Skip to content

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and you will receive our stories in your inbox.

The bond between sisters

Posted in Life & Love

The last time my sister and I spent six weeks under the same roof was when I still lived at home and shared a bedroom with her teenage self. My sister is seven years younger than me and, since I left home, and the country, at age 23, we spent a couple of vacations together and she made multiple visits to wherever I happened to be living (and, recently, I visited her in Rome) but those stretches of time amounted to no longer than a week or two.

Tomorrow my sister lands in Los Angeles for a six-week stay. Not quite a vacation – more of a partaking of my life, an experience together that is long overdue. We are both giddy, like teenagers on an adventure.

Despite my penchant for solitude, even as a kid, I was a reluctant only child. The day my mother finally announced she was pregnant, I made cartwheels down the long corridor in our house, while she dispersed the news to her girlfriends over the phone. I remember going to the hospital to visit the little bundle; the anguish when, a few months later, the little bundle nearly died of a mysterious disease; sharing a bedroom for our entire life together. On hindsight, this seems a strange choice on the part of my mother – we could have easily have had our own separate bedrooms, but she chose to keep us together. We never protested.

It is an even odder choice in light of an age difference that meant we were living very different lives. When I was a teenager, she wasn’t in middle school yet. We never had the same friends, we never mingled in the same circles and we ended up very different people, who made very different life choices. But we were always close, and now that I am 54 and she is 47, the similarities (not just physical) are more apparent.

I consider some of my girlfriends as sisters: Sue, for one. Or Silvia, whom I have known since age 12. In a way, they probably know me better (or, at least, know way more secrets) than my sister does. We have been through a lifetime of battles and laughs together in a way I never did with my sister. We lived, played, vacationed together and we still do. Yet, the one I still consider as my baby sis will always know more about the milieu who made me who I am; what our kitchen smelled of; how to tease some extra pocket change out of our father; the cruel streak that possessed me when she was a toddler and I tormented her to no end. There is not another single person on this earth who knows what growing up as me felt like. While profoundly different in our characters, those differences stem from the same roots: we both took the same set of circumstances and tweaked them to suit our personalities and our needs.

When I hear or read stories about vastly different human beings springing from the same family, or, conversely, about twins with the same traits despite having grown up apart, they all make sense to me.
There is a cellular bond between sisters made of shared DNA that can never be erased. But there is also a kernel of individuality that will tilt our worldview just enough to push us into different territories.

What I don’t understand, because I have never experienced it, is jealousy or the greed that pushes siblings apart. I have never envied her life nor, I believe, did she ever envy mine. Maybe, if we hadn’t been born under the same roof, and our paths had crossed, we wouldn’t have become friends. We are not friends now. We don’t need to: she is my sister, which means I could never hide from her who I really am, nor she from me, so we don’t even try.

It will be an interesting six weeks. Full of laughter I hope. And shared meals and experiences (and possibly obsessive cleaning, as she is even more OCD than I am when it comes to the house). There will be two dogs who will get much too much attention. And there will be memories: the ones shared thus far and the ones in the making.

Share on Facebook

27 Comments

  1. How lovely. I wish you and your sister many joyful experiences together in the upcoming weeks. I can’t help but feel a little envious of your bond. I have no sisters and now you’re making me wish I did! 🙂

    January 11, 2017
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Only child? Or brothers? I always wanted a brother too.

      January 12, 2017
      |Reply
      • One brother, two years younger. Very close when we were young but a complicated relationship as adults. He’s a complicated individual 🙁

        January 12, 2017
        |Reply
  2. Con piacere e anche con un po’ di orgoglio ti dico che anche tra ne e mia sorella, che ha quattro anni meno di me, c’è un rapporto solido, sincero, mai incrinato dal benchèminino screzio, pur davanti a momenti molto difficili e dolorosi. Penso sia un privilegio da difendere con cura

    January 11, 2017
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Hai assolutamente ragione.

      January 12, 2017
      |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you! Will check them out.

      January 10, 2017
      |Reply
  3. Yep, definitely relate to this. I have one sister (one year older than me) and we both have our own circles of friends with whom we spend more time, talk to more, etc, etc. But there’s something about our closeness with one another that doesn’t seem attainable in a friendship.
    Aside from my parents, my sister’s probably the one person I’ve argued with most, and gotten angry/annoyed at the most, in my whole life; but I can’t imagine having a better sister than her.

    Hope you and your sister get a chance to learn a bit more about each other over the coming weeks, and also enjoy each others’ company 🙂

    January 10, 2017
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      The funny thing is that, aside from the phase in which I tormented her (after which she learnt to fight back…) my sister and I have never argued. We have differences but they don’t seem to get in the way.

      January 10, 2017
      |Reply
      • Haha I was the opposite – fighting with my sister taught me to not fight! We get along fine now (perhaps helped by the fact that we no longer share a bathroom)

        January 11, 2017
        |Reply
  4. Ellie
    Ellie

    It’s a unique opportunity – have a wonderful time !! I agree with what you say. Nobody else on the planet shares that same combination of dna – not even your parents. Even though as you say, very often a sister is not a friend and doesn’t have to be, if you meet a friend who ‘feels’ the same way as you do, then that friend is ‘like a sister’ to you. As the youngest of two sisters with an almost 6 year difference, the gap when we were children was huge – as you say it means ‘living different lives’, but the gap as adults gradually narrows down to nothing. The years actually spent living together however (we too shared the same bedroom) are very few in fact, my sister left home aged 18, she had 12 years living with me, of which I only really perceived 7 living with her – too few, or just enough?? I must admit that over the years I often felt like I had 3 parents rather than 2- which means that, either end of the scale, both eldest and youngest often feel like an ‘only child’, and it sometimes gives the eldest an increased sense of responsibility, and the youngest a sense of being overpowered. By having the same parents and the same dna – you both instinctively know who you are – and with a sister you can often see some of your own character traits, made worse or better as the case may be, and it can be an off-putting or enlightening experience!! but naturally binding. I have, however, seen irreconcilable differences between brothers and sisters (my kind and considerate mother-in-law has a twin brother who is the exact opposite). So if we were to ‘choose’ people by whether or not we’d like to have them on a desert island if we were to get stranded on one, our sisters would definitely be there !!

    January 10, 2017
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I never made the calculations of how many years we actually lived together until you mentioned it in your comment! We definitely had the dynamic that I was a sort of mother figure (or big counsellor) and I have always thought of her as “the baby”. I think she really suffered when I left home (or maybe I am ascribing too much importance to myself!)

      January 10, 2017
      |Reply
  5. Have a great time with your sister.

    My sister and I are ten years apart (with a brother in between).

    I think one reason there was no jealousy or competition is because of the big age gap. When I left for college, Daniella was only in third grade. We have always been very close. I remember the day she came home from the hospital, the first time I saw her crawl, walk, etc. etc.

    January 10, 2017
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      It’s true – the age gap doesn’t allow for competition.

      January 10, 2017
      |Reply
  6. “There is not another single person on this earth who knows what growing up as me felt like.” So true! Have fun!

    January 10, 2017
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      We will try hard…it’s been a difficult 2016 for both, so I hope we get to let it all out!

      January 10, 2017
      |Reply
  7. What a beautiful piece. I’ve always felt fortunate for having my sisters. It’s wonderful that you will have some time together to just be. Enjoy every moment.

    January 10, 2017
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I know how much you love your sisters. Maybe you will get to meet mine?

      January 10, 2017
      |Reply
  8. Meri Mastro
    Meri Mastro

    Your comments about your sister and her upcoming visit resonates with me for many reasons but first, I must say how thrilled I am for you. How wonderful! I wish you both much joy and fun-filled days. I say this because I too shared my early life with my sister, Jeanne, who is a few years younger than I; we shared a small bedroom for years until we “grew up” and went off on our own; and we had similar interests, hobbies and friends which kept us close for years. Later, we still did a lot together, traveling all over Italy and to our grandparents home in Sicily, dancing and laughing all the way. What fun we had! What wonderful memories we made! Also, we “played” together, taught dance and exercise classes after our full-time jobs, went out on double-dates when we were both in town, and in general had a ball. Ultimately, we both married and she had a beautiful little girl whom she named after me (I am so honored) and although my husband and I were not blessed with children, we had little Meri on whom we doted and we were happy. Now, many years later, after Jeanne moved to Florida and I remained in New England, we still saw each other a lot, seasonally if you will, and still had fun together. Unfortunately, we both were diagnosed with breast cancer (strangely enough, on the same day) back in l989 and we both had recurrences throughout the 90’s . . . we both had surgery, several times, and I had radiation, she then had a mastectomy, and that sort of thing, but basically we were fine, fit and healthy. Yet, this past year, I had a recurrence and another round of treatment, but Jeanne’s cancer went deeper. She was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer that had spread to the bone, and try as she might, she could not beat it. It was particularly aggressive and she fought bravely and valiantly right up until December when they said there was nothing left to do, no other chemo to try, no other options . . . and I am so sad to say that she passed away last week, mercifully, comfortably and peacefully, with her beloved daughter by her side. I miss her terribly . . .
    and how I envy you and wish you many lovely days with your sister. They are precious!

    January 10, 2017
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Dear Meri, I read your comment last night and my heart sank. I waited before replying because the last thing I wanted was to fill this little box with the usual platitudes. There is no silver lining in the untimely death of a loved one, no time healing all wounds: it dulls them and one learns to live around and to navigate the void, but the love and pain never go away. I am so sorry. Your story is incredible for the shared experience (diagnosed on the same day?) which, I am sure, helped you both go through it all. Sometimes I forget, and I end up in tailspins of my own creation, but if cancer taught me one thing is to remember to live as fully and as presently as I can.
      I will be making pasta with pesto tonight when my sister gets here, and maybe a little cocktail and I will make sure we will toast the memory of Jeanne, wherever she might be.

      January 10, 2017
      |Reply
      • Meri Mastro
        Meri Mastro

        Thanks so much for that . . . and funnily enough, she loved pesto so much! We both had it for the first time in Portofino (molti anni fa) and we both fell in love with it. How appropriate it will be . . . I too will toast to her and to your dear departed Dad.

        January 10, 2017
        |Reply
  9. What you write of so beautifully here mirrors my own feelings about my sister. After having shared a bedroom when we were growing up, I have now lived in her house for 18 months (we are both in our 50s), and although we have our differences, we still have that unbreakable bond that comes from way back, and it’s probably even stronger now than it ever was. I wish you all the joy of a wonderful time with your sister!

    January 10, 2017
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I can definitely see myself living in the same house as my sister. Driving each crazy about a lone spot on the floor or who gets to cook what!

      January 10, 2017
      |Reply
  10. winstonmoreton
    winstonmoreton

    Thought provoking. I have a younger brother…

    January 9, 2017
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      And? You are not giving up any stories here…

      January 10, 2017
      |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Thank you M! We will try our best.

      January 10, 2017
      |Reply

Got some thoughts? We would love to hear what you think

%d bloggers like this: