I love my family. I really do. I mean, I consider myself really lucky- I’ve got a solid family, and each member I consider to be a dear, precious friend. However, like any family, there’s history, there’s personalities, there’s conflict. With all that mess, though, comes the opportunity for healing, for growth, for humility and love. It’s all got a purpose, and I can’t help but feel like this family, all of us, were chosen for each other.
(Left to Right: Clara (the baby), dad, mom, Gretchen (oldest), Ben (younger brother), me… circa 2004?)
Today I’m feeling especially grateful for my big sister. We’ve been through a lot together. Through years of fighting and anger, drastic differences in personality… we came out the other end of it as young adults- renewed, and with a sense of respect for each other’s differences. This soon grew into a dear friendship, and I often wonder how we got here from a very distant there. I’ve always been a bit shy, and I always thought she was so confident. She was tall and dark- I was shorter and lighter. She was always more put together, always liking to look nice and clean. I was a bit of a tomboy/hippie. I could keep going. We just seemed so opposite. We often had people who questioned if we were really sisters.
When we were young, we fought. I can’t be sure of why, we just did. It never really let up, either. When we were kids it was about dolls or hair pieces or who did what… when we were older it was full of judgment and fear and a lack of understanding. I’m sure this is a common tale, although it was pretty hard for me at times, and I’m sure it was hard for her as well. When I was in my last couple of years of high school, and she was at the university, we started to talk more. After I graduated, we spent more and more time together. I spent many a fun night with her and her college friends, playing scrabble and just… relating to each other differently. We had our own spaces, our own lives and relationships. We were pulled out of our familiar adversarial roles and found that we did, in fact, like each other. This just keeps growing. We still have those same differences, for the most part. We have always been ourselves. But now, we can be that and encourage the other. We are truly a team in so many ways, and I’m so grateful.
Last night she and the kids came over for Vera and Tuula’s first official slumber party. They had dinner, played, then we got them in pajamas and read them a story. Then my sister and I went upstairs to have some adult time and watch the movie Frida with sleeping babies in our arms… Lets just say it went a little differently than we planned. The girls were totally wired, and they spent hours jumping and laughing and telling stories. At around 10:30 we heard Vera through the monitor saying "I just want to sleeeeeep!" Eventually she passed out, but Tuula was still going strong. She came upstairs with us and we decided to call it quits when both Gretchen and I were asleep in our chairs and Tuula was still asking questions about the movie. They went home together around midnight, and we called it a day. Lots of "party" not so much "slumber". They are only 2 and 3, so we’re not entirely surprised. Next time maybe we’ll just get all pajamaed and snuggly and have a movie and popcorn, then call it a night at… oh… 8:00. It was funny regardless.
We started out with high hopes…
… but this is basically how it went down.
Vera was actually stripped naked at one point (I know, I know, big surprise). Anyway, I tell this story because last night, as I was saying goodbye to a wired little Tuula, I realized that I love being a family with these people. My sister and I, getting to be mothers together, has been a huge blessing. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to have someone to talk things out with when you haven’t a clue what you’re doing. We are also so much more similar than we knew, I think, and so much of that has come out over the course of the past few years, just having these kids together.
The other thing is, well… our kids are so much like we are. In so many ways, Tuula is like a mini Gretchen and Vera is a mini me. Tuula is thin and long and dark, Vera is stocky and sturdy and light. Tuula is so into dresses and dancing and princess play, and Vera is often naked, upside-down, and caked in dirt… I mean, it’s just funny to look at them and then reflect on our own dynamics (although now I am rarely nude in public, and I’m pretty sure Gretchen has hidden away all her princess dresses…). But anyway, last night as I was brushing Tuula’s hair away from her eyes while we waited for her mama to come get her for the car, I realized that I have another opportunity here. I have an opportunity to love this little girl for exactly who she is- someone incredibly like my big sister. I now am armed with the tools that I lacked back when I was a kid, the tools that would have allowed me to be a little gentler with my sister- to think a little more about what things were like for her and what was going on in her head. It gives me an opportunity to appreciate all the things about my sister that I couldn’t back then. And then, I watch my sister being sweet to my little girl, and I feel like it’s an opportunity for her to be kind to me, too.
It’s so easy to forget what a gift we have in each other. Each and every one of us, offering our gifts to this world and to each other. It’s often hard to remember that there’s a teacher in all of us- especially in those who are so different from ourselves. I now look at my sister and I see someone who is abundantly gifted. Someone who is strong and wise, beautiful and feminine, patient and serious, humble, passionate, generous, and just generally someone that I love to be around. I won’t say that I wish things were different between us back when I didn’t see these things, because I’m pretty sure it helped us to end up exactly where we are now. I love you, sister!