It’s a topic that I’m kind of an expert on. I was raised by a mother with four of them, and I’ve got one of my own, in addition to two stepsisters. My cousin and best friend is truly an older sister to me – we’ve grown up together and I always count her as a sister. I have two daughters of my own, plus two stepdaughters. I’m thinking tonight about those relationships – because they’re complicated and messy and intimate and hostile and while it’s true that nobody can bug you more, there’s also something amazing and beautiful about the relationship between sisters.
My mother’s sisters were always her best friends. I mean, growing up, they were her friends. She had other friends, but it was my aunts that she talked to every day, my aunts who acted as surrogate mothers when she wasn’t available, and it was their children that I was closest to. She doesn’t always get along with them, and sometimes they fight just like little girls – but her relationships with her sisters is long and deep and a connection that I envy.
My cousin and I grew up in different parts of the country. She lived in Colorado for several years while we were kids, and I was here in MA. But we kept in touch, the way that kids do. When we were old enough, we wrote letters back and forth, like diaries to each other. Which actually, now that I think about it, forged our relationship like nothing else could have. She was somebody I could say anything to – and I think I’m the same for her. We lived together for most of our twenties, and have stayed close. Her daughter, Abby-with-a-bow, is Julianna’s bestest friend, and I like to think that they will be as close as we always have been.
My own sister is five and a half years, almost six years younger than I am. Six years isn’t a lot now, but it was when we were younger. We’re dramatically different in so many ways – she’s impatient and hot tempered, I’m relatively calm and rarely lose my temper. But she doesn’t hold a grudge, like I do, and she’s emotional and passionate. She’s actually much more like my mother than I am, which is odd, because I’ve spent most of my life thinking I’m just like my mother. But in reality, it’s the two of them that have the most in common. My sister and I don’t always talk – but she’s right there, one of the backbones of my life. I can’t imagine not having her. She’s bright and beautiful and I’m enormously proud of her.
My stepsisters and I are even farther apart in age. Ten and twelve years, if I’m remembering correctly. They’re scattered around the world now, one in Europe and the other in Hawaii, and I don’t entirely like it. I’m proud of them, I’m slightly envious of the paths they’ve chosen, but I liked it a lot better when they were closer.
As for my daughters, and step daughters… I adore their relationships. The four of them are the Cohen girls – a recognizable unit. Lilli is fourteen, Sarah almost twelve. Jessica is ten, and Julie just turned three. Individually, there’s potential for a lot of conflict, especially among the older three (because really, fighting with a toddler is a waste of effort). Watching the three of them grow up, recognizing that while Jessie is my oldest child, she’s the middle of Marc’s kids, and the youngest of the older kids. Nobody makes Jessie angrier than her sisters, and nobody makes her laugh harder. She’s at times maternal with Julianna and sometimes she squabbles with her like she’s a toddler herself.
I wonder what their relationships will be like as adults. If Jessie and Sarah will still make each other roll on the floor laughing when they’re thirty and thirty two. If Lilli and Sarah will always have that bond between them, the connection that’s almost visible, even though they look nothing alike. If Julie will always feel like the baby sister, or if she’ll ever stand beside them as an adult and not feel like the little one. If Jessie will ever feel like birth order makes any sense, and if she’ll feel like she’s the oldest, the middle or the youngest.
And I also think that Sam is going to be the best boyfriend and have the best luck with girls. Because he’s freaking awesome with girls – he’s an incredible big brother to Julianna – and with three older sisters, it’s not like there’s going to be any mystery with how girls think or behave.