Fearfully Familiar

In honor of my little baby sister’s 30th birthday – I present to you and essay I wrote in my composition class about her. The essay was a reflection essay, and what better reflection than growing up with someone you would one day call your best friend. I give you, Fearfully Familiar. Dedicated to my sister and my best friend.

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Fearfully Familiar

“I didn’t do anything!” Scissors tucked behind my hands while my little sister was crying and hiding in the closest. My mother saw right through me. “What did you do to your sister’s hair!?”

Well, she wanted a trim! And of course, her ten-year-old sister was the perfect choice. My skills were extensive and included cutting world famous Barbie’s hair so it looked like a blind person with Parkinson’s was her barber. I also did great work on cabbage patch dolls and shag rugs. I was a pro! It was artistic and an artist shouldn’t have to apologize for her craft. So what if half her hair was to her shoulder and the other half was up to her ear? Some day that would be the look…she was ahead of her time! Course none of this got me out of a firm spanking and the longest grounding I had ever had. I also wasn’t allowed to use scissors for…wait I still can’t use them…

You would think this would have set me on the good path; I would have seen an error in my ways and treated my dear sweet sister nicer. No. Unfortunately, this is the first of many things that would be told between bites of lumpy mashed potatoes around the holiday table for years to come.

Like many siblings, my sister and I spent a lot of time wondering who the favorite in the family was. It was clearly her by the way. If you don’t believe me I give you exhibit A, our names. My sister was named after the famed Greek profit Cassandra (Sammy for short).  I, on the other hand, was named after some actress on a soap opera my dad was in love with. I got stuck with: Melinda. (Mindy for short). She was also, shall we say, the good kid. Not that either of us were bad per se, but I gave my parents more gray hairs than she did. I barely graduated.  She graduated with honors. You get the picture. She was an easy baby, pretty easy going kid, and I guess maybe that drove me a little nuts. Maybe I was just doing what all big sisters do. I made it my mission to scare the living daylights out of her whenever I could, and that just happened to be all the time.

We lived in a quiet neighborhood on a dead-end street. The beauty of that is, there was never anyone around; the scary part of that, was there was never anyone around. This makes for a perfect setting to scare your little sister on more than one occasion. Any chance I got I would scare the kid. I must have gotten it from my mother who was, and is, a huge horror fan. As such, we grew up with horror classics like Freddie Kruger and Jason. While my friends were watching Carebears and Thundercats, we were watching the Twilight Zone and Tales from Darkside. Some kids got Disney fairy-tales; we got the original Grimm’s versions. I spun a great yarn about a lady who lived in the house before us. She was a sea captain’s wife and got word that his boat had sunk during a voyage. Overcome with grief she hanged herself over our staircase…she is still there…hanging from the ceiling. Sometimes, if you go downstairs late at night, you will feel her, a solid immovable force that will prevent you from going down the stairs. When it’s real quiet you can hear her rope rubbing against the beam. Sammy never went downstairs in the dark.

One day, when my sister and I were about nine and three, my dad had had enough. My family took our annual trip to see my grandparents, who lived way up near the Canadian border in a tiny little town called Lubec, Maine. The drive would take us around six hours. This was pre-iPad, pre-portable DVD players…the only entertainment was playing the license plate game and seeing how many moose you could spot. (I won – both games). The closer we got to that little town of Lubec, the further we got from any towns or even rest stops. There is a whole stretch of road lovingly called Black’s Woods Road. If you couldn’t tell by the name, more than one haunting story has been told about this road. Light has a hard time getting through all the foliage, so the whole time we were on that road, we experienced an eerie twilight feeling. When things got a little boring, I would tell my sister about the wicked old witch who lived in a shack in the forest. She would come out and eat little children who cried or bugged their sisters. When we would stop to picnic at Fox Pond my poor sister would take so much convincing just to get out of the car. The whole time holding her bologna sandwich mushed in sweaty hands while her head darted around at the slightest sound in the woods nearby. By the time we got to our cabin my mom and dad were furious with me. My sister had to be walked to the bathroom and back because I convinced her that a band of crazy lunatics escaped nearby and were living in the woods near our cabins. Giggling about my newest scare and feeling oh so smart and oh so brave, I went to the bathroom, alone, like a big girl. When I got back my dad wasn’t in the room. ‘Went to get ice’, was all my mom would say. I sat down on one of the double beds and a hand grabbed my ankle! I screamed bloody murder and was inconsolable for a good twenty minutes. It was my worst nightmare, thanks Stephen King! Was it Gage? Was it Chucky? Was it some vampire demon? Nope, it was my dad, getting me back. Showing me how awful it was to have someone you love, someone your trust, someone you look up to, scare the life out of you. To this day, no joke, I can’t stand to have my feet dangle off my bed and I still leap a little when going to bed in the dark.

I would love to tell you that I became a better sister because of that. I would love to tell you that I no longer scared her, let her play with my friends, and I never said a mean word to her. I would be lying. The last time I gave her a good scare she was well into high school (same staircase). I would scare her more, but she is immune to my tricks. There were other scary moments as we grew up together; unfortunately, they were a lot less funny, even if we can laugh about them now.

My sister and I really enjoyed chasing each other around our tiny house. Up and down the stairs, round the living room, on and on…it is a wonder my parents didn’t go crazy. Actually, jury is still out that. We were playing one day, running down the stairs and my sister got really hurt. Picture a child size chair with the legs up at the bottom of the stairs. I jumped over but my little sister had the unfortunate luck to land on it. I wore a hole in the floor pacing while we waited for my mom and her to get back from the doctor. My dinner of runny mashed potatoes and pork chops churning in my stomach. The time she fell off her bike and walked in the door, face covered in blood, the time she was climbing on the dresser in our room and tipped it over and it fell on her, or when my parents and I were watching TV while she was in bed during a thunderstorm and a tree branch crashed through the window right on her bed. As we got older the scares continued, this time it was not hearing from her when she went to college, or the phone call her and my parents got informing them of the car accident I was in.

The scariest thought I have as we get older is not having her around. Who will laugh at my jokes, if I ever make any? Who will appreciate my sarcasm? Who will speak fluent movie quotes with me? Who will love me unconditionally? How would I get through even one day without seeing her name on my phone screen, informing me of a text message from her? What in the world would I do without her?

Of course, as we grew up, we grew to like each other, even want to be with each other. There would be long drives around town, walks on the beach, weekly trips shopping, and movies. Over the years tolerance for each other grew to liking each other and liking each other grew to genuinely becoming best friends.

With all the scaring and being the older bratty sister, I learned a lot. Sisters are a force to be reckoned with. The love that sisters have for each other is so fierce and so strong; it can fight off monsters and move mountains. We are still going to fight, not as often as when we were kids, thank goodness, but we will still have our disagreements. Our most recent one was which coffee shop is better, I swear to goodness and it isn’t Starbucks, okay? My sister is the only person in the world that truly gets me. My sister is the only person in the world who has been with me since the beginning; she is the only one who really understands my childhood, because she was right there too. Sometimes I look back on my childhood and think about how lucky I was to have her. Late night chats, sister dates to the mall, movies, laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe and tears fell from our eyes, video games, talks about everything from Algebra to zombies. Having a little sister prepared me for being a mother, so if I screw that up, it is all her fault.

Whether we were chopping each other’s hair off, screaming about who broke something, scaring each other or trying to get on each other’s nerves, one thing that always remained under it all was love. I have loved my sister Sammy since the moment my mom placed her in my arms. And, even though I spent most of her early years scaring her, or leaving her in trees, as we got older we started to rely on each other more and more. Our parents divorced and it was my sister who got me through it, our parents started dating and it was my sister who saw the humor in it with me. Our lives went in a thousand different directions and it was my sister who grounded me. When sitting around the dinner table rehashing our childhood, it is my sister who will look at me with a smile and say, “These mashed potatoes are so creamy”. And I will know, creamy or not, everything is going to be okay.

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