When I was a little girl I thought one of the happiest sounds I’d ever heard was my mother laughing with her six sisters. They’d stand around my grandmother’s kitchen, washing the dishes and putting away the Christmas dinner leftovers, laughing so loudly they sounded like the kookaburras that cackled outside my window every morning. My mother’s sister Rosalie—we called her Ro—lived just a couple of miles from us, and she and my mother got together several times a week while my cousins and I played. They colored each other’s hair, shared recipes and gossip, reminisced about their childhoods, and cried together when Ro had her miscarriages. But mostly I remember their laughter and the way my mother’s eyes brightened when she was around Ro and her other sisters. My mother knew a secret then that I’ve only come to appreciate now that I’m a grown woman and a mother myself: having sisters is pretty much the best thing that can happen to a girl.
I am more fortunate than many in the sister department because I have three: Shellie, Shannon, and Charlotte. Each of us is five years apart, with one poor solitary brother between me and Shellie. Of course, growing up I took my sisters for granted and even found them annoying at times. As the eldest I did my share of babysitting and bossing and mandatory sharing and longsuffering tolerating of pesky kid sisters who squabbled, teased, followed me around, and got into my stuff. Once while I was babysitting—and it seemed like I had to baby-sit ALL THE TIME while my parents callously left us to go to endless parties and balls (I’m sure I had to sweep the chimney as well)—I had to carry Shannon’s potty chair outside to the front yard because she refused to take a break from playing to use the potty inside. But since the potty chair was already full and it didn’t occur to me to empty it before carrying it outside, its, ahem, contents sloshed all over my legs and onto the floor. Another time I had to stay home from church and hold and rock baby Charlotte, who had a fever, for two hours straight while she plastered her hot little body to mine and cried nonstop. Shellie scratched and bit me on more than one occasion (completely unprovoked, I’m sure) and even read my diary; I got her back years later by pouring water over her newly permed 80’s hair.
Suffice it to say, I didn’t always appreciate my sisters. But we had our moments, even back then. I always thought of Charlotte as my first baby and lavished her with motherly attention; I secretly enjoyed toting her around everywhere, wrote down every cute thing she said, and couldn’t get enough of kissing her curly head. Shannon had a witty, dry sense of humor and amused me with her sass and feistiness, especially when she told off overbearing adults while I stood there tongue-tied and timid. Shellie and I shared a room with a double bed when I was almost ten and she was five, and every night after lights out Shellie and I would brush each other’s hair out on the pillow and giggle and whisper secrets, long after we were supposed to be asleep. She was my companion during the summer holidays when we explored the wild river bank and spent lazy afternoons at the nearby creek, sunning ourselves on warm sandstone rocks and playing mermaids in the shade of the eucalyptus trees.
When I was fifteen and giddily in love with Elder Teriyan, Shellie showed true sister loyalty by running outside to warn me, while I was lounging in the backyard with my hair in curlers and no makeup on, that the missionaries had dropped by and were at that very moment sitting in our living room. Her warning gave me time to sneak around to the front of the house, climb through my bedroom window, and spruce myself up before sauntering into the family room, feigning surprise. Greater love hath no sister than this.
These sisterly bonds have only become sweeter and deeper as we’ve grown into women. Shellie and I roomed together at BYU after my mission and then settled within just miles of each other after we got married. We’ve chased our toddlers at the park while eight months pregnant, nursed and potty trained together, and watched our children get baptized, graduate, and go on missions. Though Shannon and Charlotte live in another state, the four of us email and call each other; we share parenting tips and relationship tips and fashion tips (my sisters even staged a much-needed mom jeans intervention for yours truly); we trade recipes and funny stories and childhood memories. We’ve been bridesmaids at each other’s weddings and we’ve grieved together over our parents’ divorce. And, though we sometimes weep together over our struggles, most of the time we laugh until our stomachs hurt—just as my mother and her sisters have all of these years. We are sisters in flesh and spirit, bonded in heart and soul, best friends forever.
Happy Valentine’s Day, sisters of mine. I can’t imagine my life without you.
What memories do you have of you and your sister/s? Did you get along when you were growing up? Are you and your sister/s good friends now? How has having sisters (or sisters-in-law) enriched your life?