Mostly I’m nice, but sometimes I’m not. My little sister can attest to the “not nice” label better than anyone. After all I did conspire (after the fact) with our older brothers to leave her behind at a gas station in Utah when she was six. That was definitely not nice!
Until I was eight I shared a room with Beth. I did not like this. I loved the room. It was on the second floor of our Magnolia Terrace home. The room had a fireplace, wall paper with little apple trees and big windows on two sides. One of the windows was over the porch and I loved to sneak out the window and sit on the roof of the porch where our nosy neighbor Mrs. Gilman couldn’t see me and rat me out to my mom.
The room was perfect. Sharing it with Beth was not. My brothers had their own rooms on the third floor so I didn’t think it fair that I had to share with Beth. So being the problem solver that I am, I set out to fix the problem. I rearranged the furniture in such a way as to clearly define whose side was whose. That didn’t work. Beth was forever jumping on my bed and begging me to play with her baby dolls. I hated baby dolls as much as I hated sharing a room with Beth.
My next step was to pull out a roll of duct tape and roll out a line right down the middle of the room. I of course took the larger half of the room, the side with the front window over the porch. Amazingly it worked. Beth stayed on her side of the room.
But Beth was smart, even at age 5. She immediately informed me that since she had to stay on her side, I had to stay on mine. That was fine with me, until I had to go to the bathroom. The door to the hall was on her side of the room and I was not allowed on that side. Climbing out the window to sit on the porch roof to watch the neighborhood was one thing, but having to use the window as my access in and out of my room was another. I was out smarted.
Soon after the duck tape room divider debacle we moved and each had our own rooms. Instead of fighting over space in our room we took to sneaking into each other’s room to “borrow” clothes. We’d both deny “borrowing” and would fight over whose clothes were whose. Fighting was our language — it was what we knew how to do.
Eventually I went off to college and moved 500 miles away. Then I married Sam and ended up a 1,000 miles away from Beth. Sam didn’t like Beth, and Beth didn’t like Sam. I left my sister behind.
Twenty years later, Sam left. It was Beth who came to my rescue. She hugged me when I cried and made me stop crying and get busy living. She traveled 1,000 miles to help me move. She kicked my butt into action and helped me turn my new house into a home. She has been my very best friend every day since. Even though it is the miles, not duct tape, that divides us, she is still my best friend.
Her birthday was in August and I was sad to not be with her. Sad to not be able to celebrate with her, but more sad that she had to celebrate her 47th birthday with a follow up sonogram to rule out the possibility of breast cancer, rather than doing something fun. It broke my heart to not be there. I would have gladly have even played dolls with her, but instead it was text messages and phone calls that created the connection across those miles — and the celebration when all news was good.
Sisters. We learn to fight with them, sometimes we want to leave them behind but if you’re as blessed as me, you eventually learn that life is just easier with them than without, even if they are one thousand miles away.
Martha Reed Johnson is a member of the Scotland County Story Spinners Guild from Florence, S.C.