"Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." ~ Mary Oliver

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Letter To My Sister On Her Birthday

A Letter To My Sister On Her Birthday

Tuesday, November 02, 2010, 3:11:11 AM | Susan KellerGo to full article

Mary Jean,
You are my sister, friend, confidante, co-keeper of the family secrets, sharer of my history, the person I rely on to build me up, and the one most likely to keep me humble. Now that we are grown women I can see and admire your inner beauty; now that we are grown women I've stopped being jealous of your physical beauty...or, at least, I've stopped secretly drawing mustaches and chin hair on your high school pictures. It no longer makes me feel better.

We've had many long conversations over coffee, and, I hope, many more to come. I always learn something new about you, things that make me proud, make me laugh, sometimes cry, and sometimes you even manage to shock me. And no matter what I reveal about myself, you always accept all the facets of me with an open heart. For this I am grateful, and would like to reveal now that I am the one who stole your favorite cream-colored sweater 27 years ago. It was the only thing in your closet that would fit me, and it made my boobs look good. You won't be getting that back.

You may not know this, but I credit much of my love and knowledge of popular music to you. You built the soundtrack to my teenage memories; Summer of '69, Boys of Summer (got those wayfarers on, baby), blasting the Grease - and later, Flashdance - soundtracks off the record player in the front yard while you sunbathed with your friends. Toby Beau, Shaun Cassidy, Rick Springfield...Paradise By The Dashboard Light (and I wasn't supposed to know what all that meant!), Pat Benatar, Journey...no way that I can name them all. But so many of them were just before "my time", and I might have missed them, if not for you. Since you're OLDER than me, your musical coming of age overlapped my own, and rounded it out quite nicely; thank you. I do sincerely apologize for sneaking into your room when you weren't home and scratching the shit out of your records because I'd dance in front of your mirror and skip the damn things every time. I know you knew it was me, but my birthday gift to you is full disclosure. So I should probably tell you that whenever your make-up went missing...me too. (You might have guessed that wasn't the boys either.)

You might be tickled to know that I credit you with some of the skills I have today; being your social secretary when I was younger has really paid off. You'll recall that we didn't have caller I.D. back then, so someone had to answer the phone and weed out the "good" calls from the "bad" ones...thanks for letting me do that. It taught me organization, tact, phone skills, people skills, and how to hammer out one white lie after another. My sense of wicked humor was honed as well; you probably didn't know this, but the guys who wouldn't seem to take a hint...well, there really wasn't anything wrong with their love perception. I may, from time to time, have let it slip that you were just playing hard to get, that you had their names doodled all over your bedroom mirror, and they just needed to try harder.

Another part of my birthday gift to you today is forgiveness. I forgive you for all the times you wished me gone, wished me dead, wished I'd never been born. Because, you see, I know NOW just how typical that sort of deep-seated vengeance is between sisters! Of course, I know it NOW. I didn't know it then. Still hadn't figured it out on the day that I hired that voodoo woman to put a curse on you and your charmed life. I swear on my love for you that as soon as I find her surviving relatives, I will figure out a way to reverse that...

This might also be a good time for me to tell you that I was the one who was adopted. I know you always hoped it was you, but alas, it was me. My real parents found me yesterday, and I'm off to Palm Springs to go live with them. (OMG - my new bedroom overlooks the OCEAN!! How cool is THAT?!) They appear to be lovely people; they only gave me up because they were trying to get their heroin business underway and couldn't provide for my daily needs. They have been searching for me ever since their release from prison. It turns out that Dad - he said I could call him Dad - learned a lot in the slammer about the family trade, and has since made a FORTUNE. How ironic is this - I'm finally going to have my own cleaning lady! Can't wait for you to come visit and meet my new family.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is that...I am grateful to have a big sister. (Oh, wait...now that you're in your mid-forties I shouldn't use adjectives like "big"...) What I meant to say was, I am so glad to have an OLDER sister. Someone to look up to because you've lived SO MUCH LONGER than I have. You used to counsel me about boys, music, makeup, my period...and now you can start telling me about hot flashes, wrinkles, what to use to color greys and how to get rid of those unsightly chin hairs. (FYI - those might not be so much nature as that voodoo thing...) It is such a relief to know that you will be well-versed in all these areas long before I ever need to know about them! One small request - would you mind writing all that stuff down? I have noticed lately that your mind isn't as sharp as it used to be, and would hate for all that sisterly advice to just vanish the way your car keys keep disappearing...

So, to my sister, my friend, my former nemesis and future recipient of the monthly stipend I will have to send to you at whichever long-term care facility you end up calling home...I love you. My life - past, present, and future - wouldn't be complete without you. You're the spit that rubs the dirt mark off my face, the band-aid always at the ready, the sarcasm that yanks me out of the pity pool and tells me to walk it off (when needed), the wind beneath my tattered wings, and the little divider in my silverware drawer that keeps the spoons from falling on the forks. I hope you have an amazing day...and thousands more just like it.

Love, Susie <3


  1. This is,,, well, I don't know, so heartwarming and at the same time somehow heart wrenching. I so love the idea of your loving your sister this deeply. Such a great sister birthday wishes and I love your post. you're so sweet.

    Cheers xxxx

  2. I agree with Sarah. These birthday messages for sister are somewhat touching. Love the deep bond. Love it!