I should start calling her Rebecca, actually. She’s been Becky since about four, right around the time she started going to pre-school wearing black cowboy boots, but her real name is Rebecca and it’s a beautiful name and that’s what we’re going to call her for the rest of this entry.
My sister turns twenty-five years old today. Isn’t that neat? She’s made a bit of an appearance here before, but I don’t talk about her very much, not like I talk about My Friends. I guess I don’t know her very well. That’s not strictly true…I didn’t know her very well for a very long time (roughly sixteen years, from when she was born until I left home) and then when I moved across the country I started getting to know her a little better. It’s weird how that works. I’ve often thought, at various points in my life, that I feel closer to various friends than I do to my very own sister, but that’s beginning to change now. I think that’s really cool.
I can never decide if we look alike. People tell us we have the same voice, and I know we have the same nose, unfortunately for us. Folks, have you seen my nose? Have you? It’s so…big. And round. Our last name actually means “round,” and I’m positive it’s because all our Italian ancestors had these insane bulbous protuberances. I read an article on proboscis monkeys in National Geographic on the bus today, and I think I saw a picture of my cousin Anthony in the background. But other than that, you might not think The Becks…uh, I mean, The Rebecca…and I were more than tangentially related. For one thing, she’s got red hair and blue eyes and pale skin and is about six inches shorter than I am. Mom grew sunflowers one year, and she would measure them in Beckys: “Yeah, this is a Becky and three inches.” Also, my sister has inherited my dad’s sense of style. His house is all Art Deco with all these crazy antiques everywhere, and his shoe closet really has to be seen to be believed. I may have got my mom’s language ability (buon giorno!), but anyone who sees my sister and I getting ready to go out in the evening will speedily concur that she’s got all the fashion sense in this generation. She’s an English major at a school in lovely Tampa, Florida, and she is going to graduate this coming year. She also has a cat and a bunny and is well on her way to becoming a Crazy Cat Lady just like I am.
We had good childhoods. Weird, like everyone else’s is weird, and weird in ways that are particular to us. She remains the only person in the world with whom I can coherently talk about certain things in our family, and I know she supports me in some decisions I have made about not being in much contact with some parts of it. We spent a lot of time playing and fighting together as kids…often, especially in the summers, we would be visiting my dad and would be the only kids around, and we would spend days absorbed in these weird little games that only we could understand. One of them involved a caravan of My Little Ponies who were also, somehow, mermaids, and their various adventures. I used to narrate these games, being always fascinated by the sound of my own voice, and it would drive her CRAZY. We got into a huge fight about it once and we actually had to call Mom in to ref for us:
Rebecca MOM! She won’t stop TALKING! She’s RUINING it!
Chiara I’m older! I can talk if I want to! You’re only six years old and I’m your big sister and you have to do like I tell you!
Rebecca I do not!
Chiara Do too!
Mom Okay. From now on, the ponies can talk when they are above water, but when they become submersible, there’s no talking with the ponies. Everyone got that? Ponies breathe air, they talk, ponies have gills, they’re quiet. Next time I come in here, ponies are getting sold to the glue factory and there will be no more ponies ever again.
This would result into the My Little Ponies splintering off into factions, and having weird internecine “conflicts” (little girls don’t go in for war games so much) and then, slowly, over time, a couple of the silent fish-ponies would wander over, in a casual sort of way, to where the talkative landbound ponies were having debating contests and so on, and start to hang out a little, maybe put together a Synchronized Swimming Pony Extravaganza or something, and the cycle would begin again. We could never play this or any of our other weird games with any other kids because the sheer volume of backstory that the games required would have been too much for anyone who hadn’t been in there from the beginning. I remember thinking, at various places during various summers, that around us there was this sort of little bubble where real life happened, away from grownups and whatever they did together. I haven’t felt like that too often since.
I was the only one of my friends who had any siblings, and sometimes when all those friends say, “Oh, we’re like sisters,” I think, well, yeah, but how do you know? For the record, I think that close friends can be as close as sisters, and certainly I was way closer to the Key Girls in middle school and high school than Rebecca. Even though she and I lived in the same house, I think I saw my friends more. It’s just a different type of childhood, to have someone to navigate your family with you. Weirdly enough, I once wrote a little play about my sister (it was called, brilliantly enough, Get Out Of My Room) in which I cast My Friend Marah and My Friend Ashley as Rebecca and myself, respectively. I secretly think it’s still one of the better things I’ve written. My sister came to one of the performances and I made her stand up at the end and everyone clapped and she blushed becomingly and it was very cute.
She’s a good sister, a good woman, a good friend. I feel sorry that I didn’t appreciate her for a long time when I lived with her, and now that I do appreciate her, I feel sorry she lives so far away. I wish we could have the kind of sister relationship where she lives down the street from me and we have dinner once a week together. I don’t know if that will ever happen. I’m glad to know, however, that I will always have her in my life, no matter how far away she is, and I’m very proud of her on her birthday. Happy Birthday Rebecca! I love you!