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A SISTER'S LOVE AND SUPPORT
Where we love is home, Home that our feet may leave, But not our hearts.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Revenge of the Fifth-Grade Girls
An older sister helps one remain half child, half woman.
A mother cannot force her daughters to become sisters. She cannot make them be friends or companions or even cohorts in crime. But, if she's very lucky, they find sisterhood for themselves and have one true ally for life. My daughters did not seem likely candidates for sisterly love. They are as different as night and day, and as contrary as any two girls living under the same roof can possibly manage.
My youngest daughter, Laura, is smart, athletic and good at most everything she tries. But for her, friendships are tricky. When, at seven years old, she was thrust into the world of lunch pals and sleepovers, she struggled to survive.
Catherine, on the other hand, sits at the top of the elementary school pecking order. A bright, popular and beautiful fifth-grader, she is usually surrounded by a bevy of adoring girlfriends. When you are in second grade, a word or nod from a fifth-grade girl is the greatest thing that can happen. But Catherine and her friends seldom noticed her sister's valiant attempts to be noticed.
One hectic morning, while getting ready for school, both girls began begging for a new hairstyle. Sighing, I gathered brushes, combs and pins and quickly created new looks. I braided Laura's wispy locks into a snazzy side-braid. I combed Catherine's shiny black hair into a sleek, French twist. They twirled in front of the mirror, pleased with what I'd done.
Laura bounced out the door, swinging her braid proudly. But at school, one girl pointed at her and whispered to the other girls. Then the girl walked up to Laura and asked in a scathing tone, "What's with the stinking braid?"
Laura crumbled. After getting permission from her teacher, she went to the bathroom, where she sat and cried in an empty stall. Then she splashed cold water on her face and bravely returned to the classroom—braid intact.
That afternoon, she broke my heart with her sad tale. How could I have sent her out wearing a stinking braid? How could I have set her back in her meager attempts to fit in with the other girls? I fought back my tears as I drove my girls home. Hearing her sister's sorrow, Catherine sat in stony silence, and as I often do, I wished they had the kind of bond that would allow them to reach out to each other. I barely noticed Catherine spent more time on the phone than usual that evening.
The next afternoon, when I pulled to the front of the carpool line, I discovered a small miracle had occurred. There stood Laura, surrounded by the smartest, cutest, most popular fifth-grade girls. My tiny daughter glowed with utter astonishment as they twirled her around, complimented her and focused a brilliant light of attention upon her. And, to my amazement, every single one wore a side-braid, exactly like the one Laura had worn the day before. Ten stinking braids, I thought, as I tried to swallow the lump lodged in my throat.
"I don't know what happened!" exclaimed Laura, clambering into the van. "I looked up, and all the girls were wearing my braid." She grinned all the way home, arms wrapped around skinny knees, reliving her short life's happiest moment.
I glanced at Catherine in the rearview mirror, and I think she winked at me. I'm not sure.
Carolyn Magner Mason
A Gift of Love
To be my best I need you swimming beside me.
Mariah Burton Nelson
"It's time," my sister whispered, and I was instantly awake, my heart pounding frantically in my chest. It was 4:00 A.M., and I wondered how I could have ever slept so late. After all, it was Christmas morning. I should have been awake hours ago.
We crept down the hall as quickly as we could. In the back of the house, our parents slept peacefully. I had been waiting for this day all year, marking off the days on my calendar as they passed, one by one. I had watched every Christmas special on TV, from Charlie Brown to Rudolph, and now that Christmas morning was finally here, I could hardly contain myself. I wanted to laugh, I wanted to play and, perhaps most of all, I wanted to rip open my presents.
As we approached the den, my sister put a single finger to her lips and whispered, "Santa might still be here." I nodded in complete understanding. At six, I knew all about Santa and his magic. At eleven, my sister was trying to give me my dream.
When we finally walked into the den, my first instinct was to rush toward the presents that were stacked oh-so-carefully around the room, but something made me hesitate. Instead of rushing forward, I stared in wonder at the room, wanting this single moment to last as long as it could. My sister stood quietly beside me, and we stared at the beautiful tree that we had decorated together weeks before. The lights shimmered, the ornaments sparkled, and our golden angel sat just slightly off-center on the top of the tree. It was the most perfect sight I'd ever seen.
On a nearby table, the cookies that we'd left for Santa were gone, and a small note read, "Thank you. Merry Christmas!"
My eyes widened in amazement at the note, for I was sure that I had finally found real proof of the jolly man's existence. Yet before I could truly marvel over the letter, my sister was handing me a small package. "It's from me," she whispered with a shy smile.
With trembling fingers, I slowly opened the package, carefully preserving the green bow. Inside, I found my sister's favorite necklace. It was a small heart on a golden chain. She had received the present from our grandfather two years before. My eyes filled at the sight. Santa's note was forgotten.
She put her arm around me. "He was going to give you one this year, but—" she stopped, and carefully wiped her eyes, "he just did not get a chance." He had died on Easter morning—the heart attack had been a harsh shock to our family. Our mother still cried quietly when she thought no one was watching. My sister squared her slender shoulders with a brave air. "So, I thought you might like to have mine."
I held the necklace as if it were made of the finest gold in the world. It seemed to shine even brighter than the lights on our tree.
"Let me help you," she said as she moved to put the necklace around my neck.
The small heart felt warm against my skin, almost like it was alive. In my mind, I could see my grandfather. He'd loved Christmas, and he had always given each of us a special surprise on Christmas day.
"Consider this his surprise," my sister told me as if she'd read my mind.
I grabbed her hand and held onto her with all of the strength that I possessed.
When our parents finally made their way into the den two hours later, they saw a beautiful Christmas tree, a dozen unopened gifts, and two sisters holding each other tight.
It is the friends that you can call at 4:00 A.M. that matter.
With five years difference in our ages, people still said how uncanny it was for us to look so much alike. My sister and I shared a lot of the same facial features and, of course, we both have long, red hair. Well, at least I had hair until I started chemotherapy. My long red locks fell from my head in clumps as the treatments went on.
I touched my now-bald head. Fresh tears sprang to my eyes. People would not say we looked alike now. My sister Marlanea was flying in from Montana to see me. She didn't know how bad I was going to look. I wanted to prepare her for the shock or protect her from what she was going to see. I had always watched over her, trying to keep her safe and out of harm's way. She was born on my fifth birthday. Our mother said she was my birthday present. I took that seriously, and I loved her with all my heart.
We went through our growing-up years inseparable. We were each other's best companions. Our parents used to tell us that we should have been twins for how much we resembled each other, for how close we were.
We even thought alike. When we were shopping, we would buy each other small gifts—from T-shirts to coffee cups—but most of the time we bought each other the same thing. We shared a connection that was beyond most people's understanding.
Now adults, we live in different states. She called me on the phone, and all I said was "Hello." Instantly, she said, "I know something is wrong. Tell me. What is it?"
No longer amazed at her uncanny ability to tell when something is wrong, I told her, at eight o'clock that morning, I had to put our family pet to sleep. Together in silence, we cried. Tears I could not shed earlier that morning now flowed freely as I talked on the phone with my sister.
Since finding out that I have cancer, she has called almost daily. Concern always in her voice, but cheerful nonetheless. She has sent me a funny card every week, a bright ray of hope that makes me believe life will be okay again.
During one tearful phone conversation she told me she knew for sure that I would not die from this intruder called cancer.
"Oh how do you know?" I asked through my tears.
"Because when we were really small, we made a spit promise that we could only die if the other sister was ready to die, too. And I'm not ready to die yet so neither can you."
We never discussed what would happen if we broke a spit promise. But we both knew that it had to be serious.
I heard her cab pull up in front of my house. My sister, my friend, had arrived.
With trembling hands I reached up and touched my bald head once more before I opened the door to my best friend—my sister.
There she was, the sun shining behind her, lighting her up like the angel I had always thought her to be. There she was in her tight jeans and a T-shirt, wearing a hat that read, "I'm having a bad hair day." We both smiled.
"Hello sister," I said.
"Hello sister," she replied.
She raised her hand and removed her hat. My sister had shaved her head. We stood there crying and laughing and hugging.
"We still look like sisters," was all she said.
"I love you," was all that I could say.
I shut my eyes and said a silent prayer, Thank you God for my life. Thank you God in heaven for my sister. Thank you Mother for my gift.
For attractive lips, speak words of kindness. For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people. For poise, walk with the knowledge you'll never walk alone.
Diane and her sister were only eighteen months apart in age, but complete opposites. Diane was outgoing and daring. A smile often crinkled her freckled nose and lit up her wide brown eyes. Both in and out of school, she could be found surrounded by a group of giggling, boisterous friends. Her sister, though, was quiet and shy. Her eyes were blue, and hidden behind a pair of glasses. She preferred to spend her time alone reading.
These two very different girls shared a yellow upstairs bedroom. They fought and argued, threatened and cried. They even drew a line of demarcation down the middle of their yellow room. Life was not harmonious.
But time passed and the girls grew up. They went to college. Diane got a job and her own apartment near Washington, D.C. Her sister married young and had two children. Their lives flowed in separate directions.
Then, when they were in their fifties, Diane's sister was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Diane felt powerless and frustrated. She wanted to do something to help. When she heard about an organized walk that would raise breast cancer research money, she signed up without hesitation, determined to make a difference.
Diane wrote letters to her friends, neighbors and relatives, asking them to sponsor her. And she began training after work and on the weekends. All autumn she walked—short distances at first, then farther and farther. She donned a backpack, stuck a pompom on her orange baseball cap, and added miles as the weeks went on. She walked in the rain, in the snow, through slush and cold. Five miles. Ten. Spring arrived. Fifteen miles, then twenty in a day. She walked over five hundred miles, just to get ready.
And she collected donations from her many friends to find a cure for breast cancer. She raised over $7,000.
The weekend of the walk, her sister and brother-in-law drove from out of state to cheer her on. And Diane, a fifty-four-year-old woman who had never done anything like that before, walked the entire sixty-mile course to the finish line in downtown Washington, D.C.
While the flags at the base of the Washington Monument fluttered in the sunshine, and the music swelled over the crowd and into the warm spring air, Diane's sister stood watching as wave after wave of walkers in blue T-shirts marched triumphantly over the hill. But she saw only one person—the woman in the orange pompom cap who had walked so far for her.
This story of love and generosity is true. I know, because those were my blue eyes searching the crowd from behind my glasses, and Diane, the woman in the orange pompom cap, is my sister.
C. Michele Davis
A Promise to Roxanne
For there is no friend like a sister
In calm or stormy weather;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands.
Christina Georgina Rossetti
"Breakfast!" I call and within seconds, the floor above me shakes as feet gallop down the steps. And as I turn, I see the photograph. It's of the boys sitting with their mother. Her arms are around them. Roxanne, I think, your arms are still around them.
Although my brother Ross was the oldest, Roxanne, the middle one, was always my rock. "Be strong," she'd tell me after our parents divorced. Somehow, there was something spiritual about Roxanne. Her words of comfort always made me feel better.
Justin was her first child; two years later, Shaun was born. And when I'd watch Roxanne cuddle with them, I'd think, Someday I want to have two boys, too.
But Roxanne's life wasn't perfect. She got divorced and I moved in to help so she could go to work and school.
"Aunt Rhonda, watch me!" Justin would cry from his bicycle. And Shaun would crawl onto my lap with his teddy bear. Later, I moved out and into a life of my own. And Roxanne met a man I didn't care for before finding Tony, who loved her and the boys. To my joy, they married. But something was happening to Roxanne.
"I fell asleep in class today," she'd say. "And my fever won't go away." Finally she went to the doctor.
"It's advanced AIDS," the doctor said. A shocked hush fell over the room. Ross and Mom went to embrace her while I stood there shaking in disbelief.
But though Roxanne cried, she didn't look surprised. That man she'd dated, the one I didn't like, he had been an IV drug user.
"Don't cry for me," she said, "look at all I've enjoyed." Then she turned to me, as if she'd already thought about it. "Rhonda, I want you to take my boys."
Oh Roxanne, I thought. You won't die. They'll find a cure! I went home and cried through the night.
All we told the boys was that their mother was sick. We wanted to spare them the grief for as long as possible. But maybe it was the not knowing that made them angry. It wasn't long before they started playing hooky. From Roxanne's window I'd watch them with their new friends, kids you could tell were trouble. "These are difficult years," I told Justin. "But don't give in. Remember who you are." My heart constricted. They're the sons of a mother who's dying, I thought.
Then one day while I was away on business, I got a call from Roxanne: "Justin stole a car, and someone gave Shaun marijuana!"
When I raced to her house, Roxanne's cheeks were wet with tears. "I'm too sick to care for them, and Tony is caring for me. They need you now!"
"Now?" I stood trembling.
"I want them to be good boys," she wept. "I want them to be fine young men." I looked into her sad, pleading eyes. She needed me. How could I let her down?
I wasn't there when Roxanne told the boys that they were losing their mother and would be leaving their home. But in the darkness of my living room, I imagined their tears, and wondered, Can I ever be enough to help them?
I didn't have time to worry; two weeks later I was awarded custody. Nights were hard, especially after the boys had spent the day with Roxanne. Shaun's arms would wrap around me and I could feel his tears against my shoulders. "I'm afraid, and I want to go home," he'd cry.
Excerpted from Chicken Soup for the Sister's Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Mitchell, Nancy Mitchell, Heather McNamara, Katy McNamara. Copyright © 2012 Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC.
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Posted May 29, 2014
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