Some of you may have picked up on the fact that my sis came to visit me in Amsterdam.
Nothing like two sisters on the road together.
L and I used to travel together often. My first visit to Schiphol airport was with her (she was 9 and I was 13 and we were flying unaccompanied.) My first views of Paris was with her; my first snowy visit to Edinburgh was with her; my first stay in the plush lap of luxury at the Waldorf Astoria in NYC was with her.
We had a good travel-together rhythm. I got to wallow in my role as big sis and make all the plans, and she would follow along. For every morning in a museum, we balanced with a catwalk fashion show, a movie, or a shopping spree. (Yup… that was a faux-fur in London!) It worked perfectly!
Our travel experiences together were also a metaphor for the relationship – very different people. (If she tells me one more time that I am an old-fashion-opera-listening-granny who needs to get new shoes and listen to some hip music, I’m gonna go BIG SIS all OVER her!) Very different temperaments. Very different ways of doing. But we made it work by recognizing that, respecting that, and learning from each other. The only reason I could even spot a Prada bag never mind find the Prada Store is thanks to her! Oh – and she taught me how to apply make-up.
But I am always going to be Big Sis. With it comes joy, responsibility, fear, all the sorts of stuff that get packed into thinking “She’s my responsibility” when it was just her and I. Sometimes even when there were adults around: she was my first priority.
Two years ago she got sick. That’s her story and I won’t tell it here since she’s told it beautifully and heartfeltedly on her own blog… but her illness scared me. It was big. It was scary. It was intense. It left me 100% powerless to protect her. Powerless to fix.
But God and modern medicine worked some miracles and despite initial prognosis that we may lose her in a year, she’s alive and kicking butt and taking prisoners. Back living on her own in NYC, a fantastic new job, funny as always, and fearless still.
Which makes her recent visit here bigger than big.
I moved to Amsterdam despite her illness – maybe because of it. I couldn’t watch my own powerlessness daily, but I also couldn’t stop living. The fear of her not getting to experience something drove me to experience more. That’s what Big Sisters do – we forge the way. (I’m still pissed off that she had a better curfew than me as a teenager!)
Luckily, I go back and forth the US often, but I truly did not think I’d get a chance to show her my new Dutch life.
And so to have her here with me for 5 too-short days was a huge blessing. One that goes on the very top of my “I’m Thankful For…” list.
Of course, it made dropping her off at the airport brutal. For 5 days we laughed like we had not done in years because there were none of the stresses of illness and work and divorce and crap to interfere. For 5 days we shopped till my American Express dropped. For 5 days we shared and re-knitted our relationship because the bonds of the old days and the shared experiences and love was just there to pick up and play with. For 5 days I had someone here in my new town who new me…. all of me – the old me, the successful me, the silly me, the stupid me, the mad me, the scared me, the new me. It was so EASY not to have to explain all those parts in a conversation. And so fun.
I’m so thankful for those 5 days – and so thankful for my sis. And so very proud of the amazing, beautiful, strong, takes-no-prisoners person she is.
And she is NOT taller than me! We can measure!!!!