VIII. Five Assorted Siblings and One Imported Sister

We've come full circle; we started this family with just the two of us, and here we are, just the two of us again. I love it. I remember as a child being happiest when it was only us; especially when we'd sneak away to grab lunch or go to the movies. Our connection exceeds that of an ordinary mother-daughter duo. We’re meant to be together, to be this close, as if we've been recycled and reincarnated over the centuries. But that's something only She and I understand. As much as I wished for it at times, if it had been just the two of us we wouldn't be where we are today. We wouldn't be writing this blog. We wouldn’t be tweeting each other from ten feet across the room.

We’ve become quite introspective this year, over analyzing the why’s and how’s. Despite the rough patches the past twenty five years, I thought if given the chance, I’d trade it all in an instant to relive my life alone with Her. Maybe next life we will. But right now, though we thought about how glorious it might have been 'just the two of us', we’d forgotten one very important detail: if She had not remarried I would have never met my true sister.

As She mentioned, the great haul from New England to a small southern town was a culture shock. It was difficult for me to adjust. I was a chatterbox which deluded folks into thinking I was happy. I was, however, an outsider and reminded of that every day at school. My northern accent, my uncommon last name, my extravagant handmade dresses with matching accessories made me an outcast. I remember being teased mercilessly on my pronunciation of pecan in 3rd grade. As children naturally do, I dropped my proper pronunciation of words and began to slide into a southern twang of made up words like ustacould and fixinto. My identity as a New Englander faded away. Every time I called my Father he was shocked (or perhaps appalled) at what a southern belle I’d become. But I’d say ya'll every two seconds if it'd prevent me from being teased. Despite how hard I tried to fit it, they still knew I didn’t belong there.

Then one day it happened. I met her. You know how you can have a memory but not even know if it’s a real one? You don’t know if you actually remember it or if you only recall it due to pictures or how many times you’ve heard the story told? I’m sure She remembers the details of how I met my sister. All I know is, a little brown girl walked into my life and the simple act of inviting her to play intertwined our lives forever.

Newly imported from the Dominican Republic, she didn’t speak a word of English. In typical American fashion, volume was substituted for bilingual ability. Apparently I screamed at her and placed special emphasis on the word Barbies when asking her to play. Surely, she had to know what Barbie's were, English or no English. So there we sat, nine years old, managing to find a common ground despite the language barrier and our friendship blossomed. Nicole. Mi hermana.

Just as I had learned the language of South Georgia, Nick had picked up English practically overnight. Pretty soon she'd become a full translator for her Mom. A task she hated but that lasted a decade. As the communication gap lessened we became the closest of friends. In no time at all she had moved in across the street from us and we became inseparable. But more on that later.

Fast forward to age fifteen. The day we moved to Virginia. We stood in my driveway, baking in the sun, the grass already dead from Georgia's scorching, intense summers. We lingered, neither one knowing how to say goodbye. The only time we’d been separated was my brief stay with the Grandparents in Florida and a summer she spent with her Father in New York. We attempted to lighten the mood by quoting John Lequizamo’s HBO special Freak; a favorite of ours which gave us years worth of one-liners to zing at each other. But the mood didn’t lighten.

Sisters can be brutal. We were jealous, competitive; we fought over Nintendo’s and boys. We loathed each other often. She even kicked my ass on a trampoline once, which she still boasts about to this day. Yet when the car was packed, the dogs confined, and it was time to separate, none of that sibling rivalry mattered. We clung to each other and said I love you. That was the first time I’d ever seen Nicole cry. (Lord knows I can cry at a drop of a pin.) It took all I had to keep it together. I think I held it until the end of Grace Avenue before it came gushing out. At that moment, I didn’t care about leaving my stepfamily or the house I grew up in, I only cared about leaving Nicole. I was on my way to being an outsider again, on the road to a new home and a new life and a part of my soul was being left behind. I was terrified of losing the only sibling I’d really had, the only person who knew me. I worried the distance would tear us apart but in the end it made us stronger.

Fast forward to age twenty-five. It’s been eight years since I've seen the only person other than Her that I’d die for. Nick married a soldier and took on a new life and I was secretly delighted. I didn’t want her to get stuck in that small town. I wanted her to see what a different world was outside of rural, redneck Georgia. My prayers were answered when they were stationed in England. She was in Lakeheath a month and her southern drawl was gone. No joke.

Family is such a relative term. I share blood with two brothers I’ve barely met, shared a bathroom for years with a brother I barely know and became sisters with a girl I could barely understand. Just as She and I were meant to be mother-daughter, Nick and I were meant to be sisters. She is my childhood. She’s in every memory. She knows me better than any friend ever has or ever will. She's been there through awful haircuts, braces, clarinet lessons, breakups, and even death. Granted, I have a few friends now that would help me get rid of a dead body but Nick is the only friend that’s ever helped me sneak a guinea pig into church.

Here we are 16 years later and sometimes when I see an international number on the caller ID I pick up the phone and hear a screaming Hispanic asking, "Do you wanna play BARBIE'S?" ~Braticas

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