Sisterhood / Shvesters

Sis 1

As two moms with two girls, sisterhood is an important topic in our household. I watch Little and Big as they play, fight, hug, quarrel, dance, bicker, collaborate, mimic, accidentally draw blood, purposefully love, and magical things happen inside my heart. Things I never thought I could possibly know or understand until mommyhood happened. I think about my relationship with my sister, where I am Little and she is Big, and my heart fills with delight, love and naches from childhood through to present day.


The two things I can proudly give my mom credit for, and were drilled into my head as a wee one: (1) Shvesters should always love and protect each other, (2) Education is very, very important.


My sister is almost four years older than me and we were pretty, pretty, pretty (say as Larry David would) opposite as kids go. I now fondly recall episodes of our lives that were endearing, loving, and truthfully, downright frightening. Like the time where I was forced to sing Michelle ma belle (yes, from the Beatles) to a visitor of our neighbors, so that he would show us his wooden leg. I did, and he did. My Big was pleased and I didn’t get beat up. Win-win.


Another time, didn’t work out so well. I don’t even remember the request, but the outcome left fresh bicycle treads over my stomach. Yep, she rode her two-wheeler right over top of me! Crushed my kishkas for no reason that comes to memory.

Sis 3

I learned early that being a tattletale would not work out well for me. The damages that would ensue from Big were not worth the punishment she would get from my role as informant.


When she was old enough to be in charge, rather than the secret sheriff that had ruleSis 2, we would pleasantly smile as my parents left the house for a Saturday night on the town. As I heard the door keys lock, I would run like the wind to my bedroom and lock the door. Safety.


And there were times where her kindness shone so bright. Like when she put her arm around me at the funeral of my Nanny during high school, and assured me we would be okay. I still remember that touch, as if it were yesterday. Her assurance so genuine, I had to believe.


Being 4 years apart was tough. We had different friends, different ideas of fun, and a totally different way of being on the planet. She was rebellious, athletic, attractive, funny and smart. Big ‘leaned in’ well before Sheryl Sandberg’s bestseller. I was quiet (I’m fairly certain I did not speak until my thirties), absorbing, zaftig, nerdy (before nerdy was cool), smart and artistic. In my teens I had an uncanny resemblance to a young River Phoenix. Not necessarily a good thing for a young girl, but you get what you get and make do.

Sis 5

I can vividly recall a time in our kitchen, where Big caused some sort of major upset to our mother and received an abrupt, hard, right-handed slap in the face. With the chutzpah Big carried so well, she slapped our mom right back, turned, and left the room. Stunning. It was the kind of scene that happened on Dynasty between rival matriarchs, Linda Evans and Joan Collins. That made for an interesting evening when Daddy came home. I stayed the keen observer in the family, silent and soaking it all in, being ever the good girl.


I always knew my sister was a wonderful person, even as a young, bruised and tattered nudnik of a kid. She had tons of friends, fans and energy. She knew how to have fun, seek support from outside and had fearlessness worthy of applause. She would sneak out at night when the parents were long asleep, and I would let her back in when I heard the slight tap on my bedroom window. All unspoken. I quite envied her brazen qualities. My role was to keeper of the peace. Dangerous in a very different way and worthy of posts yet to come.


Suffice to say, our differences growing up left for not much getting along. “Shvesters, Shvesters,” was always cried in the background. I remember when she left for college. I thought my black-and-blue arms were up for some relief and the drama in the house would calm. One day, my parents awarded me with plane tickets to spend the weekend with her at college. Shvesters…surely this couldn’t be true? Why couldn’t they foresee the outcome? Didn’t they know we had nothing in common? Could they see me schvitzing at the thought of this tsuris-ridden adventure? That I may be left at the airport until the plane ride home? Was this some form of punishment? What did I do to deserve such a fate?


And it was during that very weekend, when our relationship grew like the heart of the Grinch. I was welcomed. We talked. I was introduced to her friends. Parties. Fun. Shown a good time and treated as an equal, rather than a pesky sidekick related merely by blood. And it was from that day forward that our bond formed and grew.

Sis 4

Big went on to marry the man she met at college. He is a true mensch. They had two wonderful boys who are now magnificent young men. All four of them deepen my life, our lives, in ways that words cannot begin to touch. Despite all the mishegas that happened in our family, here are three words that I may not say very often, but surely ring true in this instance. When it comes to shvesters, “Mom was right.”


As I am writing this, my Little and Big waken and walk out, hand in hand. Being closer in age, friendship comes easy. They are playmates by birthright. My heart does the love dance at the sight of them. They politely ask for one TV show, and then run off to play in their room when the show ends. The joy they see in each other is spectacular. Big cares for Little like a wannabe mom. Little provokes, cajoles, cavorts and acts ever the clown. Together they dance the Nutcracker, invent games and tinker. And they do fight. No candy-coating here. But a good 98% of the time, they are shvesters and this is one happy mishpocheh.


This post is for my shvester, Aud-o, Steve-o, Ben and Max. And my hope is that my Little and Big can keep as wonderful a love as my sister and I hold dear.


I am one lucky sister.
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