Monday, May 23, 2016

how we find our way back

A few months ago, my sister Andi texted me an old photo of us together, along with the text-length story that she remembered of it. I wanted a photo of us and you wanted nothing to do with me. I didn't remember that at all, but I do remember years earlier when our parents wanted to send us together to the summer fair and I whined to my mother about how I always had to be with Andi. I suppose it was that I wanted the chance to try new things on my own instead of always walking the path my two older sisters had already made ahead of me. Only 18 months apart in age, Andi and I were often mistaken for twins from the time we were in preschool. Maybe it was because of that that, for a long time, I resisted belonging to anyone fully.

Jump ahead twenty years from that photo she texted me and we are spending a weekend together in L.A. - no kids or husband (hers). We spend four days, just the two of us. We shop for clothes, eat ice cream, run along the beach, listen to jazz, look at art, drink coffee, hike to see the city skyline, watch episodes of Fixer Upper, take selfies and post them to Instagram. We talk about marriage and dating and the cities we live in and how we miss the places from our pasts, about our parents and our other sister and our friends. Every once in a while I think about how rare this is, how we haven't done this since before her son was born more than seven years ago, and who knows when we will spend this much uninterrupted time together again. I want to take it all in and ask her every question and remember every word. I want everything to do with her.

And then there are those moments, the inevitable ones when the distance in our lives creeps up between us and reminds us how far apart we are sometimes. We sit in a church pew, only inches between us. But while these benches have held me as I've cried and prayed and laughed and had my heart broken and changed and re-made over nearly a decade of my life, to her the bench is not much more than a stiff piece of wood that she has trouble sitting on. I feel the distance so tangibly that, taking communion, I start to cry. Later that afternoon, while we walk around downtown Los Angeles, she walks slightly ahead of me to call her children and husband, as she has done every afternoon of her trip. I hear her try to explain to her children what this city is like, the kind of sidewalks she is walking on, and we both know she wouldn't walk with them here. How do you feel living in such a big place? She asked me something like as we drove across the city and I realized it's not something I think about all that much anymore. With her stories, she tries to explain what 15 years of marriage feels like, picks cards from shops we visit that might make her husband laugh when they celebrate their anniversary in a few weeks. I tell her I'll miss having someone else in my apartment when she leaves.

These are the paths we navigate now: not how we find a way apart from one another, but how we find our way back.


(photo: sister + me at favorite coffee shop)

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