I don’t remember when my sister came home from the hospital; I was only fifteen months old. In fact, I don’t remember ever being without her. Even so, I took my responsibilities as a big sister very seriously.
Hilary, or Hilly, as I call her, used to get tired in the car. She’d put her head in my lap (these were the days when the seatbelts would be stuffed deep in the seats) and I’d pet her bangs. She’d suck her thumb and fall asleep, and I can still remember the tenderness I felt…my little red-headed sister, snoozing away.
We were only a grade apart, so we were almost always in the same school building. Hilly was more outgoing than I was, and it always reassured me to see her with her friends. Once, a boy named Brent pushed her down when we were ice skating, and I chased Brent with a fury in my heart that probably would’ve resulting in me sending him to the hospital, if I’d been able to catch him. Hilly became friends with him eventually. I never forgave him.
When we were about 8 and 9, we decided one day to share a room, and we moved my twin bed with its purple cover into her yellow room. We’d talk and giggle in the dark. We played in the woods and in the barn, making forts for the cat, brushing Jenny the horse. Hilly had her own language with our pets, and though I couldn’t speak it, I could understand it.
Our town is home to the biggest agricultural fair in the state, and the year I got to walk around without parents, Hilary was grandfathered in by our mom. “Stay together,” was her only warning, and we did. We’d save money all summer for the fair, swipe our dad’s change from the counter, plan to eat at the booths where our parents volunteered to save money for games and rides. We knew the fastest way to dodge through the crowds, where to rest, when the best time was to go through the fun house. The fair is this coming weekend, and McIrish will listen to me as I reminisce about being with my sister.
People often think we’re twins, even though I look more like mom’s side of the family, and she looks more like dad’s. We have the same haircut, and now the same glasses. Time has erased those fifteen months, and I say things like, “When we were ten,” or “When we were in sixth grade…” She is and always has been my very best friend in the world.
This weekend, we’re together again, the first time in ages that we’ve been away just the two of us. I don’t know why we waited this long; we won’t make that mistake again.