Yesterday was National Siblings Day, according to Facebook and Twitter. (How else would I have known?) And this is how it goes: I come home from work tired and lethargic, preemptively admonishing myself for the workout I know I won’t do tonight, but feeling mostly upbeat due to the suddenly summery weather. The older of my two much younger sisters, Flannery, greets me as I get out of the car, and I can’t help but feel nostalgic envy watching her amble toward me barefoot in shorts and a tank top. She already has just a hint of sun, whereas this morning I debated whether or not I should wear a dress to work because damn my legs are pasty. Cherish these carefree afternoons, I want to tell this 13-year-old in front of me before reminding myself that I should do the same.
So I throw on my flip flops, and at Flannery’s suggestion, we spend the next hour taking pictures around the yard while my youngest sister, Elsbeth, does her impressive self-taught gymnastics routine on the trampoline nearby. The magnolia tree bloomed literally overnight and catches glints of the Golden Hour sun that so graciously stays later and later each day we get closer to summer.
Summer. It seems to take forever to arrive in Maryland, and when it finally does, you’re taken by surprise. Despite the sometimes oppressive heat and humidity, your next worry is that summer will slip away too soon. And it will. It always does.
We compare pictures, and I notice Flannery has an eye for photography, too. I let her get my new, uninsured iPhone a little dirty and don’t yell when she holds it over a giant plastic tub filled with water to take a picture of something living inside. (I calmly ask her to stop it, please, though.) The dogs are chasing us and jumping at my legs—the fat one lets me take her photo before licking at the lens. Cherish these carefree afternoons, I repeat in my head, reminding myself that I will not always live with my sisters. They will go through middle school and enter high school without me as close as I’ve been for the past almost three years because I am 23, I’ve saved some money, and one day in the not-too-distant future I will move in with John, my boyfriend of four years. And as happy as I will be to finally live with him, I will miss my sisters, too.
They fight. All the time, Flannery and Elsbeth. They fight over who gets the shower first. They get mad when the other has a look on their face they don’t like. They argue until they’ve forgotten what they were arguing about. And yet, they’re best friends. The relationship they have with one another is different than the relationship I have with each of them. Being the eldest by 10 and 12 years, I vacillate between being the cool, all-knowing older sister and the irrelevant, out-of-touch older sister. I play moderator when they fight. Sometimes I dictate who gets the shower first, and in these moments, Elsbeth reminds me that I am not, in fact, their mom. I remind her that I am aware, but get in the shower anyway. I have a job and benefits.
Soon, our age difference won’t seem so great and we’ll have shared more of the same life experiences. If and when I have kids, my sisters will be the fun, young aunts. If and when they have kids, I’ll be the fun, old one. My sisters will probably still fight sometimes, but they’ll always be close. We all will. I often think if I hadn’t made the decision to live at home for my last semester of college—instead of the apartment with my roommate which had a lease up for renewal—I would’ve missed out on so much of my sisters’ lives. I wouldn’t know just how good Elsbeth has gotten at gymnastics without any classes, or that Flannery kicked butt in lacrosse last weekend. Living at home didn’t just allow me to save money. It allowed me to cherish these carefree afternoons spent with my sisters. Who, hopefully, will look back one day and cherish them, too.
It’s not yet summer. Yesterday’s 90 degrees was a fluke. We’ll likely even have a few more chilly days—Maryland is unpredictable like that. But spring has sprung, and I’m acutely aware of how quickly it will lead to summer, when things will rapidly change. I can only tell my sisters that each year goes by quicker than the last, but they won’t understand that until they experience it for themselves.
Which is how it goes for all of us.