To my little sister,
Lately my big sister game has been off. Well, not lately. It’s been a while. I think that perhaps you know this but that, like everything between us, you understand. You don’t make me feel guilty about the messages that go unreturned or the phone calls that find me distracted at the other end of the line as I scrub yoghurt out of the toddler’s hair. Our conversations now always seem to be snatched in the moments we can carve out of our busy lives, but I’m painfully aware they’re more on my timeline than yours. I’m painfully aware that I am the one who left and you are the one – right now – who anchors me to our sisterhood.
So I wanted to say some of the things I never seem to have time to tell you.
I missed you today.
We live half a world and several time zones apart and have very different lives. Here I am, living my domestic fantasy with two kids and a husband; you are living the exciting big city life of a career woman with so much going on and so many achievements. Even if we lived down the road from one another I suspect our paths might seldom cross, they are so divergent.
But still, I missed you today.
Yesterday I called my eldest by your name. This happens more frequently than you might think. She reminds me of you, with her happy-go-lucky nature, her fearlessness, directness, will power and high-voltage laugh. Her ability to delight and infuriate me in not quite equal measure, but almost. And in other ways too: I feel towards her the protectiveness I didn’t even realise I’ve spent your whole life feeling for you. It’s magnified now that I’m her actual protector rather than our own mother, but the feeling isn’t new to me, and that’s because of you.
How I doted on you my baby sister. Through not just our childhood but our young adulthood as well. I protected you and took you along, gave you my ID and tried my best to cover for you when you did something naughty (which wasn’t often as you’re a bit of a useless rebel, hard as you may have tried – fortunately for me because I’m an even more useless liar). As kids I appreciated how easy you were to boss around, and later on I felt lucky to have a built-in last call of the day, a go-to person and a wing woman. You know the saying about the one call from jail? Well…
The big sister standard was set pretty high, and in return you loved me more than anyone in the world. I felt it, I saw it, I knew it, and I don’t think you realised how much that simple fact has shaped me. How strange it must be for you to have me be absent from your life as I shift my attentions to two small girls who are very much like us… I can’t be sorry for my absence and I don’t think you’d want me to, but I hope you know I feel it too.
I hope you know I missed you today.
As I watch my own two girls being sisters together, I understand what we had and have even more than I did before. No matter how much space is between us in this particular season of our lives, and no matter how many of each other’s phone calls we miss, your existence has made me who I am. Our togetherness is not and never has been a choice – it is inevitable, a law of nature. Without you I would be a yin without a yang, a left without a right, a girl without her sister.
This weekend when I woke to the news of another incomprehensible act of cowardice and barbarism committed in London, my heart lurched into my throat and I reached before my eyes were even properly open for my phone. There was your message: “Just to let you know I’m fine.” Of course I knew that the chances of you being caught up in the attack were low, but even the idea of so much violence being perpetrated in your general vicinity gives me chills to my very core. The protective instinct I felt when you followed me into school the very first time in my old school dress with your too-big backpack hasn’t diminished with time. It hasn’t diminished with you being a grown up. It hasn’t diminished with the increasingly obvious fact that you are in fact a far more capable adult than I am. It’s there and nothing will ever change it.
So my darling sister – these are the things I never seem to have time to tell you. Thank you for all we’ve had between us and for all the things we’re going to have in the future when our paths approach each other again, as I have no doubt they will. Thank you for loving my two little scamps as fiercely as you do, even though I took them so far away before you even got a proper chance to know them. Thank you for never making me feel guilty for the messages I got distracted from returning, and for never judging the path I’ve taken even though it’s so very different from your own. Thank you for keeping me appraised of what the cool kids are wearing and for sending me new music and funny cat videos – I appreciate it more than you know. Thank you for being my soft place to fall, my staunchest defender, my rescuer, right hand man, first best friend, sharer of adventures, keeper of secrets, little sister.
I missed you today.