Monday, February 26, 2007

The Leftover Crap

Growing up, my sister and I disagreed on sisterhood. She loved me while I saw her as the interloper that killed my only-child flow. Overall she was a happy kid. Mom’s little sunshine. Everyone loved her. Mom often asked me why I couldn’t be more like her instead of the mopey little goth girl I was. Indeed. I felt it was my duty to toughen her up for the cruel, cruel world I knew as envisioned by the Smiths and 9 Inch Nails. The truth was I envied her more than my angry teen self could ever articulate. She was happy about everything and everyone loved her. People never said “Shame about Ash,” the way I overheard them say about me.

The first summer I had my license the Devito/Schwarzenegger movie “Twins” came out. Mom let me borrow the car on the condition I took my little sister with me. We could therefore only see a PG movie so “Twins” it was. I don’t really remember how I felt about the film but as it turns out, it deeply affected my sister. The concept of superior genetic material being channeled into one child and not another somehow hit home.

Dinners around our table were lively with debate and spirited sarcastic banter. You had to be able to keep up. We weren’t inclined to go easy on someone with cracks in their armor. So that night when my sister, who had been conspicuously silent for a while, suddenly burst into tears it was all we could do not to jeer.

“Honey, what’s wrong? Did you burn your tongue?” Naturally, Mom was first to break into care mode.

Her big blue eyes welled up as my sister looked to me and then back to mom. “I finally get it,” she wailed. “She got it all. I’m just the leftover crap from your body.” We all froze mid-bite. My little sister had somehow equated me with Schwarzenegger and herself with Devito. While I’d always thought she was the favorite, she thought I was. It was one of those pivotal childhood moments. It was the first time I knew that she looked up to me. As one crocodile tear rolled down her rosy cheek we all took a moment to let this heartfelt revelation sink in. Then we burst into hysterical laughter.

Mom sat her down later and explained how genetics works, that she had just as many good things as I did, just different. I was in my late twenties before I realized how much her love and admiration meant to my life. I thought it was a revelation when I told her that my childhood anger towards her had just been a mask for how much I loved her but was afraid to say. “I know,” she shrugged. “I love you too.”

Over the years we’ve grown closer and closer. No longer an inconvenient interloper, she’s my best friend and the person I turn to for advice and comfort. When I want to make sure she knows I love her, I tell her she’s the best leftover crap a sister could ask for.

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