My sister is having a big birthday today. It is funny when you think back to when you were a kid, milestone birthdays really mattered. When you turned 16, 18, 21, 30, 40. They do matter, and maybe they always will, but sometimes life just happens and a birthday is just another day. Maybe I feel that way because growing up birthdays and holidays were often a non-event in my life. Real life shit was happening and was often way more important than getting one year older. Due to that fact, I do not put much stock in Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween and many other holidays. Often I think we wait for these Hallmark holidays and take those moments to spend time with our family, buy them gifts, or even to pay attention to them. Rather than wait for those dates on the calendar, why not make them important all the rest of the days of the year?
I digress. It is my sister’s birthday. I told you all that back story to say that while she might have too much happening in her life to worry about her birthday I want to share what she means to me.
We have been through a lot together. I will not go into detail, but we had to grow up early and fast, and that does something to a person. My sister spent her teens taking care of me and my mother, and holding my father up in life. She spent a good part of high school never sleeping through the night because my mother needed her (and I was too heavy a sleeper to know otherwise). In so many ways she was a mother before she left high school without ever giving birth. There were times during that period when we fought horribly with each other. Each trying to find our own place in a world where the adults in our life were dropping like flies. Both badly just wanting to be loved, to be held, and to know that somehow everything would turn out okay. That we would be okay. No one was there to tell us that, we only had each other.
As each adult we took care of passed away and our own adult lives began to take shape, I watched my sister become a child again (in a good way). She adventured down many different life courses learning and charting her way. Sometimes creative, others financial, and others to find the stability we did not have for many years. She continues down that path, always curious for a new and engaging endeavor, never willing to stay in something that did not nourish her soul. In addition to all her travels and professional explorations, she has explored writing personally and professionally, taught herself how to cook (we did not learn from our mother, and I still have not learned), and now she has paved the way into motherhood.
I have loved watching her this past year as a new mother. I see that she wants 100 times more for Charlie than she ever had (and I want that for Charlie too). While she is a quiet, gentle mother she is also a rock for her. In some ways I see my mom’s quiet strength come through, always wanting to teach us and understand the context behind something. I know that she will always encourage Charlie to try new adventures, be okay with her being as Punky Brewster as she wants, while also being sure she knows she is loved. As our lives have ebbed and flowed from childhood through college to adulthood, Charlie has helped to bring my sister and I even closer and make our sisterhood even stronger. Wanting to protect a little one makes love fierce and strong, and reminds you of all you already have in life.
Happy Birthday, Penelope. You are loved, everything will be okay, and I am always here.