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Never Have I Ever...Had a Sister

By Keri Kelly

I never had a sister. And considering my mother's menopause occurred back when teens clipped Motorola pagers to their Bongo jeans, I’m pretty sure I'll never have one.

Sisters were like a party I was never invited to. A whole genre of feel-good women’s literature I’d never understand. An inside joke I’d never get. I was Marsha without Jan, Tia without Tamera, Anna without Elsa. That was me.

Women with sisters had a certain shimmy to their walk, an inner confidence. They were comfortable around other women, and they’d never worried about being left out or making a girl best friend. They already had a permanent one.

Growing up, whenever I’d make a new best friend, I’d ask, “Do you have a sister?” If she said ‘yes’, I knew I was doomed. My new friend was taken.

“I always wanted you to have a sister, too,” my mom said to me one day after I complained to her about my brother.

I knew what was coming next. It was a tragic story, a weapon that my mother would draw like a gun in a dual whenever she felt we weren’t acting grateful enough for our incredibly blessed lives.

“I had a sister for a short time. I think that’s worse. Knowing what you had was special, and then losing it.” She’d gaze at my brother as he shoveled soggy Fruit Loops into his mouth utterly oblivious to, or, most likely, ignoring our conversation. “I know you want a sister, but appreciate your brother. At least he’s still alive.”

My mother’s sister died in 1955 of undiagnosed strep throat before antibiotics were widely available. It was a tragic story and one that deeply affected my mother. The experience made her an expert on how to appreciate life, miss her sister wholeheartedly, and live each day like the sky was falling.

“Wanna play WWF after breakfast?” My brother asked while using the back of his hand to wipe the milk off his chin.

I’d shrug, still feeling the effects of my mother’s guilt speech. I imagined my friends sitting with their sisters over breakfast — laughing and sharing their special ‘sister’ jokes, showering each other with compliments and solving problems together.

“You’re Super Fly, and I’m Hulk Hogan.” I was pretty sure my friends and their sisters weren’t planning on inflicting physical pain on each other over Fruit Loops.

A minute later, my brother came at me, flung me over his shoulder, and spun me around and around and around before he tossed me at the living room couch cushions.

Mom was right. I was so lucky.

After I gave birth to my first daughter, I’d hoped and prayed that I’d be able to provide her with the gift of an eternal best friend. While pregnant with my second baby, I learned that I was having a girl during my 20-week ultrasound. I waddled home with my head held high, excited to tell my oldest daughter the good news.

“I want a brother! I want someone to play basketball, soccer and Legos with,” my daughter wailed.

“You can do that with a sister,” I said.

“My friend has a sister, and all she wants to do is put on make-up. Girls are boring.”

“Mom-Mom had a sister…” Was I really doing this?

“She did?” My daughter stopped whining. “Why haven’t I met her?”

“She died when Mom-Mom was young. Mom-Mom would do anything to have a sister like you’re about to have. Do you know how lucky you are?”

My daughter burst into tears. “Mom-Mom’s sister died!”

So much for that.

Seven years later, my oldest has morphed into her little sister’s confidante, fierce protector and punching bag. One of my favorite things to do these days is to sit back and observe the bond between my daughters.

“Kaci yelled at me!” my youngest whined to me one day.

“What happened?”

“She’s just so mean to me!”

“Abby’s lying. I’m never mean to her. She’s mean to me,” Kaci replied.

I took in a deep breath. “Do you know how lucky you both are to have a sister?” I asked.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Abby pleaded. “Just don’t tell us that story about Mom-Mom and her sister again.”

“Yeah. Mom. Please, don’t depress us. It’s summer,” Kaci added, eyeing her sister.

They both smiled and rolled their eyes.

My mom was right. Kaci and Abby are lucky to have each other. And I’m fortunate to be a tiny part of their sisterhood bond even though most of the time, I’m the butt of their ‘special sisters only’ inside joke.

At least, it’s something.

— Keri Kelly

Keri Kelly is a professor, award-winning author, comedy writer and mom. When she’s not writing, Keri can be found surfing small waves with her kiddos and fist-pumping at the Jersey Shore. Learn more and say hello at www.kerikelly.com.

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