ON BEING A SISTER

For Alicia

The other day my sister drove for over four hours to treat me to a movie and when it was over she drove the four hours back home. I didn’t ask her to. She just did it and it was one of the kindest, most genuine things anyone has ever done for me.

I’m sure she had better things to do with her Saturday. My sister: the mother, attorney, poet, singer. In spite of all the things she could have been doing, she chose me by rising early, pointing her car toward my house, and driving until she could see me peaking through my front window.

She came because she wanted to lay her eyes on me, just to be sure I was okay. But not just that. She took time to prepare lunch and dinner and lunch and dinner and lunch and dinner, packing plates and containers that would feed me for the next few days.

I guess she wanted me to eat.

Image captured by Christina Afrique

We all remember sisterly scenes like those in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, where sisters loved each other deeply, willingly, and painfully, no matter what.

Growing up, my sister and I were nothing like that. We didn’t always get along so well. Yes, we have memories of good times. Of course we shared a room, parents, childhood, and even an odd sense of humor, but we did so kind of obligatorily, out of necessity, surviving in a prisoners-in-the-same-cell kind of way. For that reason, sisterhood always felt forced to me.

As the older sister, I was expected to parent her in a way. In a sense, my mother was a non-traditional woman. She was a business owner at a time when most women stayed at home or worked part-time so the house and kids would still be taken care of. My mother had stuff to do and because of that I did, too. My responsibility included having to drag my little sister along everywhere I went. It all seemed like such a burden to me. I know that sounds bad and selfish and it is, but it’s still true.

I guess I didn’t realize that life as my little sister wasn’t easy. I’m sure she didn’t want to merely be a tag-along, a chore. At times, I was downright mean to her — the name calling, the angry diatribes I poured over her day-in and day-out. I’m sure she wanted her own circle of friends and her own activities because, in a way, my friends had to be her friends and we both hated that.

Growing up in a rough city and in an even rougher neighborhood, I did my best to protect her from the nasty boys and the mean girls, forced to do for her what no one ever really did for me.

I never wanted to have to teach her about womanhood and sexuality. That’s the kind of thing a big sister is supposed to do, but I still hadn’t and couldn’t embrace my own. I was so afraid of that responsibility, afraid of what could happen if I didn’t do it right for me and for her.

At some point that all changed. Maybe womanhood kicked in and made me know that I’d need my sister to live this life.

One night I got a call. It was her. She sounded so sullen and low as she sobbed.

“I feel so sad,” she wept.

I was afraid. Right then, with my heart beating fast, I jumped in my car and headed toward her small town in Ohio, driving until I got to her — my little sister. As soon as I got there, we packed her bag and I drove her back to my apartment in Indiana. She stayed just a few days until she could laugh again, proof that the depression had passed and I knew that everything was going to be alright.

I remember when she, a young woman, called and told me she was pregnant. The call was more like a confession, penance even. My little sister sounded so worried and afraid, everything a pregnant woman shouldn’t be as her body formed and nurtured a new life. In that moment, I felt I wanted to relieve her of her burden. I wanted her to bubble over with the joy of a mother goddess, knowing in my heart she was doing something that I hadn’t done and would probably never do. I was so happy for her and myself. It was like I could feel the baby leaping in my own womb. During the pregnancy, I was vigilant from long distance. I wanted to be sure she was eating all the right stuff, reading all the right scriptures, and picking only the right names for our baby.

Image captured by Christina Afrique

My sister went into labor twice.

I made both trips, rushing to her, scared, but excited to witness the birth of our baby. The actual birth was so intense that I felt I was the one in labor. It hurt me to hear her moan with the waves of pain accompanying each contraction. I was so proud of her though. In the moment, I felt she was more of a woman than I could ever be. After a full day of breathing, monitoring, and a whole lot of fussing, they decided to do a C-section because she was tired and the baby was beginning to show signs of distress. I paced and waited until the doctor came out with the bundle of baby that was my beautiful niece, DiAriyanne Sebri, “Ti-Ti’s pooh.”

These days, it seems like the roles have been reversed.

No longer my little sister, just younger, she rushes to me whenever she feels she should. Texting scriptures and songs that will ease my soul whenever she senses I am feeling low. My own personal attorney, watching vigilantly that I might always be free, mind, body, and spirit. I thank God for her and I thank God for the life I only get to live because I have a sister.

Yes, we were born sisters by blood, but now we’re sisters by choice.


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