When we were six and eight, we built a fort between our beds, using the coveted, reversible horse blanket. Our beds were only four feet apart, you see, and the blanket was plenty big enough to drape over both twin mattresses. We’d turn off the lights in the room, pull down the shades on the windows, and stuff every pillow and stuffed animal we had into that dark tunnel between beds, where we’d tell each other stories or read by the narrow beams of miniature flashlights.
When we were eight and ten, we read American Girl magazines and books like they were going out of style. She was drawn to Molly, of the WWII era; and I was obsessed with Felicity, who dwelled in colonial New England and shared my love of horses. We would play school with the dolls, and read their stories, and dream together about how different our lives would be had we been born decades, even centuries, ago.
When we were sixteen and eighteen, we bickered spitefully — about everything. But when I was treated like dirt by petty girls on the track team, she took up arms for me, my she-knight in shining armor. Nobody could listen to me scream, I hate you! and still come to my rescue when others tore me down; nobody, except for her.
Some sisters are admirably (and possibly sickeningly?) close growing up — they plait each other’s hair, they play together peacefully, they hold hands on the sidewalk that leads into the school building. My sister and I? We were not that idyllic pair. Sure, there are many memories from our youth that are pleasant and peaceable; but for every good moment of sisterhood, there’s at least one or two moments of intense sibling rivalry.
Brianne was born just 18 months before I came along, you see. We were close enough in age that we should have had a great deal in common — but we fought like hellions, instead. Looking back, I can’t tell if this is due to our many differences, or our many similarities; at any rate, I can tell you that as middle children, we both ran a completely unnecessary but nonetheless grueling race to distinguish ourselves in our parents’ eyes. (Again: completely unnecessary. Dad told me a few years ago that I’m his favorite.)
Mom always worried that we would regret those years of fighting as children; she’d sigh with exasperation, sometimes with tears in her eyes, and she’d say My sisters and I never fought like this! I don’t understand why you two can’t get along!
Well, Mom, I have to tell you — I don’t regret the fighting all that much. That childhood/teenage sparring produced resilience and stubbornness, two characteristics I value most in my sister.
Things you should know about Brianne:
- She’s resilient, and stubborn as hell. Nobody — I mean, nobody — can change Brianne’s mind when she knows that she is right. And, while this is often a major pain in the butt when discussing anything even remotely political, these traits are responsible for her success as a human being. On top of this, I’ve never known my sister to be swayed by popular opinion or peer pressure; she stays the course and does what she knows to be right, ethical, and appropriate.
- She’s not tied up in body-bashing. Our world is full of girls who are increasingly concerned with their outward appearance, and who put themselves down repeatedly and publicly. It’s socially acceptable for girls to condemn themselves, and others, based on the numbers they see on their scales or the number of blemishes on their faces. Brianne is refreshingly unapologetic about her appearance, and doesn’t allow me to get negative about my insecurities in front of her. She’s supportive and embracing, not hypercritical — and that’s about as beautiful as it gets, friends.
- She’s chasing her dreams. We live in a world of sell-outs. We’re told to “dream big!” as kids, but as we advance through the school system, those dreams become more and more stifled by societal pressures to land a respectable job, earn piles of money, and meet expectations that have been predetermined based on our gender. Brianne, however, defies this sell-out norm. She earned her MFA in acting, and has relentlessly pursued her dream of becoming a stage actress in the big cities that comprise the Northeast. Her road has been dotted with disappointments and near misses and flat-out no‘s, but she trudges on.
My sister probably doesn’t know she’s an idol to me (I’m sure I’ve never told her), but she is. She forces me to look for the positive or encouraging or possible in even the worst situations. She challenges me to stay true to my dreams, never giving me the opportunity to make excuses for shoddy work or mediocre effort. She persists, she encourages, she inspires.
She is my sister, and I couldn’t live without her.