April 3, 2009

For Jennifer

I write stuff about all kinds of people in this here blog. I write about people who irritate me, make my day, help me, and make me think. I write about my mother. I write about evil stepfathers. I write about friends as well as past and future significant others. I write about loved ones who are leaving or whom have already left my life. I don’t think I write nearly enough about those who’ve made a long-lasting impact.

Jennifer is my sister. If you want to be technical about it, she’s my former stepsister, but I don’t think of her that way. She’s my sister.

My mom and her dad got married, and Jen and I first met when I was about 11 and she was about 8. We were nervous to meet. My mother filled my head with terrible things about her mother, and I imagine hers may have done the same. I expected her to be bratty and spoiled and snobby, but nothing could have been further from the truth. We hit it off immediately. Probably because we were both kind of odd girls—I like to think in a good way.

For the next several years Jen and I anxiously awaited each and every time she and her brother got to come and stay with my family, and when she arrived we were inseparable. We told each other all of our secrets and speculated about boobs and sex and periods. I taught her everything I knew which, in hindsight, wasn’t all that much. (Sorry, Jen.) We slept in the same bed and made up ridiculous songs and giggled about everything.

We spent our time in the most ridiculous and wonderful ways. We loved to lay on the floor of my bedroom and throw balled up socks and my ceiling fan and laugh uproariously as it batted them around the room. We ate ice cream cones in a bathtub full of hot water in our bathing suits. We made up songs about my family’s hamsters, Ralph and Julie (all three generations of Ralph and Julie). We jumped out of my bedroom window and snuck down to Maple Lake to go swimming. We made up homemade madlibs that were unfailing dirty for such inexperienced girls. She was around when I lost my virginity (terrible) and when I fell in love (wonderful). It is by no means a stretch to say that some of the happiest times in my young life were spent with Jennifer. She had unfettered access to my journal—an honor given to no one else before or since. She was the first REAL best friend I ever had.

We both hungered for fathers, and we both remember a night when we’d been drug to Interstate Speedway to watch races in which we had no interest. While standing in line to use the porta-potties, I bent forward to tie my shoe and got a whiff of the man standing in line in front of us. He smelled like clean laundry and soap. Nice. Strong. Safe. Like a dad. “Jen! Smell him! Smell his back!” I whispered urgently, nearly frantic for her to experience his smell before it was his turn to use the bathroom. Without thinking I was strange and without asking why, she immediately leaned forward and sniffed the back of his shirt with me. “Mmmm…he smells so good…” she whispered back. “Doesn’t he smell like a dad?” I asked. She heartily agreed, and for the next couple of moments we stood in line smelling this man. It was because she understood things like that that I loved her.

When our parents got divorced, Jen and I lost touch and it was very painful for us. We made a handful of phone calls and wrote a handful of emails to each other over the years, but otherwise had very little communication. One day in May of 2006, I was house-sitting in Berkeley when I got an email from her asking if she could come to San Francisco to visit. I was nearly beside myself and answered, “Yes, YES!” Two weeks later, she arrived.

I think we were both a little nervous. We didn’t really know to what extent the other had changed. We didn’t know if we’d still really like each other, let alone adore each other the way we once had. We spent the weekend holed up, talking and drinking and talking some more. One night at Trad’r Sam’s we got staggeringly drunk and laid in the middle of the sidewalk in front of my house, smoking cigarettes and laughing. It was like we’d always been. Except with alcohol and cigarettes.

I don’t get to see Jennifer anywhere near as often as I like to. She lives in DC now. She is beautiful and wonderful and intelligent and interesting and kind and accomplished and ridiculously funny. I am so proud she's my sister. I think of her more than she knows and love her dearly.

That’s really all I wanted to say.

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