IF YOU KNEW US only for an instant, you might think us to be something that we’re not. That’s because I’m the loud sister. Always have been. And loud gets mistaken for tough, especially in women. But Margaret is the tough one, hand-down. Don’t believe me? Two years ago, during an ice storm, she sent me a generator. Delivered to the door.
That characterizes her. No mere basket of cheer for Margaret; when her sister was in trouble, that sister sent power tools. She’s tough, and never tougher than on gifts, though not only in the giving.
Perhaps the best example of her toughness on the receiving end is the sweater I knit her one Christmas that I have never seen her wear. And this is after I let her pick out the yarn, the color, and the pattern: wool, gray with no flecks of color, no cables, bobbles or anything to break up the boredom of the knitter. Made to spec, I have never once seen it on the woman.
The big sister screws in her jeweler’s eye and may or may not deign to actually wear the gift, but in accepting it, accepts the giver.
I’m the younger sister and true to pecking order, I not only find her response to the sweater hilarious, but when she’s around, I’m always either wearing or using at least one thing she’s given me. I also use the moisturizer she recommends, the shampoo she started me on, as well as the lip balm she does. Whenever I read those social-science pieces about birth order I always laugh, so clothed are they in clinical language while naked of the real-life illustrations that any sister can provide.
Here, from my side, is what the Christmas adult big-sister/little-sister relationship looks like: The older hands a wrapped box to the younger, the other nods enthusiastically, opening it, shucking her shirt beneath the Christmas tree, and putting the new one right on her body. Reversed, with the little sister as giver, the big sister screws in her jeweler’s eye and may or may not deign to actually wear the gift, but in accepting it, accepts the giver. And on they go. I’ve written about this She Said, She Said aspect of life before. It’s part of a new category I’ve brought to the blog, in part as a result from the hundreds of questions I’ve fielded about what to do with those alternating versions of family tales.
These quirky roles can irk the hell out of husbands and boyfriends. Many a wife or lover has been asked the ridiculous holiday question by an onlooker of, “Why do you let her do that?” or heard, “But you don’t wear pajamas” in the aftermath.
Trust us on this: Sisters know best. Along with the candles, tinsel or bourbon balls, these are the prescribed roles that keep the holiday train moving forward. You want to get to that turkey and stuffing? Let us enact our ancient ritual. Question it, and we might just cook your Christmas goose.