This isn't so much an essay as a few observations on being and having a sister. In my case, my sister is only 14 months younger than I and is, and always has been, my sole sibling. We were not the kind of sisters who were joined at the hip during childhood or later, but we aren't not close. It's complicated, just like everyone else's family.
About thirty years ago, more or less, someone told me about getting stuck in a small elevator with my sister. Apparently, she was not aware that she was claustrophobic until this happened--I'm not sure and I can't run this past her for a couple weeks because she is traveling and, unlike me, doesn't take a computer everywhere she goes. Anyway, the elevator stuck. People started talking about what was wrong, and Sue said "I want everyone to stop talking right now." And everyone did.
When I heard the story, I called Sue and asked if she remembered me locking her in a closet. "No!" Sue said, "Do you remember that??" And I said, "No! I really did it?"
"I don't think so," she said, "I was just wondering if you remembered doing it." Whew. Close call. I wasn't very nice sometimes but I would have hated to have caused permanent damage.
As to my not niceness (and everyone remembered this one), there was the motel incident when I saw an opportunity to become an only child again and piled the car robes into a corner of the Chrysler New Yorker (Windsor edition with plaid seats) in a Sue-like wad and talked to them as the folks left Sue behind and headed down the road. I have no idea what I was thinking, but I know that my speaking so pleasantly to the blankets made Mother turn around to look. I was never much of an actress.
I was a very sickly kid and I remember my sister putting on puppet shows for me at the foot of my bed with Porky Pig and Bugs Bunny hand puppets. I don't know if Sue remembers this or not. Some of our memories are unique to each of us. In fact, some are so divergent that we have agreed that we may be sisters, but we had different parents. I have a feeling that no two people have the same parents really. By the time Sue came along, for instance, they had stopped boiling everything that could possibly enter our mouths.
Susan was the perfect child and I was the rebel; this isn't a disputable fact. Some families assign roles and apparently ours was one of those.
Without having spoken much in the years prior, both of us joined the ACLU immediately after the "card-carrying" comment. I didn't know until I became the president of my county's ACLU years after that and saw her name on the membership printout. We also both came to the same conclusions regarding spirituality and religion. She calls her belief system "Flukism." Mine is similar and is best expressed in Universism (which I just discovered). We didn't do any consulting on this, either. Interestingly (or not), neither of our parents would have considered themselves Flukists or Universists and neither would have joined the ACLU, though they had the right idea about civil liberties.
When our parents died and we were doing the estate thing, Sue and I had absolutely no disputes. When the folks were sick and dying and life was hell, we had no fights about anything that mattered and were totally supportive. When it was all over, we were very proud of ourselves. It helps that both of us are scrupulously honest, but those are hard times and anything can happen.
I'll add to this as I think of things. There's a lot more. As I already said, families are complicated.
2008 UPDATE: During my recent illness, I don't know what I would have done without my sister. She came to Texas from Washington State for every chemo plus took care of the paperwork portion of the event for me. We are much closer today and now I am REALLY sorry for that motel incident.