This is the anniversary of one of the truly important days in world history. No, I’m not as confused as you think. (Not in that way, anyhow.) I’m not referring to Christmas and getting the date all wrong (nor Hanukkah or Ramadan or Eid or the Chinese New Year or Samhain and getting the date that much wrong-er). December the twenty-second is, in fact, the anniversary of the birth of my Number One Sister. And that is a very big deal.
Believe me when I tell you that there are not enough superlatives in the world to describe how fortunate I feel to have followed in her footsteps, even if I make up really cool sounding words for the occasion.
My big sister paved the way for me. She test-drove our parents through child-rearing for nearly a full two years before entrusting little me to their care–and hers. She trained them in the ways of infants and toddlers admirably, and continued to lead the way right through our developmental (emphasis on the last two syllables) years, both for the parental party and for her pesky little sister. Why, in fact, she didn’t “accidentally” lose me, sell me to a traveling circus or bump me off on certain occasions remains a complete mystery.
Instead, she was a great playmate and co-conspirator. She was both a good enough student to set up positive expectations of the family lineage when I followed her into her former teachers’ lairs and also enough of a strong-minded individualist that they dared not assume we should be compared–thank goodness, as not only were we always distinct in our personalities and tastes but she was easily a more natural scholar than I was and I’d have drowned in those expectations. And she was Firstborn enough to assert her right to test all boundaries and, occasionally, the parental patience, just enough to make my follow-up look that one necessary shade paler by comparison. That’s us in succinct terms, one might say: I’m pretty good at life’s tasks in general–learning, adventuring, inventing, enjoying–and she’s always a notch more substantively and colorfully so. The great thing from my perspective is that I never felt this as a shortcoming on my part but rather that I’ve lived in the presence of a fine example of levels to which I can aspire. I am working on it.
Meanwhile, back in the land of sisterhood, I have this amazing friend who was waiting for me the day I showed up for my first public appearance and has embraced, cajoled, guided, teased, taught, humored, chastised and entertained me ever since. The exemplar of Big-Sisterhood. One I can say anything to and ask anything of, and she still loves me. Even when I’ve been utterly unlikable (I know, it’s hard to believe I’ve ever been a stinker, isn’t it!), she’s stuck by my side. Or at least waited somewhere backstage to reclaim me when I finished my big scene.
Now, I won’t immerse you in treacly lies and say that I think anyone is perfect, not even my sisters, as fabulous as they all are, but I wouldn’t dream of changing a thing. When I showed up on the scene I was immediately gifted with a built-in mentor and companion, and that has never altered. So when I say Happy Birthday to my big sister, it’s always doubled by my sense of having received her as my own first birthday present too.
From that point forward, she has been coaching me in all of those skills and arts most meaningful in living a full life: curiosity, assertion of self, living by one’s convictions, passion for those people and things that matter, playfulness, generosity and a good appreciation of the ridiculous. She taught me, more than anybody else, how to laugh until my face aches and my lungs are bursting and tears are shooting out of my eyes as though I’d had a squirt-gun transplant. And she taught me the proper respectful adulation of all-things-chocolate.
How’s that for a long way of saying there aren’t enough words! But you know what I mean, especially if you have been lucky enough to have a sibling (let alone three) so worthy of hyperbolic paeans. Yes, I think it’s grand that all of those other marvelous and perhaps more widely recognized holidays and celebrations are right ahead, but I have every reason to celebrate this date with elation and a great deal of gratitude, so if you feel like raising a toast or hugging your sister or setting off some nice fireworks or sending my sister a chocolate cake (with chocolate filling and chocolate frosting and hot chocolate on the side) or anything, feel free to join right in and consider this a very worthy day for such things. Happy Twenty-second of December!