On the Day After My Sister’s Birthday

I was four years into the business of being alive when Nancy showed up. According to our parents’ report I claimed to like her, but actually felt quite a bit of resentment along with thinking she was cute. I was used to being the baby of a family with four kids, then I was not-the-baby in a family with five. I think it helped that Nancy offered a bribe on arriving, at least mom said the little stuffed bunny came from Nancy. As I grew older I began to have some doubts as to whether a new born really came bearing gifts for older siblings, but by then she was firmly entrenched. Thirty-ish years ago yesterday she changed my life by showing up, she didn’t choose to arrive or to give me a stuffed bunny, the gifts she has given me since are all her doing.

I wanted very much to be a good older sister. I wanted to be better at older-sistering than my older sister was, which in hindsight was the ultimate expression of sibling rivalry. I don’t think I really succeeded, because my strongest memories of being an older sister to Nancy in our early years do not shine the best light on me. She spent her years from three to seven with one of her front teeth gray. I’d pushed the shopping cart she was sitting in too vigorously. She smacked her mouth, killing the baby tooth. I also remember pushing her off the slide and on another occasion making her fetch and carry for me while I drew numberless pictures of horses. In the years since Nancy has been kind enough to forgive me of all of these things, also I did give her some of the horse pictures, so I wasn’t all bad.

Nancy is not my only sister, I have three. There are three brothers too, it was a large family, but of my siblings, Nancy is the one who has chosen to have a public identity on the internet. For the others, I respect their preference toward a low profile. That’s part of being family. Nancy and I have chosen similar paths. In my younger years I would have declared that she was copying me. I did declare that, often, yet none of my frustration, or deliberate attempts at redirection, prevented her from following a path uniquely her own. I think we were both in our twenties when we finally acknowledged the unspoken rivalry and laid it to rest. Nancy had sold a story to magazine, something I’d never accomplished. I’d written a story that made Nancy feel like her own were not adequate. We admitted our feelings and decided that perhaps the writer space belonged to neither of us and that we could both live there without stepping on each others toes. There was space for us both, arguing over it seemed silly when we were both in the trenches of early motherhood and needed to spend our energy supporting each other instead. It was a wonderful conversation, because rivals became unreserved allies.

All of this brings us to today, the day after Nancy’s birthday, when she lives in Germany and I live in Utah. We’re too far for me to bring her a treat or give her a hug. What I can give her instead is a blog post saying that I’m glad she’s here. I’m glad there is an internet that lets us keep in touch even half a world away, and to wish her all the best forever. (Even if the wishes are a day late.)

Happy Birthday Nancy!