Whenever I tell people I have a sister they always ask me two questions. The first question is if she is like me. “No” I tell them, “we are very different.”
“Thank god” they say.
Then they ask if my sister and I are close. I always say yes but I’ve been thinking about that question a lot lately. At the time I am writing this my sister Dana is hours away from turning 30. An event so surreal I can hardly wrap my head around it. I have a 30 year old sister and we are close. What does that really mean?
Are we close in age? Not really. We are 3 and a half years apart. Our Junior High and High School were in the same building so we got to share a couple school years together.
Are we close in location? Well we both live in Queens though we are still 2 trains away from each other. We both work in Manhattan but she’s on west side and I am on the east.
Are we close in looks?
Well I think we look like brother and sister. We both have brown hair though hers is a little lighter and mine is a little thicker. And of course she was blessed with skin that actually tans while my skin color only comes in 2 options, white and red.
More than once people have thought we were boyfriend and girlfriend.
Nothing in this life will make you feel more cosmically uncomfortable than having somebody infer that you are dating your sister. Don’t get me wrong, I love my sister, but ya know… gross.
We both lead busy lives and she has a job that sends her around the world several times a year. So while we talk regularly we only see each other a couple times a month if we’re lucky.
So how are we close? What makes us close? If I had to stand before a court of law and proclaim that my sister and I were close and the judge said to me, “What proof do you have?” What evidence could I offer him?
Well as a child being close to my sister was very much a spatial thing. While we had our fights and frustrations with each other, I just liked being around her. She was older, and wiser, and just knew more things. I felt like she had a better knowledge of the world around us and I just wanted to be a part of it. I just wanted to be in her orbit.
Perhaps that is why I spent so much time sitting on the floor of her bedroom reading old issues of her Seventeen Magazine while she sat on her bed sketching dresses. We may not have been having a conversation, or learning every single word to every single Boyz II Men song at that point in time, but I didn’t need an activity. It just felt good to be around her.
The same thing goes for when we would watch TV together late on Friday or Saturday nights. Our parents having gone to bed we’d stay up watching Saturday Night Live or a crappy TV movie.
Sometimes I’d go to bed before she did, but often when she would say she was going to go to bed first, I no longer wanted to stay up either. Even though we were doing nothing on the couch, it didn’t feel like nothing until she wasn’t there any more.
Maybe what has made us close are our shared experiences.
There have been difficult ones, like our ill fated decision early in childhood to splatter paint the basement ceiling one afternoon before my mother came home from work. While history has blurred the fog of truth on whose idea it really was, by the end of that day it didn’t matter as we all ended up in tears on the floor of my bedroom with my mother swearing none of us would tell Dad.
But there have been great ones as well, like stumbling around Rome late one night after a huge dinner and copious drinks. We ran to catch a train to France while my sister insisted on stopping to take pictures of every single Roman ruin… without a flash.
Amazingly we did make that train.
But maybe there is more to that trip she made to Italy than just a funny story. I was in Italy studying abroad and she used up her vacation days and airline miles to spend a week with me bouncing between Rome, Florence, and the south of France on my spring break.
Perhaps it is that willingness and desire to be part of each other’s lives that has defined our relationship the most. A precedent that she has set and I have attempted to emulate in the 26 and a half years I have known her.
While we are very different people we also have very similar interests. Be it food and restaurants (though I will never forgive my sister for deciding to start liking ketchup. I can’t believe she abandoned me on that one) music, or just a unique activity, there are so many things that we both enjoy.
So many of our conversations with each other start out, "I found this awesome thing you'll love." And we both know that we’d rather have the other join us in doing something fun than not. Something I have always appreciated, especially in those first few months after I graduated college. I had arrived back home completely naked of confidence, security, or the knowledge of what was to come next.
I found myself mulling the aftertaste of a formerly exciting life from the confines of my childhood bedroom. But Dana would invite me out with her friends, helping me experience a sampling of a life I’d hopefully be able to create for myself soon enough.
So what is it that makes me sister and I so close? What proof do I really have?
I really don’t know. I just know that I love her. And if a couple of times a year I find myself watching TV at and I can look over to my left and see my sister sitting on the same couch as me, well…