Along with all of the other, perfectly legitimate and obvious, reasons that I celebrate every year when I am remembering the arrival of my next-younger sister on her birthday–the first one remembered mostly anecdotally given my tender years on the occasion, and all of the subsequent ones fitting days for delighting in the gifts with which her continued presence graces me and all of her circle of influence so consistently–I rejoice in the greater sense of appreciation for nature that she has given me.She is something of a bouquet herself. Indeed, she is beautiful in the way of pretty things throughout nature, and also filled with liveliness and energy and purpose and growth that inspire me and amaze me regularly. I look on her as an enhancement of the world a little like a human bloom in its garden, unfolding each day and year with new surprises and joys that reinforce the very image of goodness in life.In a more concrete way, with her love of the outdoors and its grand presents, pleasures and promises she has taught me and continues to teach me to appreciate the natural world as well. As much as our garden-genie mother shared her love of interacting with the created spaces in nature and even getting outdoors appreciatively on day hikes, in parks and on strolls wherever we could, the number-three sister in our quartet has given me yet greater love and sympathy for the breadth and depth of possibility in all those realms of nature and more. I will never keep up with my sister’s skill and prowess when it comes to being physically ‘outdoorsy’ as athlete, gardener or explorer, but every time I step out any door into the untrammeled world, I do and will see much of it as a living bouquet paying tribute in return to one of nature’s loveliest flowers.Happy birthday, my dear sister, and I send you these little pictures and words in token of my love that spans from your first blooming in the world to the end of my seasons.
* You may think I’m warming up for my big Christmas caroling solo, but I’m not planning to torture anyone with that, just rejoicing in the anniversary of my #1 sibling’s birth. Happy Birthday, big sister!
For starters, there’s the plain friendship and sisterly guidance that have kept me centered, contented and with my head above water and showed me wonderfully how a life of excellence could be lived. There’s your being a fabulous traveling companion throughout not only life but also the world, from our expedition to Europe during our college days to places in the US as exotic as any overseas, and of course in our own hometown. There’s the delight of daily conversation, movie-watching, book-critiquing, dining out, opera-going, and many other kinds of adventures or occasionally misadventures, not all of the latter strictly of my own making, but some of them weirdly wonderful, hilarious and memorable all the same.
Now that I, along with flocks of cormorants this winter, have come to roost in Texas, it’s a long way from where you live and I don’t get to see you and give you squishy, ridiculously big hugs to celebrate the day, so I’ll greet you via phone, email, and blog. I’ll wish you a day of great happiness and many, many more to come. And I’ll thank you for all of the loveliness you’ve brought, and continue to bring, to my life.
This year especially, your birthday is not only a most wonderful time, but truly THE most wonderful time. Your birthday is clearly the first day of the rest of our lives for everybody, since apparently the world did not end. So glad the Mayans‘ message was just misread by all the doomsayers, because I look forward to a marvelous 2013 enjoying the marvelous wonderfulness that is my older sister–and many more such years ahead.
Some years ago on this very date there was a shift in the universe. It wasn’t exactly an unexpected one, in the sense that it had been foreseen for about nine months, but surely its full grandeur could not have been predicted. And not everyone on earth knew right away what a wonder had occurred, because the wild and wonderful event in question was the birth of my third sister.
While she was, like the others–I can’t speak for Big Sister‘s first two years except upon having studied pictures of her effortlessly spectacular adorableness before my own appearance in this plane of existence–charming, pretty and charismatic from the start, there was no way of knowing in advance just how fabulous she would prove to be. That’s the thing about siblings: they are inherently outliers to our frame of reference until their influence on our lives appears in real time. And like our two other sisters, the youngest was her own brand of greatness from the start.
What we quickly learned was that she had a uniquely clever and witty point of view and was rather fearless about besting her trio of big sisters in many a moment simply by sitting back and watching our various adventures, figuring out where we might have gone a bit astray with them, and powering on ahead when her turn came. This was perhaps most evident to the rest of us when she would check in with our parents on whether a particular action of any of ours that seemed just a little outrageous was in fact worthy of our getting in trouble over, and if not, then couldn’t she do it, too? [I am not entirely certain that she wasn't occasionally disappointed when we weren't in trouble for the activity in question, but that's a topic for another day.]
And Little Sister wasn’t very old at all when some wise guy quizzed all of us girls on our life’s plans. What did we intend to be or do when we grew up? Undoubtedly he was looking for some nice, pat conventional answer like Teacher or Nurse or some superlative man’s nice little wife, but my littlest sister’s response was unhesitatingly ‘Amazing but true!’ We did not quite grasp at the time that this was indeed both a plan and a vocation, but by cracky, she turned out to have gotten it exactly right. In all of the years since, she has been and done many things, accomplished a tremendous amount, continued to be charming and beautiful and charismatic, and absolutely has embodied a life’s saga that despite being utterly Amazing is still entirely True. We can all vouch for both aspects.
She has been, in various turns, an outstanding student, a fine violinist, and an intrepid traveler; all three of my sisters studied and/or worked overseas at college age, and this youngest met and married our superlative brother-in-law while doing so and has now lived longer in Norway than she did in the US. She speaks Norwegian not just like a good student of the language or even like a person whose lineage encouraged her to hone it to refinement but like a native-born speaker, which prompted one of her nephews in his youth to proclaim her the Smartest Sister in our family. Since I happen to think each of my sisters the Smartest One as well as the Most Fabulous (and if you can’t do that kind of math, refer back to my post on Auntie Ingeborg’s science of favorites) I wouldn’t disagree with that assessment. My sister has been an administrator, translator, friend, daughter, wife and mother, and much more. She has navigated the waters of an adventure-filled life with both nerve and verve and I still marvel at her excellence every day.
So, on this anniversary of that auspicious occasion whereon she first graced us with her presence, I can say as I always have and always will that her arrival completed the set of our family in ways that we could never have expected or would have dared to wish, and filled any empty spaces, even where we didn’t know they’d existed, with a rare form of love and happiness. I thank her for this gift of herself. And I wish for her many, many more years of being as Amazing as ever!
It’s a beautiful day today.
It’s been raining cats, dogs, longhorn cattle and armadillos all night long in the north of Texas, decorated with streaky lightning and accompanied by the timpani of repeated rolls and crashes of thunder, and the front yard is now a series of canals and minor swamps, the back patio steps a reflecting pool high as my ankles. The grey felt of the sky remained uninterrupted in its scowl from imperceptible dawn to murky dusk, and the low-hanging clouds coughed out leftovers from the night’s storms at intervals all the while. And it’s a beautiful day.
It’s my sister’s birthday. She who came next in line after me among the four woman-children born to my parents is now a year older by our reckoning and all the more beloved as each year passes. It should be no surprise that she is to me still something of a mystery and decidedly a treasure, the first of my younger sisters to be subjected to my admittedly unskilled ministrations in my first job as Big Sister, who (thankfully) proved far too strong to quail at them and yet somehow still likes me.
It can’t have been easy for her. I will never claim to have been a particularly dandy specimen of a sister to any of them, but since I was sometimes the babysitter-designate and often the closest to hand when this little one was to be led or tended, she probably bore the worst of it. That she was born beautiful, a dainty doll of a creature–despite my fond declaration of “Oh, look at the ugly little thing!” when faced with her fresh out of the delivery room where, to my childish surprise, she turned out not to look like a six-month-old cooing and coiffed infant–must have perplexed me, since I was already old enough to notice that everyone unavoidably fawned over the pretty baby and we old, used up grade-schoolers were dull goods by then.
That she quickly proved to be clever, bright, charming and unreasonably likeable, even by her sisters, could have been an annoyance. That she had interests and intelligence and exponentially increasing skills in areas that to this day remain closed doors to my would-be prying mind (have I mentioned math lately? Sports?? ) could have been supremely irritating and possibly deserving of sisterly sabotage. That she did all of this and much more while remaining cheery and likeable could have simply driven us all over the cliff.
But aside from the inevitable struggles of a girl who discovered she was not only wise and talented and admired, but in extraordinarily different ways from the rest of us and who was additionally a frightful perfectionist and self-critic, she had the Secret Weapon few can wield: she was, and is, a bringer of light.
There are certain people who brighten the room merely by vacating it, and then there are those special, miraculous few who can do the reverse magic. My sister is one of the latter rare creatures. I have often thought that it is no coincidence that from when she was quite tiny her favorite color was yellow. The color we associate with sunshine and happiness and precious gold. She is a ray of human light and when I think of how fortunate I am to have three incredibly dear sisters and among them, this incandescent bit of sweetness, I am suffused with sunlight myself.
Happy birthday, dear Sister, and long may you shine. You are a gift and a golden treasure, and loved more deeply than a few words can ever say.
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!