When sisters are 18 months apart, there are two options as to how their relationship is going to operate:
1. They share clothes, friends, and secrets. The older sister passes on homework assignments, life lessons, and dating tips to the younger sister.
2. The younger sister grabs a friend and spies on the older sister through the basement window while she is changing. Did I mention it is during her puberty years? The older sister cannot stand to be around the younger sister and makes sure she and all of their mutual acquaintances know it.
Sadly, option number two is the reality of my sister, Charlotte, and I’s relationship for the first 19ish years of our lives. I did some pretty mean things to her and would constantly steal her belongings, but most of all knew how to hurt her with my words. Charlotte was not nice to me either. In elementary school she read my journal and told everyone about my super secret first crush, Scott. In middle school, she even spread a few rumors about me. We were mortal enemies.
I remember having screaming fights with Charlotte over which song we were going to listen to in the car, one of her Radiohead songs or “Hit Me Baby One More Time” for the thousandth time. Sometimes I would look at Charlotte and wonder how we could have possibly come from the same parents. She liked weird music, dressed in dark clothes, dyed her hair, and didn’t care to hang around the family much. I liked pop music, short skirts, hot curlers, and was a homebody.
The “window peeping incident” as I like to call it is something I will never forget, and not only because of the wrath that my mother brought down on me. For me, the peeping incident was more than just being a stupid pre-adolescent girl trying to humiliate my older sister by spying on her. Charlotte mystified me. She had a lot of interesting friends, some several years older than her, and she seemed to fit in with everybody. Everybody except me.
When Charlotte was in high school, no matter how much we hated each other at the time, I would go to every single one of her school plays. Some of the shows I would even watch multiple times. I remember sitting in the audience of Bye Bye Birdie for the fourth time in complete awe of her talent on stage. I watched Charlotte sing, smile, and dance and wondered what made us such bad sisters to each other. She looked so fun and easygoing up there under the bright lights. She was a good actress and I a decent liar, why couldn’t we keep up the charade at home? Why did we have to make each other miserable? I loved being able to peep into Charlotte’s world, to secretly spy on her in order to understand her better. From a distance I was safe, and so was she.
The day of Charlotte’s wedding, October 19, 2007, was an important turnaround for our relationship. On the way to the hotel where she would marry her fiance and no longer share my last name, Charlotte looked at me with tears in her eyes and said “can we stop fighting? Can this finally be over and we be friends?” With a trembling lip I said that I would like that.
Things slowly started to change between Charlotte and I. Charlotte’s relationship with God grew, and she transformed into a loving and kindhearted person. I learned how to be more honest with her and to not use soul-shredding words when I was angry. We didn’t become instantly close, but our white flags were up. We were civil and almost resembled friends.
Today is Charlotte’s 27th birthday and I am amazed by the way our relationship has transformed. As we grew older, our interests, senses of humor, and points of view seemed to align. We both became more open-minded and less hard on each other. While I now like Radiohead and she has been known to belt out Britney Spears or Ace of Base while driving, what is more important than us liking the same music or watching the same sitcoms is the way we now love each other because of our differences.
I still like to peep into Charlotte’s life, but now for a very different reason than 10 years ago. I love to watch Charlotte interact with her 1-year old son. Her tenderness and patience are remarkable, and I pray that someday when I’m a mother I can come somewhere close to resembling her! I love to watch Charlotte and her husband interact. They are head over heels in love with each other and truly bring the word “team” to life.
Where I used to spy on Charlotte to try and understand her world that I was not a part of, I now stalk her Facebook page to see if she has uploaded any videos or pictures of my nephew. When I go more than a day without talking to my big sis, I really miss her. We Facetime, text, call, and make spontaneous trips to see each other when we can’t stand being apart anymore. Instead of longingly watching Charlotte laugh, joke, and tell secrets with her friends, I am now the friend that she calls when she needs to laugh or cry.
Ten years ago if you had told me that Charlotte would be one of the most important and influential people in my life, I would have laughed and sworn you were crazy. Charlotte has taught me one of the most important lessons I think I will learn in this life: people can change and relationships can be redefined.
I am so grateful for the way my sister and I have managed to grow up and grow together.