep you awake for a work meeting, and your son pulls out his wallet. It’s just SO wrong when your child gives you money instead of the other way around.

And let’s not even talk about gray hair. Well, okay, let’s talk about that by gloating first and saying that both older and younger siblings as well as friends, have had gray hair a long time. At least it happened to them first. And if you’re reading this, neener, neener.

Then there’s the little things.

Realizing that you’d rather go to bed when it gets dark than stay up all night debating what’s wrong with the world and making plans to save it.

Learning, way too late in life, to say what you mean, speak up for yourself, be blunt, be honest, and no longer care what others think. If only that wisdom could have been in my brain during the tortured high school years.

Realizing that you have friends who have been best friends for longer than you ever would have dreamed when you first met them. Over forty years now that I think about it, which blows me away because in my brain we’re still in our twenties.

And speaking of that, the weird dichotomy of your brain convinced you’re considerably younger than the calendar says.

Outliving your parents and realizing you’re never too old to be an orphan, and how wrong that is.

When the doctor says specific, humiliating physicals are needed because you’re now at ‘that age’.

Or, if you have a doctor with a sense of humor, like I do, tells me that out of the Celtic female trilogy, I’ve flown past ‘maiden’ and ‘mother’, and am now a ‘crone’. I told him I prefer ‘wise woman’. He laughed.

When you read obituaries and see the deaths of those in their seventies and eighties and realize those ages are starting to appear on the horizon. Still distant, but starting to peek out at you.

Okay, I’m depressing myself. Think I’ll go borrow some money from the kid and figure out something to do that will embarrass him.

That’s the flip side. The ability to throw off society’s expectations and do whatever you want, knowing people will whisper ‘poor thing, must be getting senile’ and that they’ll be too polite to make you stop.

Hmmm. This could be fun.