Karley is my younger sister. We’re almost two years apart, and we’re very different people. I’m bossy; she’s stubborn. I can be a nervous people pleaser; Karley doesn’t have time for any of that. She is sharp and funny. Sometimes I see kids and teenagers who struggle with authority, and I always think that these are the kids who are going to grow into my kind of people. Because some of the qualities we, or at least I, prize in adults—independence, irreverence, wit, a strong sense of self-advocacy—are not the qualities that make up a “good kid.” Karley has always had these qualities in droves. In her toast at our wedding, Karley talked about how when we were younger, she called me the Golden Child. Growing up I had good grades and friends who never caused any trouble, so I rarely did either. Karley had a more difficult time with school, and usually ended up just doing what she wanted and taking the consequences later.
She felt like the bad seed. We were oil and water. When I moved out and went to college, the prevailing hypothesis in our family was that maybe we’d learn to get along now that we weren’t living under the same roof, but we’d probably never be close.
The big catalyst for a change in our relationship with each other happened when my sister announced an unexpected pregnancy. And then, eight years ago now, my nephew Holden was born. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that everything shifted after that. Of course it did for my sister, but our relationship shifted too. We had something that was such a source of joy for both of us, but something that we experienced totally differently at the same time. We didn’t have to relate only as siblings anymore—we could interact with each other from our relationships to Holden. My sister’s role in our family changed too; Karley is a very good mother, and Holden is our parents’ first and only grandchild. She was doing something well, and sharing something amazing with all of us, and, importantly for us, she was an expert in something I wasn’t. Since I didn’t live super close to the rest of my family, Karley started frequently texting me pictures and stories about my nephew, and slowly that turned into semi-regularly talking about other things: student loans, pets, online shopping, My Little Pony tattoos. I started to look forward to the opportunity to spend time with her when I visited my family.
No one was more excited than my sister when Julie and I got engaged. Karley has always loved weddings, maybe even more than I do. And planning my wedding gave us an opportunity to use our opposing strengths collaboratively. For instance, I had planned to travel to California to go wedding dress shopping with my family. When I called to confirm our appointment with the store before I left Colorado, the gal on the phone informed me that she couldn’t find my name in their book. I texted my mom and my sister, feeling disappointed and nervous. My mom, who often responds to challenges like I do, texted me back that I shouldn’t worry, that things would work out. Karley, however, called me immediately. “I’m calling them now,” she said, forcefully, “and they will find your appointment, and they will make this the best damn experience of your whole life, or they will have me to deal with.” They did, too. And I was so viscerally grateful to have my fierce sister on my side. We talked almost every day between my engagement and the wedding. Sometimes about wedding-related stuff, sometimes work, or family, or whether or not jellies make your feet sweat intolerably.
I know my sister loves me, and even likes me most of the time now, but when we were planning the wedding, I felt like she was proud of me in a way that I haven’t experienced before. I felt like someone she wanted to show off—a sister she thought others should be envious of.
Karley was a wonderful Maid of Honor. She spent the days leading up to the wedding carrying things to and from the car, gluing squares to our huppah, covering things in glitter. She kept me company in the alley behind our venue before Julie came to do our first look. The day after the wedding she helped me haul all of the leftover beer and wine back to the liquor store. Her and Holden’s flight back to California that night got cancelled, and they were briefly stranded, so they came back to our house and the four of us opened wedding presents and looked at photo booth pictures. We were all so tired, and so overwhelmed from the previous few days, and I was overall so glad to be done with the wedding. But I did keep thinking that I would miss the talking to my sister parts of wedding planning. I didn’t doubt our relationship anymore, but I would feel the loss of being such a point of focus for her, now that the wedding was over.
Unlike me, my sister isn’t one to spend her time looking backward. She’s already moved on to her/our next project. She texted me the other day, “I found a job for Julie in California!”
“Great,” I replied, working on something else, and texting on the fly, “Go tell Julie about it.”
“You guys need to get moving,” she texted back, “I need to live in the same state as my nieces and nephews!”
“You don’t have nieces and nephews,” I said.
“Well, you better get on that,” she replied.