This time of year always reminds me of simplier days and brings a warmth to my heart. It may seem like a weird time, given that the holidays are over and it is just a random Wednesday in February, but to me it is much more. Today is my sister Aimee's birthday. She turns 29. Just a couple of weeks ago, my other sister, Sarah, turned 32.
My own birthday does not bring half the nostalgia that theirs do. As the calendar turns for them, I am reminded of our childhood. In some aspects it seems like yesterday that we were three little girls, laughing, crying, and making mischief together. There are about three years between all of us, me being the oldest. Given this six year span, there were a host of relational dynamics between us. Within our triad, several dyadic combinations formed over the years. At times, all three of us were close, at other times all three of us were at odds. Then there were the various "2 on 1" scenarios. Nothing outside the realm of typical sibling rivalry of course. All in all, I can say we were a pretty tight trio.
Our parents instilled in us a sense of familial pride. We were to be proud of who we were, and to always show love to one another. When we would fight, our father would always express how much that pained him. He would say "You girls shouldn't fight like that. You're sisters." We would invariably hang our heads and say "Yes, daddy" as we shuffled away. Once out of sight (and earshot), we may have continued our squabble, but deep down we knew he was right. It wasn't long before we were back to laughing and playing. Which is why all these years later, I cannot even remember what most of our arguments were even about. They weren't important. What I do remember are the moments we shined. The moments we created lasting memories of our time growing up together.
Some of the things we did still makes me laugh to think about. A child's creativity has no bounds. We used to play this game called "Bear". Our cousin, Jason, who is more like a brother, would play it with us. I had this giant Winnie the Pooh bear that someone had given to me when I was born. We would start by throwing him onto the staircase landing. Then, my sisters and Jason would pretend the staircase was a mountain, and they would climb up and down it. Of course, when they got to the landing, there was a big bear! They would scream and try to climb back up to the top of the mountain to save themselves from the "vicious" animal that was attacking them. I of course, the momma of the group, was at the top of the mountain with a (jump) rope, trying to pull them up. I would save them! I was not about to let a bear eat my family. Without fail, everyone would be brought to safety. I would inevitably have wounds to attend too. You cannot expect to survive a bear mauling without at least a scratch or two, can you?
I would take them all into the "house" and clean their wounds. I would fill a silver bread pan with water in the bathroom, wet a wash cloth and wipe away the "blood". I would bandage them up and everything was as good as new. And they would head back out on the mountain only to have a repeat attack! We never grew tired of this game. I cannot remember the countless times we played it. It was just one of many memories that are forever singed into my mental treasure trove.
If I close my eyes, I can picture us dancing around my bedroom to my mom's old Beatles records. Hearing any song from Bobby Brown's "Don't be Cruel" album immediately takes me back to playing Barbies on my bedroom floor. We spent hours doing their hair, dressing them up, and getting them ready for the club. Only after three hours of primping, we were ready to stop playing. The next time, we would start all over again. Now that I think about it, we hardly ever made it to the club!
I remember making "poison berry soup" in my mom's green cooking pot. Sounds yummy, right? We had these vines in the backyard that had poisonous berries on them. They would not harm you to touch them, but to eat them would make you sick. We would pick them off the vine and collect them in the pot. There were red ones and green ones. After gathering them, I would add water to the pot from the faucet on the side of the house. I would stir it, pretending to cook it for my siblings and any neighborhood friends who happened to be around. I would them serve it to them. You would think I could come up with a more appetizing name than, "Poison Berry Soup"! What can I say, I was a very literal child.
All in all, the three of us had a blast growing up together. We always had each other's backs no matter what. If someone was bothering any of us, the other two were close behind. We could be in the middle of an argument, saying the meanest things about each other; but have just one other person say something against one of us, and we were immediately back on the same team. Like the Three Muskateers. All for one, and one for all. No one messes with the Willoughby girls!
Especially, Sarah. She is awesome that way. While I tend to be afraid of confrontation, she will tell it to you straight and leave you in her dust. I mean that in a good way! She does not let anyone walk all over her, and I admire her strength, her confidence, and courage. But don't get me wrong. Underneath that bold exterior, she has a heart of gold. She always has. I remember this time when I was about ten or eleven years old. I was riding bikes with some neighbor girls. I was told by one of them that there were no cars coming. As I came zooming down the driveway, there was a white car coming at me. It was too late to stop. I got hit; and went flying across the street into the grass. Luckily, I was not badly hurt. Just messed up my ankle some. I remember sitting in the chair crying. Sarah came in the living room, and didn't know what to do. She was all of about 7 or 8, there was little she could do, really. The sweetest thing was when she came over and offered me her fish sandwich from McDonald's. She didn't have much, but she had a fish sandwich! She figured it would make me feel better.
That sandwich was far more than just a sandwich. It was symbolic of her love for me. The fact that she would do anything to make me feel better when I was hurt. To most, this seems small. To me, it was monumental. A reminder that someone cared enough to want to take the pain away, even when they couldn't. She still provides nourishment when I need it. As does Aimee.
Aimee is the youngest; there are about 5 1/2 years between us. Some of my favorite memories with her revolve around Christmas Eve night. Year after year we would end up in my bed, giddy with delight that Santa was on his way. While Sarah was sound asleep in her bed, we were wide awake, eager for the big guy to make an appearance. We stayed up half the night, excitedly giggling and shaking, awaiting the 6:00 am time my parents told us we could wake them up and open gifts. Those hours seemed like weeks, each minute dragging it's feet as if in sand. But the time would finally come! I do not know how I would have made it without her company. The night would have seemed even longer. Goodness, if that was even possible. To this day, I can still count on Aimee to get me through the long "nights". She has a way of making the darkest points brighter. She reminds me that I am not alone, and can handle anything that comes my way.
These are just some of the many cherished moments I've had with my sisters. They continue to bring me as much joy now as they did then. They mean the world to me. I feel close to them every day, even though the distance between us can at times be hard. I moved to Tennessee almost nine years ago, so I do not get to see them often. Luckily, we stay connected through frequent phone calls and Facebook. They continue to be my rocks in this world, even more than they realize. They are two of my most favorite people. I know that if I ever needed anything, they would drop everything to be by my side. No one knows me better. They have helped create the person I am today. Without having had them in my life, I have no idea who I would be. And I'm glad I never have to find out.
~ A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life. ~ Isadora James ~