We’ll always fight, but we’ll always make up as well. That’s what sisters do: we argue, we point out each other’s frailties, mistakes, and bad judgment, we flash the insecurities we’ve had since childhood, and then we come back together. Until the next time. ”
― Lisa See, Shanghai Girls
See those girls up there? That’s us — Me (the fluffy one on the left side) and my three beautiful sisters. In this picture, we are arranged by birth order, from left to right. I am the oldest in our clan, and I am not even close to being the mature one. I guess that means I am older in chronology alone. That beautiful lady next to me is Jen, or Jen-Jen, as she was known when we were little. It was even on the back of her little lavender and white ride-along toy she had as a toddler. The next beaming graduate in the picture is Becky, my sister who passed away in May. Becky was one of the middle children, silly and yet serious in her own way. I think that she and Jennifer both had a seriousness about them all through their lives because they were middle children. I was the quirky one, Jen and Becky were the serious ones, but, they still knew how to cut loose. Then comes Kimmy — the baby of the group, with her adorable pose. I really do think she is the prettiest sister I have, which sometimes makes me green with envy (I wish I was that photogenic!!)…but of course I still love her! ;)
As I get older, memories of my childhood with these wonderful women keep slipping away, and I fear that one day they will be gone. I remember how we used to sit around and sing, sometimes with mom and sometimes by ourselves, and we would record it. We even used to have a “radio show,” and my DJ name was “Flabby Tabby,” which we all still laugh about even now. Honestly, if I ever went into radio, I think that would be a great name.
Another thing I remember is that we all adored the remake of the movie Little Women, the one with Winona Ryder. It was funny, but even back then, I always likened the four of us to the March sisters, except I changed the order around a bit. Jennifer, though younger than me by four years, has always been the older, more mature sister, and my protector, so my mind always cast her as Meg. I, as a writer, of course saw myself in Jo March, while Becky was similar to Beth in her generosity and love for her family, and Kimmy was a ringer for Amy. I remember that after seeing that movie the first time in 1991, I really wanted us to organize our own little newspaper, much like the Pickwick Papers, but we never really got it off the ground.
We had a lot of ambitions back then. But, in a few years, I started going to high school and hanging out with my younger sisters less and less. When I moved away from Marion in August 1999, Jennifer was 15, Becky was 13 and Kimmy was 11. I missed the bulk of their teen years, and when I returned to Ohio for good in November 2005, they were grown women. It never felt the same as it did when we were kids, though I don’t know if it ever does. I think sisters are great because you have all of these women with different personalities who are thrust together by blood lines and a little bit of chance – women who probably would not be friends if they were not related. And yet, at least in our case, we love each other unconditionally. Do we fight? No doubt. Do we get annoyed with each other? Yep. Do we talk about each other to Momma? Oh you have no idea! But, we always come back together when we need to — when times get really hard.
It wasn’t until I sat in that hospital room with Becky seven months ago that I realize how much our lives resembled that of the March sisters. I thought of a scene from the movie we loved so much as I stood there by her bed:
Beth: If God wants me with Him, there is none who will stop Him. I don’t mind. I was never like the rest of you… making plans about the great things I’d do. I never saw myself as anything much. Not a great writer like you.
Jo: Beth, I’m not a great writer.
Beth: But you will be. Oh, Jo, I’ve missed you so. Why does everyone want to go away? I love being home. But I don’t like being left behind. Now I am the one going ahead. I am not afraid. I can be brave like you.
That was Becky, except she did make great plans, and she worked to follow through with many of them. But, she loved being at home, and I believe she resides there still in some ways. She loved her sisters, and she believed in our dreams as well. I think she knew that if I worked at it, I would someday be a great writer (I’m still working on it). She knew Jen and Kim could accomplish their dreams and goals as well. We loved (and still love) her very much. I think we will always feel that loss because she has went on ahead of us, quite a bit sooner than she should have, leaving us with a hole in our sister pictures and our hearts. There has always been four, and even though she has gone ahead of us, we will one day catch up to her, and we will become four again.
I dedicate this blog to Jenny, Becky and Kimmy – three women I never got to choose, but wouldn’t trade for anything. I love you very much!