If you ask my sister, Jennifer, our roles in the family were pre-determined before we had a say in the matter. It was the weekend my parents came back from their getaway at the Copley Plaza bearing gifts that my sister recalls quite clearly as the moment in which we were defined, at least in the eyes of our parents. My parents brought back a Matisse t-shirt for me; for my sister, one with the Harvard logo. I do not remember these gifts as anything life altering, but my sister remembers otherwise: I was the artist; she, the academic.
My sister and I are painfully close. For a day to pass by in which we do not talk is a rare occasion; a day in which we talk at least three or four times, even briefly, is normal. Before she had kids, we were constantly on the phone with each other. She was the first person I talked to in the morning, and the last person I talked to at night. She is, in all honesty, my best friend.
My relationship with my sister has defined the way I view my relationships with my friends and significant others. If someone isn’t close with their siblings, I’m immediately hesitant. If they’re not even on speaking terms with their brother or sister, I’m quite certain our relationship is doomed. Although my first interaction with my sister resulted in me smacking her face when my parents brought her home from the hospital and introduced her to me, I have since then regarded her as a gift – the best gift my parents ever gave me.
I do not know anything about sibling rivalry. For my sister and I, there was never a competition. While in high school she ran with the “cool” crowd in her class and I ran with the artsy kids in mine (we were a year apart in school and 18 months apart in age), the least of our problems was rivalry – it was more about accepting each other in high school world. I was anti her popularity and she despised the fact that she was the sister of someone whom the boys in my grade, the ones who were hitting on her, didn’t know existed. A longing for popularity has never been at my core; a longing for individuality always took precedence.
For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to write, or rather, I have written. My sister, the devil’s advocate, always claimed an interest in law. So that’s where we were divided as pre-determined by our parents according to my sister: she, the lawyer; me, the writer.
However, despite the roles in which were “inflicted” upon us (my sister’s words, not mine), we both gravitated toward writing. We had been spawned by a tumultuous relationship that was worth a movie of its own, and with our father as the head storyteller, our knack for telling tales was inevitable. While my sister kept a diary, I chose to vocalize everything. By the time we graduated, I was the writer and she, the lawyer… and that’s how we parted.
But along the lines my sister found her voice and with the help of a boyfriend (whom we condemn to this day), she put aside law and indulged, or rather embraced, the part of her that was a writer. How could she not? We were plucked from a Big Fish scenario… writing and literary license was in our blood.
Before long we were writers, my sister and I; writers to the core, and the rest of the world be damned. At the time we were both in college, but we liked to envision ourselves as the Brontë sisters of the future. We exchanged writing, were painfully honest on each others’ words and at the end of the night slept soundly… that’s what writers do after an appropriate critique: sleep.
But then came love…
Actually this is not a melodramatic foray, but a fact. My sister fell in love and despite the fit I threw because I felt she was too young, got married to a boy from Colorado. Before we knew it, her writing became no more and she was a mother of two sons.
It’s an ongoing frustration I have – the fact that she no longer writes but spends her day catering to those two monkeys (whom I adore endlessly.) I have, on more than one occasion, argued with her about the fact that she gave up a passion, a deep sincere love which was writing to have a family – a decision I don’t understand – but she argues that her passion is now being a mom. I wish I could comprehend that, but as someone whose potential attempt at motherhood is years away, I just can’t. To me, it’s foreign and all I can see is what she gave up; all she can see is what she didn’t.
I would never dare to compare myself to a Brontë these days, as I know for a fact it’s not in the cards. I also would never dare to wager a bet on my sister pursuing writing again, because, well, it’s also not in the cards. As I try to accept the choices she made, (with my mother consistently telling me that “you can’t live someone else’s life”), I am still conflicted by it all. A published piece you wrote or a day as a mom? I’ll take the former, thanks. This difference in opinion has led to a full on feeling of anger sometimes that my sister thought it “OK,” to abandon a potential career in something at which she was really great. Granted, she’s an amazing mother (because she’s amazing at everything she does), but she’s still no longer a writer – and that’s where my heart breaks. I see it as giving up on dreams; again, she sees it as dreams changing.
No matter what my sister chooses, I will always have her back. She is the greatest love of my life and all else comes second to me – even writing. I know that I will always struggle with the choices she made, the writing she gave up, but I have tried to accept what has come of it. I also know that it will forever be an argument for us, but such is life.
The only saving grace of it all are my nephews. Whenever I’m face to face with those two, my heart swells and I’m grateful my sister chose marriage and babies instead of writing. They may be nasty, little germ-ridden creatures who call me Auntie Bob instead of Mandy, but fuck, I know I would never have it any other way. For those two alone, she having given up writing is worth it.