My definitions of the word “sister,” after almost 20 years of being one and having one.

Age 3: That fat baby who lives across the hall! At this point you are unsure of the implications of sisterhood. But because “baby Ashley” gave you a present when she was born, you think you might keep her.

Age 7: Someone who stays at home and colors in your chapter books while you’re at school. When you get home you find “treats” that she’s made for you during her daily “cooking show” in the freezer – like her special concoction of ice cream, peanut butter, maraschino cherries, and graham crackers…. (“Aren’t you gonna eat it?”) She’s always game to play beanie babies or hide in laundry baskets with you. You think she’s a fun, strange little creature.

Age 10: Fellow mermaid, Jew-hiding-from-the-Nazis-in-the-woods, Tara Lipinski-imitator, and star lip-syncher. The sole living, breathing student in your classroom (minus Molly and Bitty Baby). A child with no organizational capabilities (you organize your closet on the weekends. She scatters the contents of her closet around the house… and she finds nothing wrong with this!!!) At this point, sister is simultaneously a curse word and a word you cannot escape.

Age 13: Your best friend and your worst enemy, at the same time. Someone who will tattle on you one minute and then perform bizarre dance moves in the living room to Barry Manilow’s “American Bandstand” the next. She’ll help you make baked Alaska and then refuse to do the dishes unless you offer her a reward. The goofiest member of the family. You can’t understand why she always wants to play dolphins in the pool when all you want to do is just TAN and READ YOUR BOOK, for goodness’ sake!

Age 16:  A teenager related to you somehow, although you can’t remember exactly how or why… you sometimes wonder if “sister” is just a disguise for “child we rescued from the last time aliens invaded.” She borrows your clothes and talks sassy to you. Excuse me, but WHO’S older here? You fight over the piano and over cleaning the bathroom, and you both are too stubborn to ever say sorry first. In your best moments, the sister is a compadre in crime, a companion in fun, and a compatriot who will listen, love, and make you laugh when you’re crying. And maybe sort of a… friend?

Age 19: The world has turned upside down, and sister lives 12 hours away… life is so different, so quiet, so… organized. She’s always been there for you. You get text messages from “Ashley-cell”… weird, sister has a mobile device of her own! Sister drives, cooks, plans high school events, dates, and calls you just to “chat.” When you’re home, you go grocery shopping together, talk about God and theology and boys, paint each other’s nails.

Of all the peer relationships in your life that you love, your sister has been the most permanent – and at some point there was a conscious decision on both your parts to keep it that way. At some point you decided you actually liked each other. You resembled each other (except she looks like Taylor Swift and you don’t… but you apparently look like twins… um, okay?). You’ve seen echoes of her in your college friends – the loyalty, the humor, the way they are like lightning bugs in an otherwise dark night. You have sisters like her from all over the Midwest, you live with girls who have become college sisters of sorts, friends-that-are-more-than-friends, beauties.

Sister is, you’ve realized, not just a family member. Sister is a synonym for best friend. And you have the best of them all.


8 thoughts on “Sister

  1. Hey Granddaughter: You are getting pretty good with your writing. This is the first time I have got to read these. Your “Sisters’ article is very good. Even living in different states doesn’t keep sisters apart. My 3 sisters all live in different places, but we still keep in touch. Keep up the good work.

  2. Es verdad! Una buena amiga es una hermana. You can correct my attempt to speak Spanish, but I absolutely agree with your final sentiment. Close friends, like sisters, see you at your worst and best. I am very fortunate to have many sister-friends who are willing to forgive and quick to laugh. (My two biological sisters are pretty great, too)

    When my sisters, age five, visited me at the hospital for the first time they also received a gift “from baby Julie.” However, the blond one decided she didn’t care to have a sister, generous or not. Instead of thanking baby Julie, she hid under the hospital bed. When the brunette one asked if the blond one if she wanted to hold the baby, the blond one replied, “I’ll pass.” Upon leaving, the mother asked the five-year-olds if they would like to kiss baby Julie. “I already kissed her,” dismissed the blond one, with a defiant flip of her hair.

    Twenty years later, and not much has changed.

  3. My sister and I are 6 years apart with a brother in between. To me, sister always meant “you don’t get what you want.” Not in a bad way though. I just always knew that since Emily was not only the youngest child but the only girl, she usually got what she wanted. I don’t hold it against her.

  4. Brooke, you have an inspiring voice, and your stories welcomed me with a hug. Here is a short hope that I have for my ever-shifting definition of sister:
    Sister used to be that other person in my house, who got along with me when we were talking about books, or writing, but also dueled expertly with me using words, pressing buttons, pushing tiny gaps of misunderstanding between us (I helped). Now that I am at college, I do find that we don’t fight as much. I truly hope that it isn’t just because we don’t see each other very much, but that, like my mom and Aunt Kim, we might be sliding back towards one another, and towards the place where sister is synonymous with unconditional friend.

  5. Brooke, you make me wish I had a sister – although I am blessed with a wonderful best friend that fits the bill. Wonderful writing!

  6. Sister thinks this is enough to make me cry! Would it be completely awful if I wrote a similar one on my non-graded blog? 🙂
    Whenever people ask me who my closest friend is, you are my immediate response. They think I mean it obligatorially (sure, it’s a word), but it’s the truth. There are friends who become sisters, and there are sisters who become friends… I like the latter better because you never have to have an excuse to see them or call them or cry with them.
    You are a treasure to me. I’m so glad that our month of separation is almost up.
    Love you, dearest.

    • I love the stories and the comments about sisterhood here. It’s interesting to hear others’ experiences with sisters, whether it’s a sister’s begrudging acceptance of your birth or having to watch your sister get spoiled. And best friends can be as close as sisters, so I’m glad to know there are some “sister-friends” out there.

      I know that not everyone has had a sister that is a best friend too, and I’m thankful for that.

      Is there a point at which all sisterly jealousies/competitions are moot and sort of disappear? I would like to think so. Ashley and I definitely don’t fight like we used to, but I know we still have our moments!

      Ashley: No, it would not be awful if you wrote a similar post. I would be honored 🙂

  7. Ah, I can relate to this one all too well. I’m very close to my sister and always have been. When we were kids we used to pretend to be Tara Lipinski and Michelle Kwan 🙂

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