On Delayed Revelation and Sisterhood

I have moments of delayed revelation.  Something happens and it sticks in my head, rolling around, gathering shape and meaning until I’m ready to understand.  I had one of those moments the other day, on Mouse’s birthday.  It wasn’t until we went to a wedding that the entire moment really revealed itself to me.  Toy trucks, shots with bartenders, wedding speeches, and the bond of sisterhood.  It’ll make sense, I promise.

We went to the California Academy of Sciences for Mouse’s birthday.  The girls watched butterflies, searched for fish, and learned about earthquakes.  LP alternated between sleeping on my back and eating my hair.  It was dandy.  After lunch we went out to a little grassy area behind the restaurant so the girls could run around.  They headed for two seal statues, sat on them, and promptly started arguing.  Something about naming one of the seals “Baby Bird” or “Baby Turtle”.  It was heated.  De-sistering was threatened.

All of a sudden a little boy walked up to the seal.  He parked himself in front of Mouse.  Staring.  It was obvious he wanted to connect with her, but didn’t know how.  No time for sister fights now.

He went forward, Mouse went backward.  Forward.  Backward.  Then he offered Mouse his toy truck.  Now, if I know anything about kids, I know that this is a serious gesture.  No dice.  Still, he kept creeping on her until she nearly fell into the wood chips.  Mouse was, as is typical in these situations, at a loss.  Chipmunk dutifully came to her aid and broke the news to the guy:

“She doesn’t weally like you, okaaay?”

Oh, no, my heart.  Crush.  Splat.

I got up and had an immediate conversation with both girls about kindness and diplomacy.  Apologies were made, boundaries negotiated, space offered.  In the end, they did play together, although the girls didn’t break sister ranks.  They were playing with him.

Then came the flash of my girls in the future.  Older Mouse and Older Chipmunk, under-aged, yet at some bar somewhere, arguing, when someone approaches.

I could see it too well.  Mouse will be anxious about her fake ID (procured, likely, by Chipmunk).  Chipmunk has probably convinced her sister that they’d only have one drink and go home, only to end up doing shots with the bartender.  Mouse will attract someone’s attention, but be too tongue-tied and uncomfortable with the spectacle to reclaim her space.  Chipmunk, always willing to butt in, delivers the devastating line.  She’s just not that into you.

Don’t laugh at me.

Mouse and Chipmunk are only two-and-a-half years apart, and it is fascinating to watch them be sisters.  Right now, they are with each other nearly every hour of every day.  Lately, they’ve even taken to sleeping in the same bed together.  I can see how this closeness knits them together in a way that I probably will never understand.  My brother is eleven years younger than I am and my sister died as a very young baby.  I love my brother and we have a good relationship that is unique due to our age difference, but in many ways, we grew up as two only-children.

Latke’s cousin got married this past weekend.  When the bride’s younger sister got up and made her speech, I couldn’t help but think of my little girls who would one day be so big.

Little Sister talked about knowing Big Sister in an intimate, almost secret way. She, of course, talked about good secrets—an intuitive kind of love that held them together, even as they lived in opposite parts of the country.  Those secrets would be (and were meant to be) shared, as her sister embarked on a new life with her husband.  It was a wedding speech, after all, and a beautiful one at that.

Maybe because Latke’s extended family was there, I thought about sibling relationships quite a bit this weekend.  Latke’s mom has two sisters, and having lost my sister at a very young age, I’ve often wondered about what it would be to grow up with so much… sisterness.  Watching my girls grow into themselves, I can see how that sister relationship can be full of secrets.  Beautiful, happy secrets, and some vulnerable, troubled secrets.  Secrets that they’ll one day share with other close friends, partners, maybe even my grandchildren.

Chipmunk already has some kind of intuition about why her sister clams up in front of others.  Mouse is calming and reassuring for her sister who tends towards the fiery, rash side of things.  When they’re not bickering, they laugh together in an easy, synchronous way.  I imagine that they’ll know each other the same way we know our hearts beat, just by feeling.

So now, Chipmunk will break hearts for her sister at the playground.  Whatever their arguments are, I hope they’ll be dropped when one needs the other’s support.  Maybe in a couple of decades, one will decide to settle down, and the other will talk about their intuitive love for each other—broken and mended hearts, secrets meant to be shared, and easy laughter.

I’m sure none of it will turn out as I expect.  As their mother, I hope to have the privilege of watching it all, no matter what.

My silly girls.

p.s. If you are reading this, Mouse and Chipmunk, this is NO WAY condones under-aged drinking.  I’m watching you.

33 Comments on “On Delayed Revelation and Sisterhood”

  1. helen1950 says:

    again with the fast forward experience but with different dynamics; Boy and girl (40 and 41) have, like you observed the elder of the two has always looked after her little brother. The child 16 years later is looked over in quite different ways by her siblings. xxx

    • jisun says:

      I can imagine the difference. Probably in the way I look after my brother is unlike how Mouse might ever be to her younger siblings, since they are so much closer in age. I do hope I end up in your position as a grandmother, it must be beautiful and amazing to see. :)

  2. Another fantastic story! I love your sweet, engaging and honest style…and your stories make me smile! Thanks so much for sharing :-)

  3. AK says:

    As one of Latke’s aunties I can say that having two sisters is a tremendous blessing. I was the intrusive, often mean older sister when we were children, but as adults, I treasure each of my sisters for what we are to each other and for the wonderful women they are as individuals. With my own children (now in their 40s), it was always the feisty younger sister protecting and defending her older brother. Family dynamics are fascinating, magic and always evolving. It’s fun to watch the little taters, and I can’t even imagine their adult future. It will be uniquely theirs.

  4. panikikubik says:

    A wonderful post :-). Thank you for sharing.

  5. Liz Tree says:

    You are so awesome and a great post!!! Love it She does not like you……..will be awesome when they are teens as many girls can not say that. Yea for strong girls and great moms like you. And I feel for the little boy too offering his truck That is really Sweet!

    • jisun says:

      I know, I was so heartbroken for that little boy! Thankfully his mom was pretty understanding and it worked out in the end. Thank you for the kind words! xo

  6. Lori says:

    Once again, you hit the nail on the head. My two older sisters (18 months apart) are different but like peas in a pod. I am–and always will be–the “baby” (six years apart from my next oldest sister) and will never know what that relationship’s like. How lucky your girls are to have each other!

  7. Lisa says:

    Ahhhh, very sweet. I grew up with two brothers – one 10 months older (I kid you not – I always imagine that my mother must have gotten pregnant with me the day she got the green light from her doctor at her 6-week postpartum checkup), whom I was NEVER close with, despite the closeness in age, and another two years younger whom I was very close to growing up. I longed for a sister. It’s hard to even remember why. When I was 14, my mother married her second husband, and I got a step sister as part of the deal. She was a year younger than me, and we hit it off magically and immediately. She moved in with us, and she and I became inseparable. We shared everything – I felt like I had found my other half.

    And then she moved out. Decided she wanted to go back to living with her mom. I was utterly crushed. I still remember being curled up on the living room sofa the day she left, sobbing, inconsolable. I felt like my heart had been ripped out. I grieved as if someone had died.

    We kept in touch, but eventually my mother and her father split up and gradually our connection evaporated. Sometimes I still miss that sister-relationship.

    I don’t even know where I’m going with this, except that your post brought a lot of that back for me.

    I watch my own daughters, and it’s interesting to see the alliances that form and shift. I am so glad that they have each other, though, and I hope they remain close into adulthood.

    • jisun says:

      I can see how hard that would be for a young girl to lose that kind of closeness. Even though it is the past for you, just reading about it made me wistful for you. I actually worry about whether or not my girls will stay close, because what I see now is so awesome. My mom came from a big family like yours, and I imagine that her relationships with her sisters morphed over time. Anyways. I’m glad you shared that. Childhood is so bittersweet…

  8. ajummama says:

    such a FULL piece, very thoughtfully written. can tell you that this idea of sisterhood was percolating lots and your piece sorta wrote itself. i love it when that happens as I love delayed revelations. I only have one bro three years younger than me. having just my two boys is such a different experience since I’ve only been the nunah who coddled her bro and wanted him to surpass me in every way. now here I am, trying to teach son #1, now that he is almost three, how to properly clean his ggo-choo as if *I* would know! such a treat to see their brotherhood developing now that ellis is not just a helpless little morsel, though again, how would I know how brotherhood works since mommy is a girl who tries to make girlfriends like sisters since I never had any. p.s. I do forgive you for making my uterus twinge with a craving to house a girl though i can’t imagine this body birthing one after two boys 22 months apart.

    • ajummama says:

      aigoo, so many typos. hope you got the gist of what I was saying. my eye wonky right now after vomitville with micah tonight and ellis ackin’ a fool throwing food around instead of eating like the good infant he was just a month ago.

    • /*- says:

      Haha! Well, if you’re anything like me, that twinge doesn’t really go away.

      I was totally unprepared for having a boy, I had settled on the idea that we’d probably only have girls. (No idea why, just did.) I think being an only child for so long has led me to this desire to have a family full of siblings of all combinations. Only problem is, making babies is such goddamn hard work! Then there’s the raising them…

      My mom’s family is huge and there are lots of girl cousins on that side. i just remember every time we’d go back to Korea to visit, I just worshiped the ground that those unnis walked on. Maybe that is also part of why I’ve always been so drawn to the sister relationship. I never had one myself but had that taste through my cousins.

  9. isabelvida says:

    As a sister I can say this: do not worry if there are some tense years between them. It is incredible when two sisters become engaged (or re-engage) as adults. I’m sorry to hear about your own circumstances, but how wonderful that you can relive the experience now.

    • jisun says:

      Oh, no, I’m sorry if it came across that I didn’t love my relationship with my brother! I love him dearly and our relationship is unique from the age difference in ways that I’m really grateful for. Not to mention having a young, fun uncle for the kids. :) You’re right about not worrying about tension though. Family is family and I’ll have to wait patiently for them to figure out their own relationship. :)

  10. Miriam says:

    I have such complicated feelings about sisterhood that I can’t express them in a comment :-) But your post definitely got me thinking about it… I have four older sisters. The biggest thing I see about growing up like that was how much they mothered me. Boys don’t seem wired to be nurturing like that.
    Sadly, I’m not at all close to three of my sisters, for a variety of reasons. But my sister who is closest in age to me (only 18 months apart) is almost like my twin. Even though we’re still not that “close” the way most people would be, she holds a place in my heart that no one else ever will. And if anything were to happen to me, she would be the one person I would trust to mother my kids. We’re not completely alike, but it’s like I just know her, better than anyone.
    And it’s nice to know that there is someone in the world that would do anything for you.
    My daughter doesn’t have sisters, only brothers. I don’t think it’s a good or a bad thing, it is what it is. But I do think that she and I have a slightly more sister-like relationship since she doesn’t have an actual sister. Which is kind of cool :-)

  11. Diane says:

    I could just picture that whole scenario playing out! Those girls of yours are so sweet. I always wanted a sister so I could have that bond. I love that picture of them!

  12. jessmpeters says:

    Love, love, love this post! I can just picture the scene playing out now … And later :)
    I have three older sisters and the connections with each are so different yet each with their own magic that ebb and flow as we get older… Thanks for sharing!

  13. Mardra says:

    Awesome, as always.

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