My sister and I spent our childhood pretty much attached at the hip. We have subsequently spent most of our adult lives thousands of miles apart. She has a job that has moved her around quite a bit, I have my own business here in Phoenix and am, therefore, not moving any time soon.
For a while, our lives were quite different. She was rising up through the ranks in her career, and I was beginning to have babies and trying to start a business while keeping my head above water. She was flying to a premiere in L.A., wearing a fabulous dress and getting her hair and make-up done, and I was trying to get breastmilk out of my work shirt, and trying to picture a life without a “Boppy” and immunization records.
More recently, with the birth of her first baby about 22 months ago, my sister is in the forays of early motherhood and chasing a toddler, and I am navigating a household where no more naps are taken, but two school-aged boys may or may not jump off the dog kennel onto the couch in superhero fashion. The divergence of our lives the past 20 years is narrowing again and our circle is beginning to get smaller.
There was a time when my boys were really young and I was a nap Nazi and a hyper-scheduler and every time my sister looked at me I felt like she thought I had three heads, and maybe I did. I had my second son on a Thursday and saw my first patient in my new practice on a Tuesday. Not exactly the best timing, but at the time, it is what I felt I had to do. I don’t imagine I was much fun in those days, and she probably wondered whether I ever would be again. I wondered if there was ever going to be a time where she would understand the pressures and demands and stress I was experiencing. I wanted her to love my babies as much as I did, but seeing them once or twice a year was not really enough to forge the tight bond for which I had hoped. When your kids are under the age of three, they are only friendly with people they see often, people with whom they have established memories.
Fast forward almost nine years from the time I had my first, and she was finally having her first. Although I hated the desperation in her voice as she was describing the frustrations of no sleep and early mommyhood, I loved being the one she called for advice or for simply an ear. I wished I could have given her a shoulder. It was very hard to be so far away and not have the ability to hold my sweet little niece and give my sister a break without her having to worry about her baby being cared for. Because to me, that is what family does. They are the people with whom you can trust in caring for your most valued possessions without worrying about them. We had two or three days here and there–not nearly enough time for me to be a trusted face for my niece or for my boys to really spend some quality time with their aunt.
Then this past summer came. My sister was in the throws of looking for a different job….she had some time to spare–we planned a family vacation, and then my boys got to spend an extra week with my parents and my sister, her husband, and their new niece. They came home with the kinds of stories that can only come with time real time spent in the company of the ones you love. They loved their niece, they constantly played with their uncle, and they were doted on by their aunt. The story was coming together….closer to what I had always wanted for us.
Now there is a real possibility of her finding work here where I live. I can barely think about it because I dare not, lest I jinx it. They have been staying with us and other family off and on the past few weeks–and any time they aren’t at our house, my boys are wondering when they are coming back. You see, there is no other reason that 9 and 7 year old boys would be so infatuated with a 22 month old cutie pie, except for that family bond and time that establishes and cements these core relationships. My sister is over the hump and confident in her motherhood and I am basking in these boy years where they still let me kiss them. We are both relaxed for the most part, sharing the best bond of sisterhood and motherhood. She watches me looking adoringly at her daughter and I look at her cracking up at my silly boys’ antics. It just doesn’t get much better. And my niece? No stranger danger with me anymore. This morning I got a kiss and a smile–none of that “Who is this lady that loves me?” look. My sister and I are geographically and emotionally closer all at once. Our lives are converging–no longer parallel three time zones apart…..attached at the hip, and hopefully within the same time zone, state, county, and maybe even zip code.