Today is my sister’s birthday.
She is my younger sister by 22 months and after being an only child for 22 months, having a sibling took a little getting used to. Having her first, however, made becoming used to the next four that much easier. Our mother always used to say that she had her two girls first to help her with the four boys that followed. Certainly in my memory — and with the except of Andy because I was just 22 months old! — I always seemed to be taking care of babies and toddlers as a child, but to be sure I should ask Andy. Our father and brothers always tease her that she remembers things that happen before I was born.
This has been a crappy spring for Andy. That’s her story to tell and if she chooses to do so, I’ll let her take that on in a different place, at a different time, but I bring it up only as a preface to saying how much I admire her. Life seems to knock her down a lot, maybe not always to the ground, but sometimes to her knees, occasionally leaving winded, definitely leaving her emotionally bruised. And yet she keeps getting up and making changes and moving forward, finding a way to a new path, a different way to make her entire life better.
My sister and I are different from each other in many ways and I know I would not have made all the same choices she did over the years. For one thing, she left home at 16 and frankly I wasn’t that thrilled about going when I got married (which had everything to do with geography and nothing to do with my husband). For another, she’s a mother to three and motherhood was never in my wheelhouse. I adore my nieces and nephews to bits & pieces and mind terribly that geography is still an issue for me as we don’t see each other often, but mothering… not so much.
Andy’s a brilliant mother. She has a way of relating to her kids that’s remarkable because she doesn’t make a fuss about it, she just does it. There was one moment in her early years of motherhood; Ashley was 3, Arick was still an infant. My phone rang and I said “Hello?” On the other end, no ‘hello’ in return, no identifying name, simply my sister’s voice, perhaps sounding a little close to panic. “I just said a “Joy”. I swore I never would and I just did.” And she hung up the phone. Joy was our mother, very strict in making us follow her rules, very fond of the phrase “because I told you so, that’s why!!” It took me a while to stop laughing.
Andy was the ultimate soccer mom — to the point where she wound up managing a professional soccer team for a while! She made school play costumes and supervised homework and was pretty strict about rules and curfews, and tried to make the punishment tough enough to never warrant trying the ‘crime’ again but not so hard as to be unfair. She’s not a helicopter mom, but she does talk with her now grown-up kids all the time, continuing to be a mom in all ways.
I know her kids are happy and content their lives because they tell me so, not in words but in the way they relate to each other and to their extended family, and especially to their mother. Like Andy’s original nuclear family, she and her children laugh a lot and nothing expresses love and joy and peace within a life more than easy laughter.
So it’s my sister’s birthday… and you’re wondering why I’ve got a picture of Ashley‘s birthday lo, these many years ago. Well, first, it’s because it’s a cute picture, it involves a birthday, and I think it shows my sister doing her best work. Not the cake in the pan – being a great mom. (Also, I have more than 5,000 loose photos still to be sorted out and put in albums and I can’t find the one of her and all her kids that I really wanted to use! but let’s not tell her that.)
Happy Birthday sister. I love you, I am so proud of you, and I hope that you can blow out ALL THOSE CANDLES so that every wish you have really does come true!