Most people who know me know that I have two younger sisters. They know I’m the oldest, they know my middle sister lives near me, and they know my youngest sister lives back in Illinois. Those who know me well also know that my sisters are the loves of my life. I’ve said in the past that if it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where I’d be, or who I’d be. Maybe that sounds dramatic or a bit overstated, but if I’d been an only child, things would have turned out…not good. So in honor of National Siblings Day, I want to write a shout out to the humans I can’t imagine life without: Sarah and Amy.
My earliest memory is from 1983, when I was sitting in bed with my very pregnant mom and my dad, talking about the new baby on the way. I had just turned three and my parents were asking me what I wanted to name the baby. I declared that no matter what, we’d name him or her Samuel (full disclosure: when they’d ask me, I would yell, “BABY SAMUEL LEARNED OF GOD!” over and over—clearly I had just learned the Bible story about Samuel at church).
I’m thankful that the best parts of my earliest memories involved my sister (spoiler: we ended up naming her Sarah, not Samuel)—how I taught her to tie her shoes, say her ABC’s, her colors. I specifically remember thinking to myself that Sarah was the prettiest baby I’d ever seen, and so smart, too.
There were so many happy times as kids, as a family of four. We were incredibly lucky to have two loving, hands-on parents. I remember us doing group hugs, before group hugs were a thing. I remember the day Sarah started kindergarten. Some boys in her class were teasing her, so me, being the big third grader, made very sure that that didn’t happen again.
I remember the day my dad took me to the mall when I was nine, and let me pick out a book from the bookstore and a treat from the food court. We sat down while I ate my ice cream and he couldn’t hold it in anymore: he told me that Sarah and I were going to have a baby sibling in August. That was the best day of my life; the happiness and excitement filled my heart as I realized that life was about to change in the best way possible.
I met my second best friend on August 14, 1989, a long-anticipated day. Sarah and I dragged our grandparents to the hospital to meet our baby sister, Amelia “Amy” Grace. In many ways, Amy was our baby, too. We helped dress her, bathe her, and change her diapers. If she cried, she had three “mothers” there to attend to her every need. We cheered on the milestones, always ensured her #1 and #2 favorite pacifiers were present, praised her incessantly, and held her every second of her first year of life.
Our family of five was a happy one for several years. I loved having two younger sisters, and they patiently put up with their big sister. Amy and I are 9.5 years apart, so in many ways, she felt more like a daughter than a sister. I started a new middle school when she was just toddler, got my driver’s license when she was in second grade, and left for college when she was just nine.
Meanwhile, there were some hard times. Things at home changed drastically; the dynamic was off. Without going into detail, our family imploded. I now know that it would’ve been very, very easy for my sisters and I to drift apart. My parents separated when I was 20 and in college, Sarah was 17 and in high school, and Amy was 11 and in middle school. My worst nightmare came true; my prayers were not answered. But something kept Sarah and me talking, something kept us close to Amy so that she wouldn’t be afraid.
In my experience, so many families have something ugly happen. And sadly, many times, the results are catastrophic. Children stop talking to parents, or siblings stop talking to each other. A distance forms, intentional or not, and people who were once so close just stop knowing each other. In our case, while our relationship with our dad disintegrated, our sibling bond grew stronger and stronger. And that is what kept me afloat through so many tumultuous years—years where I didn’t know who I was, where I would find myself at the end of a long night out, staring in the mirror, and not recognizing myself…I knew that ultimately, I had to answer to my sisters. That even though my family wasn’t the one I grew up with, my sisters were what kept me sane, happy, and centered.
We’ve come a long way since those days! My sisters and I have been through a lot: heartbreaks, big moves, degrees, big jobs, big loves, deaths of loved ones, including our dad, big risks, marriages, kids, scary diagnoses, surgeries, and more kids. But what stays constant is the knowledge that I can talk to my sisters about anything, and I’ll come away feeling encouraged, lifted up, and with the knowledge that ultimately, I’m never alone, all because of them. We are blood, we are connected, and we are forever family. So today, and every day, I am thankful for my sisters—if I didn’t have them, I don’t know where I’d be.