My favourite first sister

My oldest sister turned forty today, and aside from the occasional outburst of disbelief and bewilderment at the fleeting passage of time, in the months leading up to this day she has avoided the existential crisis that normally accompanies milestone birthdays after thirty. (In the last week or so leading up to today, however, there have been several outbursts of various lines and riffs from “The Final Countdown.”)

However, I’m only twenty-four, so what do I know about age? Thus, as I cannot discuss this issue further to any profit, I will move on from my sister’s age and tell you more about who she is – at least, inasmuch as she is to me.

There are sixteen years and three siblings between us, but it is often remarked by family, friends, and new acquaintances alike that she and I are quite similar. We are the shortest among my parents’ offspring (though she is, by an inch, indisputably the shortest) and it has been remarked that our faces – especially when graced with smiles – are the most alike. We share a love-hate relationship with our womanly curves and small statures, particularly where anything involving bras or pantyhose or new trousers are concerned, and both of us have a deep aversion to visible gray hair (yes, I already have several of my own).

We are both writers with a propensity towards the significant human experiences; we are both avid readers whose bookshelves are comfortingly similar; we are both talented with paper, ribbon, and glue; and we are both obsessed with making, eating, and photographing food. We are also both social introverts who can sit together on the same couch and be lost in our own activities, yet still feel perfectly content and connected to one another with minimal verbal interaction. If you open up our purses (though hers is considerably better-stocked than mine) you will find in both some kind of notebook and writing implement, breath mints, chocolate, and lip balm.

She loves pink roses, tea, chocolate, bacon, and Pimm’s. She makes ice cream in the middle of winter, because the snow that accumulates on the balcony is the only way to get the machine cold enough. She puts spirits into all of her baking. Nothing pleases her quite as much on a quiet afternoon as a glass or cup of something good to drink, a comfortable bed or chair, and a well-written book.

She is a woman of many talents and admirable qualities. She is the diplomat and mediator in the family, occupying that strange no-man’s land of eldest siblings that lies between the camps of parents and children while simultaneously bridging it. She is, all at once, another mother, a sibling, and a best friend: at times, the Ma to my Laura; at others, the Meg to my Amy; and through all the rest, the Diana to my Anne. (Indeed, it was on her bookshelf that I first found these classic treasures, and many more besides.)

She has endured my tantrums, my peskiness, and my shenanigans, bearing every instance of each with impeccable grace and good humor. My secrets are all safe with her, as are my knees when they are scraped and my heart when it is broken. Like all big sisters, she responds to that particular strain of kleptomania found in younger sisters – that which has a penchant for clothes, books, and stationery – with forgiveness and patience even as she suffers in silence at the loss of her possessions.

She is always learning, always growing, and always inspiring. And she is as much a part of me as either of my parents.

Happy birthday!

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