I grew up an only child, save for the five years my cousins lived with us, exposing me to the joys of brothers who teased you and farted in your face and taught you to curse and ruined any chance you had of getting your driver's permit at fifteen and your license at sixteen by being a psychotic driver and who once ate all the chocolate éclairs after which you sobbed the entire way home (for which I have never quite forgiven him). I know brothers. But sisters are a mystery to me, a foreign country I'll never explore, one I don't have a map for, or a passport. Perhaps this is why I feel a twist of longing when I see friends with their sisters, some older, some younger, all with some kind of mysterious bond that has its own unique chemistry, a completeness, a separate existence beyond what anyone else can experience. It lasts forever. (The other day I heard a sixty-one-year-old friend talk about how her sixty-three-year-old Big Sister prevented anyone from serving her too much food at dinner, much the way she must have banished the monsters under the bed nearly six decades ago).
In literature sisters lie in bed together, talking late into the night, share (willingly or otherwise) shoes and clothes; they fight over makeup and boys and who took whose sweater and who broke whose favorite mug. They are apart and then together, and when together become one indistinguishable whole, another separate world with its own language, its own air, impenetrable by anyone else. Or so literature would have us believe. I have no basis for comparison, and so must turn to the written word. I picked up In Her Shoes (I forget why, although I vaguely remember watching the film version on an airplane), flipped through the intertwining stories of Rose and Maggie and their grandmother Ella, as the threads of their life twisted together and apart and then together again. I read fast, in one gulp, racing through the pages to find out how all three women would find their way back to each other, Rose and Maggie after a terrible fight, the worst kind of betrayal, and Ella after a lifetime apart from her granddaughters, all she has left of her own daughter Caroline, long dead.
Rose is two years older than Maggie, the one who was a good student and went to law school and became a lawyer, who is always bailing her little sister out of everything, always loaning her money and letting her stay, always taking care of her. And then they are split apart, for months not speaking, not seeing each other, Rose not even knowing where Maggie is. They come back together in their grandmother's home in Florida, where Maggie has been living, still not speaking, still estranged, sharing a pull-out sofa bed in the guest room. And even not speaking, even still angry, some things don't change, will never change. Rose will still get out of bed to get her little sister a glass of water with one ice cube; she always got Maggie's water...since they were little...almost every night during Maggie's stint in her apartment. And, probably when they were in their eighties, after they'd out-lived husbands and left their jobs and moved to whatever the 2060's version of Golden Acres would be, she'd still be fetching her little sister glasses of water with one ice cube. (It's the one ice cube that always gets me). Can you imagine that kind of certainty? That kind of bond, that knowledge that no matter what, no matter how far you went, how much you hurt them, you had someone who would still bring you that glass of water with one ice cube?
Weiner, Jennifer. In Her Shoes. Washington Square Press, 2005. p 388.