Sisters By Chance, Friends By Choice (October 22, 2013)

Anyone even slightly acquainted with me knows I love my little sister. Before I migrated to Open Salon on May 5, 2010, we co-authored Which End is Up!? on the Google Blogspot platform. Jenny dragged me kicking and screaming into starting that bad boy when I had nary a professional writer’s byline to my name. Although she is a smart, funny gal in her own right with plenty of good stories, I was onto her immediately. She was concerned that if she didn’t offer me a venue to just get going already, I might never be brave enough on my own. Then and now, I believe she was right.

When the original blog was conceived in January 2009, it was intended to be kind of a point/counterpoint forum for two working girls with completely different lives. Jenny is the suburban, stably married mother of two adorable girls, with a dynamic career in radio broadcasting. Though I was married at the time, my vignettes were of the city-dwelling, fledgling author trying to navigate the transition from corporate drone to something more creatively fulfilling. The end of the latter story has yet to be written, but I am pleased to report that I am farther along the path than I could have imagined nearly five years ago. The marriage foundered under the weight of this effort, and plenty of other supporting issues, and I unwittingly stumbled into Carrie Bradshaw Sex in the City territory, without the fabulous shoes and unaffordable apartment.

Life, as it is wont to do, intervened and altered the amount of time we could invest in the blog. I began to write more as I focused and found my voice. As Jenny’s youngest grew into school age, and she discovered an interest in local politics (actually participating in, not just writing about), her contributions started to taper off. Again, I suspect that was always the point. That Jenny is a shrewd one and almost uniquely capable of reading my mind. That can be frustrating when you fancy yourself a cultivator of mystery.

Our relationship is not perfect, nor would I like it to be. How boring. We look quite alike and our voices are identical, resulting in decades of creeping people out, but we are two strong, independent women with our own agendas. Though we have and will again butt heads, we remain each other’s #1 fans (with all due respect to Max, JC and the girls).

Staying informed and keeping in touch has never been a challenge. Just try to get a word in when we’re in the same room. Go ahead. I dare you. But what has proven to be test over the course of our adult lives is one-on-one time, free of partners, children and work demands. Not that we don’t love and appreciate those things. In fact, they are the respective raison d’etre (yes, Jenny and I both took years of French lessons as well). But there just aren’t enough moments when we are allowed to set aside our other personas, take off our worldly masks and return to the two small kids we once were – best buddies with their own language, adversaries who often settled confrontation with physical altercations (usually won by the junior sis), the girls who would stay up into the wee hours singing songs, laughing and conversing until we finally passed out. Our father’s frequent bedtime admonition: “That’s enough from the Talking Heads.”

This past weekend in the resort town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Jenny and I took advantage of a rare opportunity to leave schedules behind, pamper ourselves and quite frankly, bullshit with abandon. I have been acquainted with my sister for all of her 33 years on this planet, and for most of them, I’m the individual who has known and loved her best. That said, I learned more about this woman in three days than I could have imagined I didn’t know.

She loves documentaries. If you have a favorite, she’s probably seen it, especially if it involves animals or 9/11 theories. She is still the same girl who will start trouble, then flee with the confidence that her big sister will clean up the mess (a late Saturday evening snafu entailing the use of our room key in the wrong hotel guest door). She stays away from bars and binge drinking (um, yeah we differ there) but loves live music of all kinds. She yearns to sleep in, but her internal clock, trained by years of motherhood, won’t allow it. She wants to “choke slam” S.E. Cupp, one of the hosts of CNN’s revamped political roundtable show, Crossfire. She appreciates nature and quiet to an admirable degree considering her noisy, messy urban upbringing (meanwhile, I can’t sleep without sirens blaring and CTA buses passing).

If it is possible to fall in love with your sibling all over again, I did so this weekend. I already adored the baby I pushed in the stroller, informing passerby that she was “mine;” the child who wouldn’t sleep in her own bed; the high school graduate who moved into my campus apartment before her first semester of college, rather than put up with our unfit parents another second; the young mother who trusted me with her newborn while she attended night classes; the honey badger who worked every unpaid internship and promotional gig she could until she convinced a Chicago radio station to hire her full-time. But now I’m acquainted with the 30-something Jenny, a full-grown lady with complex ideas and quirks, and I don’t just love her. I like her. A lot.


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