Monday, June 30, 2008

Measuring Up

I recently read guest-blogger Annette Lyon’s homage to Brillig’s treatise on the adoring younger sister, and my mind raced to my own experience, but in reverse -- that of the resentful older sister.

Earlier this morning, I read the latest from Kimberly at Temporary?Insanity -- in part, a realization that she had been comparing her wilder oldest daughter to the calmer second-born saint. And it struck me again that this sibling rivalry theme is screaming for attention (pun intended).

Measuring Up

Emily and I are exactly two years and two days apart. Frequently Mom would celebrate both our birthdays together on the day in between. (Seems like a good idea as a mom, but at the time it felt like a giant rip-off!)

My sister imitated me at everything, from coloring books to college majors. Even though her fourth-grade teacher pointedly warned her not to turn out like her big sister (true story) she kept on copying. It drove me nuts. (I now find it hilariously fitting that she actually got a part-time job in a copy shop!) The funniest part of all was that I was spunky and rebellious and she was the straight-laced, responsible one. (It’s like Beezus wanting to be Ramona the Pest. Go figure.) Anyway, I was sure Mom loved her best.

My sister was a really funny little kid. She had this wild, red curly hair, and our mom could never contain it or even get a brush through it, so she ended up just putting a headband on her most of the time. I remember when Mom and Dad would introduce us to friends, the people would say, “Look at that gorgeous redhead” and then they’d take a sidelong glance at me and add, “Hmmm...she has braces, doesn’t she?” I did not like being compared to her.

In her late teens, Emily transformed into an even-more-gorgeous swan. She decided to grow out her hair and really capitalize on it. Now she looks like a J Crew model. So. Not. Fair.

Unfortunately, I also remember how mean I was to my sister. (Probably jealous of the hair!) My earliest childhood memory is when I was just two years old and Emily was a new baby. We were at our Grandma’s house, and I couldn’t stand the way everyone was fussing over Baby Emily and no one was paying any attention to me. (I had clearly enjoyed being the center of everyone’s universe for two whole years and was reluctant to share that prized position.) It was bad enough that Mom and Dad were making such a fuss over the new baby, but now my very own special Grandma was doing it too? I was so angry and hurt, I went and crawled into Grandma’s bedroom closet. (I can still remember what it felt like groping under all those coats and dresses in the dark, like slipping through the wardrobe to Narnia -- although I came back as the evil White Witch.) I had found the perfect thing -- a sequined slipper. I sneaked back into the living room and marched right over to where Grandma was holding the newborn, and whacked poor Baby Emily on the head!

When I was several years older I remember chasing her down the hall in a fit of indignant rage. She, of course, ran into our bedroom and shut the door, and then held it shut so I couldn’t get in. Not to be outdone, I got the brilliant idea to go off in search of a ruler so I could poke her feet away from the door and let myself in. Jab-jab-jab....I kept poking and stabbing the ruler under the door. And it worked. But when she opened the door, she had all these little welts on her forehead -- it turns out she was down on all fours LOOKING UNDER THE DOOR to see if I was coming -- and I WAS ACTUALLY POKING HER IN THE HEAD! *Ooops!* [wince]

It drove me crazy how rule-bound she was. (Must have been that ruler episode! Literally had it pounded into her!) And I probably resented it all the more because that unquestioning obedience was one of the things our mom adored about her. But as we’ve gradually matured, I’ve come to completely love and admire her and actually enjoy being around her. Even the copy-cat thing worked out for the greater good. When I had to do 24 watercolor illustrations for a fragrance company in Santa Cruz, I hired my sister to do half of them. Amazingly, no one could tell who did which (but I secretly liked most of hers better than my own).

And, although we still have occasional power struggles, I think she’s finally forgiven me for all the rotten things I did when we were little. It’s funny -- she was the younger one, but somehow I was the one who needed to grow up. And she became one of my very best measuring sticks.


Brown-Eyed Girl said...

Wow! I LOVE hearing those awesome stories again! My 2 big sisters are the best! Thanks for sharing! The greatest thing is having big sisters to pave the way, but being able to be individuals and still be able to have a great relationship in adulthood as friends and sisters! How did I get so lucky?

breckster said...

I think we have found one more way that we are too a like for it to be natural, this reminded me of my own relationship with my sister just younger than me. I used to "pretend" to talk in my sleep and share the secret of how she was adopted. She was the over-obedient sister who could do no wrong, or was really good at hiding it if she did. Now, she is the only one of my sisters who calls on a weekly basis, and even suggests trying to live "near" each other.

Big D said...

Big D said: What a great thing for parents to have such talented, beautiful, and DIFFERENT daughters. I took maximum delight in all THREE. (Still do!) Only...they are all surpassing me in art, excellence, wisdom, and of I am awed by them.

Lilian said...

this post was hilarious, silly siblings. I was the oldest grandchild when my brother came along and I was upset with him for a long time.

Redi-K said...

How funny! Sorry to have caused so much grief. Perhaps if you weren't so much fun and so talented, there would be no desire to copy. It should always be looked on as a compliment if others wish to emulate or copy you, not a curse! :)Love from that dreaded red shadow.

Kimberly said...

Okay, I have to confess that I laughed out loud over the poking her in the head thing! Hee hee!

Annette Lyon said...

What a great post! (And thanks for the mention! Brillig inspires a lot of us.) I'm with Kimberly--I especially loved the ruler bit. Hahahaaa!

(And thanks for dropping by! I think I'll be visiting Target soon, per your suggestion.)

heather said...

wow, yeah I did need to read this. Don't feel like it's annoying when you suggest posts of yours! I love reading what you have to say, and sometimes really need it. Not only because of the post you commented on where I'm worrying out loud about Miles and Asher's "rivalry." But also because I have an older sister. Sometimes I don't understand why she resented/resents me, but it may just go back to the beginning....and high school, where she felt much the same as you did. Thank you!