The writing on the wall. Actually on a door in the living room. I think I always knew it wasn't Liz, but I didn't care since I planned to eventually finish stripping the door anyway.
Liz, a senior this year, is applying early decision to Northwestern University. I've been up to my eyeballs in completing the CSS for her, also in doing the lights for the Leelanau Children's Choir concerts this week. My posts about graphomotor development and sibling rivalry inspired her approach to the "contrast and compare" paper that was assigned in her Advanced English class. She compared her relationship with her older sister, then and now:
My sister Shelagh is 20 months and one grade older than me, which, as one might imagine, makes us extremely close in age. It is easy to assume that this proximity in age would result in a loving sisterly relationship full of sleepovers and secrets and inside jokes. Unfortunately, that assumption is far from the truth. Although Shelagh and I have a semi-sisterly relationships today, we have not always been this close. In fact, our relationship now is quite different from the relationship we had when we were younger.
When Shelagh and I were little, we fought a lot. To be more specific, we physically fought a lot—by this, I mean that the younger, more emotion-driven-me would often attack my sister. Most disagreements resulted in me biting Shelagh, or me hitting Shelagh, or me punching Shelagh in the gut. Shelagh likes to recall the time when I chucked my favorite doll at her head, which apparently was quite painful. One my of favorite childhood memories involve Shelagh getting mad at me about something small, like who would put away the dishes or something, and me, in a sudden fit of rage, winding back and punching her in the stomach with all my might. She hadn’t even been mean to me, had just calmly expressed her opinion, but apparently I wasn’t into hearing her opinion. Nowadays, however, Shelagh and I rarely fight, instead maintaining a peaceful harmony that would make world leaders jealous. In the extremely rare case that we do fight, it is of the verbal variety rather than violent.
Younger years in the Och household were often spent exploring new ways to get the other sibling into trouble with the parents. It started out innocently enough, with one sibling simply blaming the other for something they did, like a muddy footprint or a mess left on the floor. However, this constant struggle came to its climax when we were probably about 7 and 9, and Shelagh decided that it would be a brilliant idea to write “I am Liz” on the wall, because obviously that is something that I would be stupid enough to do. Let me assure you that Shelagh and I have always had very distinct handwriting, so it was pretty clear (to me, at least), that Shelagh had written the graffiti, and that I was, therefore, innocent. Nothing was ever said by the parents, so I assumed that they figured the same, until about a month ago when I mentioned the incident to my mom. As it turns out that she had thought that I had written it all along, thus making Shelagh the ultimate winner when it comes to sisterly wars. Today, Shelagh and I are more often than not found on the same side of arguments, and we rarely incriminate each other, even for things we really did do. Though this sisterly love makes our relationship much stronger, I doubt my parents appreciate the newly formed alliance.
Today, it is not uncommon for Shelagh and me to call up each other for advice, tips, or just to talk. Contrary to the belief of a very small group of people, we have not always had this closeness. In fact, when we were younger, we hardly ever talked, though I suspect this was due largely in part to the fact that I suffered a severe speech impediment. Due to this embarrassing handicap, I was known to refer to Shelagh as “Seester,” a nickname my dear sister hardly appreciated. Though I learned to pronounce most word by Kindergarten, it wasn’t until at least middle school that Shelagh and I actually began to talk about things that mattered, like shoes and makeup. Now, Shelagh is the first person I call up with good news, bad news, or problems, and we can talk for hours argument (and speech-impediment) free.
As the younger sister, I tend to take my sister’s advice and follow her. This is one part of our relationship that has remained constant throughout the years. When we were younger, this willingness to trust my sister would sometimes cause less-than-satisfying results, such as the time when I “bit the tree”. We were at my great-grandma’s house, and Shelagh had invented this game where we would swing sideways on a swing and attempt to bite leaves off the nearby tree. At first Shelagh wouldn’t let me play, instead taunting me as she bit leaf after leaf off the tree, but after about a half hour of whining, I finally wore her down. Thinking I knew exactly what to do, I swung sideways and…bit the trunk of the tree, losing my second tooth in a bloody mouthful of tree bark. Although I am not naïve enough to do everything Shelagh tells me to today, I still trust her and value her advice, which, luckily for me, has become much more practical since the tree incident.
So, as Shelagh and I have grown up, it is safe to say that our relationship has grown from the blame-driven and violent type to a calmer and friendlier connection. The days of incriminating each other with graffiti and maiming each other with poor advice have fast been replaced by grown-up and sisterly things such as “serious conversations” and “helping each other out”. To an outsider (or from the medical perspective), this may appear to be an improvement, but I remain unconvinced. Despite the fighting, the tricks, and the lack of understandable conversation, Shelagh and I had a pretty good time during our childhood years. Perhaps I’m crazy, or maybe it is true that “the grass is always greener”, but for me, life was so much more fun back when we were younger.