Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mine! Thoughts on Sisters by Katie Bickell

Katie Bickell's touching vignette of family life.

Six adorable children and I sat around the table when our conversation turned to "the baby in my belly." I had recently had an ultrasound, so I brought a picture to show the gang while we ate.

"This is little Baby Chloe, kids. The baby in my tummy is a little girl. Here's her face, and..." I started.

"NOOOO MOM! I want to do it!" interrupted my two year old daughter Caily. Of course she does, I thought. Caily wants, needs, to do everything "all by herself." Of course she wants to show her friends a picture of her little sister.

Caily took the picture and rounded the table, showing each child, one by one. "Look Jake, Here's Baby Chloe's arm. It's little! Hehehe, Jorja! See Chloe's bum?" She had a captive audience, the kids engrossed, and I was impressed by Caily's attention to the details of the fuzzy picture, and by how articulately she described Chloe.

Then I noticed the ketchup, everywhere: on fingers, faces, table and shirts. We were eating hot dogs that day, and each child is under six - you get the picture. Sticky, red hands grabbed at the photo, some dirty mouths were even kissing it.

"Umm," my control freak-self started, "it's time to put the photo away now everyone. Let's finish eating."

I went to take the paper from Caily when she shrieked, "Nooooo! It's MINE!" and fled the kitchen, slamming the door of her bedroom.

I followed her, trying to pull the wrinkled, wet photo from her hands, geez this kid is strong. "No Caily! It's MINE! MY photo!" I paid $5 for that! That's MY baby! At a standoff, we stood with identical dirty looks on our faces, challenging each other.

Then I remembered. Caily is two. I am twenty-five. It is no longer acceptable for one of us to use the phrase, "IT'S MINE!"

I softened and relented. "Fine, you can hold the photo while you eat. Back to the table, Missus."

As I watched the children finish lunch, it hit me. That photo really is, by rights, Caily's. Sure Chloe is MY daughter, but she's Caily's sister. God willing, Caily's going to know her a lot better, and a lot longer, than I will.

Chloe will be the shadow in all of Caily's childhood memories; Chloe will hear about her crushes and secrets long before I do. The girls will share a room, dreams, clothes, arguments: the narrative of their childhood. They will be to each other the only other person who can truly understand how weird their parents are. Each are, to the other, the best gift that we could give "our girls." They will still have each other after they have lost us; with each other, we will never seem so far away.

Naturally, memories of my own sister, only 16 months younger than me, drifted through my mind:

Our twin beds in our shared bedroom; at times one of us would have drawn a line of masking tape through the room, "This is MY side; stay on your own!" Other times, we would ask each other before drifting to sleep, "Let's meet in a dream OK? What should we dream about?"

My sister's red hair in the sunlight, a halo. Her soft, brown, still-babyish but skinned knees in the summertime.

Begging her to please not tell Mom and Dad when I accidentally broke her hand. I'm sorry Kim! I'm sorry!

Laying together on a piece of plywood put over a small stream in our backyard, imagining that we were woodland fairies.

This is going to be such a wonderful adventure for you Caily baby.

"You can keep your photo Caily."

That nap time, my eldest daughter slept with Baby Chloe curled tight in the palm of her sweaty/sweet two year old hand. Our girls.

5 comments:

  1. Very sweet story! Almost sounds if the author might be speaking from experience ;-)

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  2. Love this :). Amazing writing. Could read this author for days on end!

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  3. I wish my sister and I had a relationship like that!

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  4. Very nicely done, I loved how she realized how important this baby will be to her daughter and the descriptions and writing were beautiful and moving.

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  5. Love how she carves a story out of these memories. Masterful.

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