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The Shenanigans of Sisters

By Laura Spreck Lee

She came into my life in 1972. I put aside all my baby dolls because now I had the real thing. My very own doll — also known as my baby sister.

At the age of five, I thought my whole purpose in life was to take care of “baby Lynda.” I didn’t have much else on my agenda except to learn how to write my name so I had the time to devote. Usually it was fun to have a built-in playmate and I could ditch her if there was ever a better offer to go over to a friend’s house.

Against my mother’s wishes, I loved to sneak into Lynda’s bedroom to check on her before I went to bed. It was usually uneventful and I would catch hell if I woke her up so I just gave her a quick once over.

During one of my nighttime checks, there was some major excitement. “Mom! Mom come quick!” I remember running out of the room yelling. “There are cigarette butts and barf all over Lynda’s crib.” It was the 1970s and, apparently, my sister found one of my parents’ giant ashtrays to be appetizing. To this day, my mom and sister deny this ever happened.

We were only at the same school during our grade school years. We shared a room for awhile, had a few fights, and bantered 24/7. I got mad and put a sticker in her hair, which had to be cut out the day before school pictures. She had spiked hair before it was a thing thanks to my hijinks. Lynda retaliated by putting “I’m a good reader” and “Top Seller” (as in Girl Scout cookies) stickers on me a few times for everyone to see on Sunday when we were at church. She conveniently waited to tell me about the sticker attacks until after I returned from communion, making sure everyone saw the sticker display on my back.

During high school, it was time for Lynda to take care of me. Here is one of many examples: I was going on a date that I was dreading. Lynda’s job was to leave the front door open so that anyone could see through the screen door, leave every light on in the house, and make a lot of noise. I arrived home, expecting my foolproof plan to be in place, allowing me to avoid the awkward good-bye kiss because of all the activity and no privacy. What did I find instead? My house was beyond locked up. All lights were off and there were no signs of life. My sister was hiding in the dark for hours laughing and waiting for my return. Many unpleasant words were exchanged that night.

That same summer she thought I was paying her back on a late night while she was watching a scary movie. She thought I was pulling on the basement back door pretending to be a burglar. Instead, she nearly had a heart attack when I came out of my bedroom in a daze after hearing her scream. It was a payback without even trying and we never figured out who our late-night visitor was.

After Lynda was out of college, I helped her find a job in Chicago and we lived a block apart from each other. She let me live with her for two months while I was in transition going back to school. We drove each other crazy. I put terrible songs in her head that she was stuck with for days. When people asked if we were sisters I’d ask them who they thought was younger. If the person picked me as the younger sister I would yell, “Nope, I’m five years older.” Then I would smile at my sister and I’d mention how glad I was that she got the 1950's name and not me.

As my maid of honor, she hosted a bachelorette trip to New Orleans. She dressed me in a red boa, red cowboy hat with a wedding veil, and big fake tatas that she made me wear under an embarrassingly worded T-shirt. It was a payback like no other, until my wedding, when she roasted me to a crowd of all my friends and family. She has still never been married despite my urging to “come in, the water’s warm” pleas so I have yet to give my toast roast. If the day comes, she would be smart to elope.

As we’ve aged, I have been relying on my sister a lot. She came to L.A. when each of my kids were born to help out and keep things running while my husband and I learned to juggle our new responsibilities.

Because she was not tied down, she selflessly gave up her Carrie Bradshaw life in Chicago and moved home when my Dad died to help my mom. She also picked up my kids after grade school every day because they were so over the many years of aftercare at their school.

She has been a second mom to my kids. Despite them referring to her as Uncle Buck (John Candy’s classic movie character in case you need the reference) for being so hard on them get their homework done and stay out of trouble, they adore her and know she will always have their back. She loves to tell my kids stories about my teenage years, which then yields “Mom, Lynda said you were not an angel so why can’t I (insert ridiculous ask here).”

Lynda and I still sign every card, “Love, the prettiest, smartest sister and favorite daughter” and I always tell her that when we get really old, she can come live with me and I will take care of her again, like the old days. Her response every single time — “absolutely not happening.”

— Laura Spreck Lee

Laura Spreck Lee lives in the Midwest with her husband John, 17-year old daughter Lexie, 16-year-old son Ethan and Goldendoodle Zoey, a human pretending to be a dog. Almost an empty nester, Laura is trying to figure out her next act.

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