The Importance of Sisters

Almost five months post move and I can begin to discern the contours of what life will look like going forward.  There is the familiar stuff, like the busy-ness of work and school and all the kids’ activities – because, after all, we didn’t die, we just moved out of the big city.  These things, as always, provide the core of our day-to-day lives, and they have fallen into place quickly (and eaten up a lot of my blogging time!).

Other things are new – like being able to throw our canoe on the roof of the car and be lakeside in 15 minutes.  Or running into pretty much the same people with every new activity we get involved in, and realizing it’s because the town is just that small.  Or snow before Hallowe’en.  Or finding elk tracks in the snow right around the corner from our house, and then later meeting the elk who made the tracks, and a few of his buddies, standing in the road while I’m on my way to get groceries.

Elk tracks

This sort of thing definitely did not happen back in Montreal.

Another thing that didn’t happen often back in Montreal was getting to see my sister.  One of the very best consequences of moving is that I now live close to her.  I use “close” in a relative sense – she is still three hours away by car, but then again, she used to be three provinces away, so the improvement is exponential.  Plus, the three hours does not seem like it will be an obstacle – we have already seen her five times (yes, five) since we got here, and all indications are that the trend will continue.

To know how special this is, you have to realize how long it has been in coming.  The last time my sister and I lived in the same province was more than 20 years ago, when we were both still in high school.  Back then, we had spats like all siblings, but mostly we liked each other pretty well.  At the same time, though, we were teenagers, so (surprise!) maturity was sometimes lacking – on my part as much as hers, even though I am four years older.  Looking back, I would have to say that our closeness was a kind of unspoken, nebulous thing – there all the time, but only occasionally crystallizing into something more tangible, and probably half scaring us when it did.

At least, that’s how it strikes me.  My sister, who is a kinesiologist and not a literature graduate or a silver-tongued lawyer, may have a much less airy-fairy take on these things.

Either way, the point is that although we were close, it was in a youthful, unevolved kind of way.  Because we were youthful and unevolved ourselves.  And when I left to start university, I must admit that I was so eager to get out into the great big world that I left without really looking back.  My sister, in time, left home and went her own way too, and although we have a good relationship, opportunities for getting a little clarity on that nebulous closeness thing have been rather few and far between.

So now here we are, twenty-some years down the road, and much, of course, has changed.  Most pertinently, we are both fully and properly adults, with husbands, kids, mortgages and grey-covering dye-jobs to prove it (it’s true, I am not a natural blonde).  Presumably, we have both matured.  I’m sure our relationship has too, though the truth of that will show up over time as we get to talking more and more in person about the kind of stuff that doesn’t tend to come up so much when you talk over the phone.

Because the reality is– and I’m seeing this clearly as I spend time with her now – there is just no substitute for time together.  Twenty years without seeing each other very often means that what we really know about each other has more to do with who we used to be than with who we are now.  We both know the facts of each others’ adult lives – where we’ve gone, what we’ve done, who’s been with us while we’ve done it – but there is another level of knowing a person, beyond the facts, that is harder to develop without time together.  It’s a sensory thing – a felt understanding – that feeds on physical proximity.

My sister and I now have a chance to pick up where we left off twenty years ago and develop more of that felt understanding.  Hopefully (surely!), we are evolved enough to be more conscious and unbefuddled about things than we were as teenagers.

There is a lot we can learn from each other, about the hows and whys of choices we have each made and the directions we have taken.  For instance, I have placed a lot of focus on work and career, while my sister chose to leave practice as a kinesiologist to redirect her energy to home and family.  In a way, this is not a surprise, because it was always clear my sister had more homemaker instincts than I did (I have many times been thankful to live in a time when a woman’s worth need not be measured by the quality of her embroidery or the flakiness of her pie crust).  I think we are both good at what we do, and largely satisfied with our choices, and that by itself is a meaningful topic for conversation.

Another thing that has happened in the last twenty years is that my sister has become the superior athlete out of the two of us.  This was not the case when we were kids, when I tended to be the one playing almost every sport going, while my sister had more interest in music and art and just being with friends.  Today, I still play some sports in a leisurely, recreational kind of way; my sister, though, has run marathons and triathlons and recently completed a 100 mile bike ride (a “century”, as it’s called) through the Rocky Mountains, probably without even breathing that hard.  She is strong.  She trains almost every day, and could leave me eating dust, hands down, no contest.  Who saw this coming?  Maybe she did.  Maybe she knew where she was going all along.

But I think most of all what we have to talk about and feel our way through is our families – the new ones we have created with our husbands and children.  Because this is something that, as teenagers, we could not possibly have known anything about, and it is the thing most fundamental to who we have each become.  So naturally, this is fertile ground.  Plus, it happens that our families are great and we are lucky to have them, so how could we help but talk about them?

So we will see how it goes.  We will see whether geographical closeness, so long in coming, can contribute to closeness of another kind.

5 Responses to The Importance of Sisters

  1. Hi Linda,
    So good to read about how you’re settling in the new digs and so touching to read about your new found relationship with your sister :-) I look forward to more posts!!
    Big hugs to you and the famiglia,

  2. Linda,
    How did you know? You put into words what my sister and I experienced. We still live far apart, but now a daughter bridges the gap – emotional and geographic. The only difference? My sister has always been the better athlete of the two of us. By far. The hope lingers that one day we will be geographically closer.

    • Hi Lynn, I’m glad this story resonated for you. I suspect that the experience of diminished closeness with siblings may be experienced by many – how many families don’t have someone living far away? Of course, we are all supposed to grow up and live our own, independent lives, so in part this is by design. Perhaps the separate experiences my sister and I have had in the past 20 years will enrich our relationship in a way that would not have been possible otherwise.

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