(I have just finished writing a memoir about being a sister, and will share here a tiny excerpt from it. The name of my book is The Queen of Everything.)
I have spent much of my adult life trying to distance myself, as best as I could without cutting off actual communication, from my family. It started with the short distance of twenty miles, with the scholarship that sent me up Highway 93 from Golden High School to CU at Boulder, becoming the first in both my parents’ families to graduate from college. I was scrupulously vigilant about creating my own perfect life, which was not going to include crappy cars, HUD apartments, food stamps, green stamps, laundromats, or the government cheese.
I have always had a deep-seated fear that if I got sucked into the lives of my sisters, they would sink me, much as adding extra weight to a small boat might capsize it. I tried to put a lot of miles between myself and my family.
Now it turns out that geographic distance doesn’t really matter.
For the decades of my twenties, thirties, and forties I often chafed at the assumption that, as oldest sister, I was the one to get the phone calls for quick cash infusions for electricity about to be turned off, for car transmissions that needed to be replaced, for rent money. Just to tide me over. I can send you $20 a month once I get ahead. I felt like I was being punished for working my way through college, and waiting until my mid-twenties to get married; when I had met a good, steady man with a college degree and a good job from a third-generation Los Angeles family, and not some pothead loser.
Distance. That has been my mantra, along with all the nuances that word connotes. Not only have I lived most of my life far away in miles from my sisters, but also far away in other meanings of the word. Distance: Remoteness, reserve, restraint, reticence.
And yet, at the same time, I find I miss us.