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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Ocean, Sunday, Sister

A black bird with yellow eyes hopped towards my foot, screeching like a toy shaken too hard. It pecked at a bit of pastry on the ground. A white terrier lunged at it from somewhere and barked gleefully. Children screamed; a very young baby with his head lolling yelped as his brother grabbed his little fat hand and shook it. In the distance, past the clamor of people's voices, past the roar of the highway, the ocean glimmered, calm and endless and blue.

"They do have soy lattes," my sister said, carrying two paper cups of coffee to the table I'd claimed and guarded while she stood in line. She sat down and clipped a laminated order number in the metal stand on the table. "So," she said, "tell me what's new." My little sister, not little any more, sat across from me dressed in a smart white jacket, her short curly hair framing her face. She looked at me sharply, smiling, with her almond-shaped and beautifully made-up eyes.

I still have a hard time taking in the fact that we are both adults, that finally, even though we are so different, we get along, can have a peaceful, deep, funny conversation on a Sunday morning over brunch. We butted heads on everything when we were growing up. I remember wanting desperately to hit her when she annoyed me. I remember being sad that she didn't like me, that she despised my bookishness, my lack of friends, my priggishness. I remember wondering, helplessly, how two people, two girls who share so much of their genes and have grown in the same household, can have so few things in common.

I appreciate now the many ways in which she is different from me. I'm relieved to see how fiercely she stands up for herself, how she doesn't take any crap from anyone, calls people's bluff, tells it like it is. I am not in the least afraid for her. I know then when life hurts her she won't slink into a corner to lick her wounds, like I do, but will get up off the ground and fight back to the death. I'm so happy that seh's successful, that she has accomplished things that I haven't been able to. When we were growing up I was the star of the family because I was obedient and good in school; she was a rebel. Now she is the star of the family: she's in graduate school, getting an MBA, and has an extremely well-paying job. From the sidelines I watch her bask in the glow of my parents' approval and of my pride in her success. And I am honestly and deeply happy for her.

We can talk about everything now without getting exasperated at each other. I've grown comfortable to tell her about my writing; we rant about our parents; she tells me about her fear of standing still, of being alone with herself. We connect; and I feel that the love we owe each other because we are sisters is turning slowly into love that we offer each other freely, because we each finally understand who the other is, how she can change and how she cannot, and can love what is there rather than what we wish was there. Oh, it isn't an easy thing. She still rolls her eyes at my awkward attempts to avoid talking about sex; I still balk at how confrontational she can be. But more often than not we end up having a good laugh together at our idiosyncrasies. After my husband, only my sister can make me burst out into a great belly laugh.


Blogger Jonathan K. Cohen said...

I understand. I was the "good kid" growing up, because I was good at school. Then, my brother got a very high-paying job, and now he's the successful one.

I wish that I had as good an attitude about my ironic reversal of fortune as you do about yours. I'm not jealous of my brother -- he flies more miles every year than anyone should -- but I wish I had amounted to more.

March 07, 2006  

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