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Sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic world simply by being there for each other.   (Carol Saline)

When I was sixteen-years-old my mother gave our family the gift I always had wanted—a sister. Sure, I had great brothers. But I was an all-girl girl, and I didn’t understand the male species.

My brothers would engage in rough play with Dad until they cried. I declared outrage, but seconds later my brothers would be at it again with a grin on their faces I interpreted as lunacy. I soon learned that it made no sense to try to protect them.

I remember telling Mom I wanted an older sister. She never seemed to understand that even at the age of six I’d figured out that was impossible, although I suppose secretly I wanted someone else to guide me through the make-believe and the real world with wisdom. Life didn’t always make sense, and grownups definitely belonged to another galaxy. They knew all the rules and expected kids to know them, too. Most of the time I learned rules by breaking them first.

Of course by the time my sister was born my dolls and childhood belonged to a long-ago past. As a teenager I played the role of built-in-babysitter and big sister.

Claire’s birthday is Monday. She hasn’t been a baby in a long time. She works as a pastor’s wife, which means she has a schedule that requires a wall-sized calendar. She has a married son and a daughter-in-law now.  I could call her my little sister, but she isn’t tall. However, I’ve shrunk, and she is quick to point that out.

I don’t mind. Our relationship has nothing to do with height. I don’t recall when the bond between us developed into something that transcended the difference in our ages. Once, when my sons were still at home, Claire and I got into a deep discussion about our lives. We were standing outside my house by the barbecue grill, white with flaming charcoal. Our mother could see us from the back window. She came outside to see if we were all right. We had shared how we really felt in a way only sisters can understand. Of course we told Mom everything was just great. We told the truth even though we had spoken of sadness and fear as well as hope: we had each other and I knew we always would.

Happy Birthday, Sis! Thanks for being you.

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