Happy Birthday, Sissy!

Hey there, Chronic readers! Today is a super special day: It’s my sister’s birthday! In honor of Sissy turning <older> and the fact that I’ve been cleaning out my <everything> in anticipation of moving, please enjoy this essay I wrote about us for my high school English class, way back in 2004. Sure, it’s high melodrama as only a 15 year old can scratch out, but I meant every word of it. Happy Birthday, Sissy!

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Driving in the Car with My Sister

October 5, 2004

Only 18 months separate my older sister and myself, but it might as well be an eternity. Seniority is a recurring theme in her life- in a figurative and literal sense. Sissy is a senior in high school, newly licensed, who always has to do everything before me, for the pure and simple reason that she was born first. I am more laid back when it comes to this form of subconscious sibling rivalry. (Though when it comes to conscious rivalry, my position does change a bit!) As the younger sister, a sophomore at a different high school, I seem to have the upper hand of sorts: Sissy was the involuntary guinea pig. By the time I was her age, I had already had time to analyze and conclude, to learn from her mistakes, and hopefully avoid making my own.

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that my sister and I are completely different people. We lead separate lives at separate high schools, with separate ideas. We are an oxymoron if you will: Whereas most siblings do not, we disagree about everything except politics. Sissy and I love each other, don’t get me wrong, but we are very, very unalike. She is a musical prodigy; she has played the flute for almost 8 years. I, on the other hand, while not a complete novice, have been attempting for about that long to figure out the guitar, the piano, and even the clarinet. I want to be a television journalist, whose talent surpasses that of Barbara Walters. Sissy wants to be a nurse. [Nic Note: Neither of us ended up becoming these things. Dreams change, young people, dreams change!] My sister and I expect great things from life, but our dreams do happen to lead us in opposite directions.

Recently though, Sissy earned her official driver’s license after what she calls a “too long” relationship with her learner’s permit. Gone are the days of our parents driving us everywhere- there is a new chauffer in town. Not that my sister is overly ecstatic about her new position, but she’ll get used to it. She just wants to drive.

We have elected Sundays to be “our days.” Sundays are one of our very few reprieves from our separateness. It is on these days that we go driving.

Whether we have a direct destination or not, she just drives and I ride shotgun, unofficial DJ on our journey.

The process of Sunday is simple. We wake up at different times- usually her before me. She showers and dresses up as she always does- hair and makeup included. I roll out of bed, run a comb through my hair and brush my teeth. We eat breakfast at different times, sitting at opposite ends of the table, even though the other is not there. When the clock chimes 11 or so (we have no specific agenda), we are out the door, CDs under my arm, keys in her hand, our parents under the impression that we are going to CVS or maybe lunch (which we may do, of course…eventually).

Sissy follows standard procedure for all drivers entering a car previously driven by someone else: She adjusts the driver’s seat, her mirrors, etc. I adjust the passenger seat next to her, reclining it to the obtuse angle I find most comfortable, an angle that coincidentally my sister has found makes her carsick. We pull out of the driveway (slower than need be, as Sissy has a new-driver fear of maiming the mailbox), and at some point between here and our final destination, the sunroof opens, every window rolls down, and the radio begins to blare. Sissy and I never speed; she is a cautious new driver after all. But the rush of the wind running through our hair gives the illusion that we are.

There is an unwritten rule that my sister and I don’t talk much during this time. We let the music we choose speak for us. There is Meredith Brooks and “angry girl” music if we are feeling sad or frustrated; John Mayer and Gavin Degraw for the happier days; Britney Spears, boy bands, and other guilty pleasures are usually heard, but not until we are far enough away from our house for anyone to recognize us. Sometimes we may disagree about a particular song, but there is no arguing. The song will be over in 3 minutes and we’ll move on.

Sunday with my sister is my favorite time of the week. With my bare feet on the dashboard and her ever-watchful gaze on the road (and the radio dials), everything else seems to disappear. Sissy and I are no longer 17 and 15, senior and sophomore respectively. We are not older and younger, experienced or not. No, on Sunday, my sister and I lack nothing. There is no separation. We are simply two sisters, bonding together while disturbing the peace.

It’s wonderful, these times, when there is no one to say, “Nicole, you’re off key,” when they hear me singing song lyrics at the top of my lungs, or “Sissy, you aren’t doing this right,” in reference to her driving skills. The only thing that matters is that we are two sisters, one radio, and one “black currant” colored-lemon of all lemons Honda Accord I will inherit in a year or two, all connected to the road, that glorious road that is a metaphor for freedom, a metaphor for life.

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