|My sister Daina walking to Z Acres|
She is, you know. Divine. Even though you could count on one hand the things we have in common, my sister has been shoulder against the wind from day one for me.
I may not have fully appreciated it growing up. With four years between us, in those early years that seemed to be a lot. Nor did our interests and dreams align.
|Our grandmother holding me up to my big sister|
She was always the good one.
My sister, cheerful and sweet, honey smile, open arms. She's always given me a warm place of healing when my adult life grew too hard. My sister eloped young, the first time I knew her to break a rule or parental expectation, but then beat all the odds of doing so and raised a wonderful, tightly-knit family with three great kids in a marriage that is now in its fifth decade. She is co-owner today of a wildly successful business outside of Chicago.
Me? Marriage turned to ashes. Poverty banged at my door on a frequent basis. Single parenthood tested every limit. When I wanted to give up, she wouldn't let me. So what if we had nothing in common? So many times I wondered how we could find a common thread, a common ground on which to stand for a meeting of hearts and minds. My sister lived in prosperity while I sometimes wondered how to get food on the table for my babies. How could she possibly understand?
She didn't, doesn't, because some things are not truly absorbed until you feel them on your own hide. To truly understand poverty, or single parenthood, or any number of hardships, one must live it. Otherwise, it's all academic. It's all statistics, numbers, meaningless theory. You have to feel that rumble in your belly before you get it.
|Daina on a winter visit to Z Acres, playing in the snow|
So what if she builds big and I love the tiny house movement. All we need is that one spot, that one place of common ground, where we can meet and share each in the other's world. We open windows for each other. Through her eyes, I see a world different than mine; through my eyes, she has learned to look past broken glass.
Mamma tells me I am the mean one. Quick to draw the bottom line. Then laughs. She tends to ask me first when she needs a champion, then asks her other daughter for a sympathetic ear. She needs us both.
Mamma's right. Daina smiles even when she doesn't feel it. She wears hearts up and down her sleeves. She's gentle, she's kind, she's sweet. Her children adore her more than any kids I've seen, and that says so much about who she is and how she gives.
|Daina in a wheat field near Z Acres|
That's the value of a lifelong relationship. It tests us, bends us, stretches and challenges us. It teaches and expands us. It shows us worlds we would not know on our own. We have done that for each other, and we are both better people for being sisters.
|Z and Daina, on a hayride this fall|
We may not have worked so relentlessly at our relationship if it weren't built on blood, true. Growing up with our different personalities, different dreams and goals, we often went each our own way, but bonded as young women, building families, finding our commonalities, finding that blood really is thicker than water, and that in a harsh world, family really is everything.
It began as a familial bond. It has been enriched over our lifetimes for reasons of mutual respect, shared memories, and dreams that were, after all, not so very different. If living at Z Acres has been a blessing, it has been an added blessing because my sister comes out for seasonal visits. We share the change of the seasons in Nature even as we bond over the seasonal changes in ourselves. The two little girls now have laugh lines, and cry lines. The two young women now have paling hair and the wisdom of years behind us. The familial bond has turned into a bond of friendship between two older and wiser women, building bridges over time and place and sometimes, it seems, different planets.
All things come and go. Marriages, friendships, work colleagues, all can be variable. But my sister is forever. This weekend, I celebrate her and the gift she is to me.
|Daina in the pine forest of Yankee Springs, where we often hike together|