So as I write this I’ve learned there is something called National Sibling Day. (Another Hallmark-created holiday, I suspect.) I have two sisters, both younger than me, who are both very much the same and totally different. We all share the same DNA, from the Burke and Gilbride and Hughes families.
We often talk about how, when we were young, we didn’t realize we were poor because we had so much love and fun and excitement in our lives. Our parents took us to church carnivals and the New York World’s Fair. We spent almost every weekend at my aunt’s house in Levittown. She had – what was to us – a huge house with a big back yard and a tiny little pool she had bought so the three of us could swim. She bought a color television (which was a novelty in those days) so we could watch the Wonderful World of Disney in color. We shared glasses of orange juice and buttered rolls on Sunday morning after church. And we had the best time, never realizing that we went there every weekend not only so my darling Dad could help her (a widow) with mowing the grass and repairs around the house but so my parents had a place to take us that was fun and cost no money. And it worked because those weekends are a defining memory in my childhood and I feel certain they are for my sisters as well.
My sister, Bridget, is the ultimate lover of animals and has been a great mom to her many dogs over the years. She was a year behind me in high school and we were both on the same bowling team. Not only were we equally terrible at bowling but we were always the last team to leave the bowling alley on Friday night because we had spent far too much time having fun and fooling around and eating french fries and watching my sister send the bowling ball down the alley by pushing it with her nose. Like me, her closest friend is one from high school and you can’t put a value on how important it is when you know someone who shares so much of your life history. She is smart and has a wicked sense of humor. One of the nicest things she ever did was to throw a 60th surprise birthday party for her husband, Jimmy. They were high school sweethearts who had ended up married to other people and then reconnected again later in life and got married at the glorious Paris Hotel in Vegas. Jimmy had never had a birthday party in his whole life and she got all his friends from the old neighborhood and all our relatives together to celebrate his birthday. It was a great and loving gift that she gave him that day.
My sister, Barbara, has worn many hats in her life. She is a baker extraordinaire (and if you’re in the mood for the best chocolate chip cookies you’ve ever had, visit her online cookie store My Kids’ Cookies and feast your eyes on all she can bake). Although she lives with her husband and two kids on the other side of the country, she comes back to visit all the time and is a whirlwind of activity any time she’s here and just about wears all of us out. She’s got a perfect eye when it comes to designing a home and any time she gives you a suggestion (always prefaced with “This is what you’re going to do”, a line that we all both take very seriously and tease her about all the time) about how to improve your house or your work or your life in general, she’s right. One very early morning I was having a panic attack and mistakenly dialed her (at 6:00 am her time) instead of my great kid and she stayed on the phone with me and talked me through it. She is generous to a fault and has stepped up and helped me solve problems and resolve dilemmas and move forward when I needed someone to help me get my life back on track.
So many people don’t have siblings (my great kid among them) or have lost their siblings over the years. The memories you share with the people you have known longer in life than any others are the memories that you carry in your heart. My parents raised us to be strong and kind women. I hope they’re proud of the job they did.