“For there is no friend like a sister, in calm or stormy weather, to cheer one on the tedious way, to fetch one if one goes astray, to lift one if one totters down, to strengthen whilst one stands.” -Christina Rossetti
Every time I visit my family in St. George I like to get myself caught up on all things Emily. Emily is my seventeen year old niece, dancer, cheerleader, thinker. She's a deep-feeling, soft-spoken young woman who is well-liked and well-endowed with hair that waves to crowds.
As we were doing the routine catch-up, we were also driving into town for an ice cream. In the back seats were my two offsprings and Maggie, Emily's eleven year old younger sister and my niece. It became somewhat apparent after awhile that Maggie was listening to our entire discussion because she started answering all of my questions directed at her older sister.
For example, conversation followed like this (but not verbatim):
Me to Emily: So who are you going out with tonight?
Maggie: Oh Marcus, he's cute, but sorta weird. Emily doesn't really like him, but she has a lot of fun when he's around.
Emily: silence. Looking out window.
It carried on like this, until I realized I was reliving of my teenage years. I also had a younger sister, always listening, always busying herself with my life. While I was trying to down play my teenage years, she was constantly making fireworks out of it.
"Wait a minute," I said to them both. "How far apart in age are you two?"
"About seven years," Maggie computed.
I thought so.
It was an entire replaying of my life with Lucy, also seven years my younger. She had this uncanny ability to know every detail of my entire existence. She'd flirt with my boyfriends, wear my clothes--sagging on her elementary school body--follow my dramas. Because she was the youngest of our crowd, Lucy wore a decade too old for her. She was eleven going on everything. In fact, so skilled was Lucy at being present in her life, she could hone in on everyone everywhere and it earned her the nickname "Radar Ears."
And it drove me crazy.
And it was also my security blanket.
Lucy had the oomph to be what I could not be. She was entertainment when I was too shy. She was adventurous when I was too scared. She was the flirt when I was embarrassed. She was my tiny, freckled-face, private schooled side kick. You know the organ grinder man at the pier with the monkey? That was us.
After the concert last Friday night I came home at midnight to find Ever in her crib soaked in vomit. The flu. I put her in the tub and cleaned her all over, put clean jammies on and curled up with her for the night. We slept about three hours total. When the morning came, The Chief was ready for action and I had accumulated a terrible cold in the meantime. Our state of being was at the very bottom of the barrel. And my partner in "health and sickness" was still in St. George wrapping up a shoot.
After a few hours of being awake, Ever had managed to puke on every living space we have and I was on my fourth set of clothes. I ordered Emily and Maggie (now at my house) around helping with The Chief's requests and getting clean towels. Then my adorable and obvious-stating nephew Matthew showed up and said, "Your house stinks." Because of the blockage in my nose, I couldn't smell a thing--which was fortunate with my fickle pregnant hyper sense.
But I knew there was only one person to call to help me at that point. Little sister Lucy. I knew if I asked she'd show up with the power of a sanitizing hurricane, intent on ridding my house of germs, smells and other atrocities. It's the same energy she used to be everywhere at all times when she followed me around in my teenage years.
With Emily's help they both cleaned the house top to bottom and took no prisoners. I held Ever while they powered through each room in my multiple chambered house. Meanwhile, Maggie took The Chief to get a snow cone down the street. It was a sister's brigade.
At one point I collapsed on my bed and said to Lucy,
"This is your gift to the world. This energy to move and get things done. To know what I need before I do. Not everyone has it, and you do."
And I hope Emily saw how one day that little nosy sister really does come in handy. How seven years catches up. How there is beautiful pay back for including her little sister in her world now, because you will want them there later.
Thank heavens they never change.
p.s. We had major inbox undulation when we posted this photo Emily:
Where did your niece get that dress?
The actual dress is Stephanie's, undoubtedly from Anthropologie. For my part I insisted Emily belt it with a glitzy gray number from Down East and take it to the next level with my infamous red petticoat. Voila! An instant Prom dress success. Where's my tv show?