Here are my first memories of my sisters.
My newborn sister Jenny is brought home from the hospital, three days after my birthday. I am excited, suspicious, eager, and in my curiosity, poke her in the eye, provoking a banshee shriek that does not stop. This sets the tone for all of our interactions for the rest of our lives, including adulthood, where we routinely bicker over the remote control and create pillow barriers on the couch at home, creating our separate but equal spaces.
When my mother runs out to the grocery store one summer, I am left at home with all three of my sisters. I place the youngest, Shaina, on the couch, bolstering her with pillows so she doesn’t fall, and peek in on Tessa, second youngest, sleeping furiously, the blankets thrown off her body. As I’m smoothing back her hair, I hear a thump, followed by a wail. Shaina has rolled off the couch, and is sobbing, red-faced and angry. Terrified that she is damaged beyond repair, I proffer her, red-faced and yelling, to my neighbor for examination, stuttering about the soft spot on her head, scared to tears that she has been hurt.
In the summers, when we visit my mother in California, Jenny and I play games with our younger sisters. Setting the table, a task that both of us despised, turned into a game, with Tessa and Shaina racing to finish. Shaina, never liked being alone, so I would sit in the bathroom and read while she took a bath. “Megan!” she’d yell as I walked to the other room. “Where are you going?” “I’m right here,” I’d respond. “I’m not going anywhere.”
As we got older, our relationship to each other ebbed and flowed. As teenagers, we were all insufferable. Pouty, snarling little trolls, slumping around our various homes, snapping at each other and getting into screaming matches over the littlest things, my sisters and I were self-contained nightmares, driving each other and our respective parents crazy. One by one, we each fled, heading to different cities to start our lives. I moved to the West Coast after college, and watched as one by one, each sister picked up her things and ran clear across the country to New York. For a few years, I was the last holdout, slightly jealous as they told me about monthly dinners, hanging out, seeing each other. I’d get phone calls or texts from them, all together, all happy.
When I finally moved to the same city as my sisters, something clicked, and I understood that it would now be very hard to leave. There is a certain alchemy to my relationship with my sisters — we are all very different, yet, when we are together, we revert immediately to our old roles of older and younger, 2 pairs of sisters, matched like salt and pepper shakers.
Later, after the summer is near its end, my sisters and I will get a tattoo, finally permanently marking our allegiance to each other. It will say “that’s my sister,” a phrase that we invoke like an incantation in bars, on the street, to strangers. Once Tessa yelled it at a cab driver. It’s our automatic defense when a stranger gets fresh, or a point of pride when one of us is succeeding. It brings us together. It makes us one.
The best part of being the oldest is that I control the remote. I’ll be sitting down with each of my sisters and watchingTia & Tamera Sundays at 8/7 C, only on the Style Network.