Being a big sister is hard work. You have to love the baby. Kiss the baby. Bring mommy the wine. Watch out for your brother. You're the big sister now, so we're counting on you. Damn you child, where is that wine????
For years and years I put up with my little brother, tagging along, taunting me and my little sister, getting into things, stealing attention that so rightly belonged to me.
I could be a little mean at times. When he got old enough, I loved to send him to the grocery store on his bike to pick up "feminine things," armed only with a fistful of dollar bills, his beloved Mongoose bike, and the instructions to get the ones in the pink box. He either didn't know or didn't care what he was being dispatched to buy. That's not really part of this story, but 25 years later, I still find it just hysterical....
Anyway, my kid brother eventually grows up. And I use the term loosely, because he was just this punk kid when he married his bride at 22 whopping years of age. They were both so young. My sister-in-law, who is extremely close to her own family asked my sister and me to stand in their wedding as a bridesmaid, the first step in making us a part of her family. I remember standing back in the brides room, with nervous energy so thick you could cut it with a knife, listening to my sister-in-law's mother say to her, "now honey, it's not too late to call this whole thing off." In hindsight, it was, because there was a groom, a church full of people, and a room full of bridesmaids in beautiful purple gowns. Truly, at that point, it was too late, but in Texas, it's in bad taste to throw down with the mother of the bride.
My sweet sister-in-law declares that she's going to do this, someone gives her mother some smelling salts, and off we all march. Step. Wait. Step. Wait. All the time, I'm watching my baby brother's face as we stutter stepped down the aisle. When his bride swept out of her hiding place, I swear I could feel the jolt of energy that shocked my brother into reality at the front of the church.
They make it through the vows somehow, throw a fabulous party for all of us, and leave for their honeymoon in Jamaica. My innocent sister-in-law had led a fairly sheltered life, and I think being offered marijuana their first hour on the island damn near convinced her to give back the ring and tear up the marriage license.
They return from their honeymoon still married, thank heavens, and begin their life together in a little house in our hometown. One night while my brother was out of town, she called me, and together we painted their front bedroom a dark dark green color, in full high gloss. At night, from the front yard, the room glowed an eerie green and hinted of a science experiment gone bad. It took my brother about three coats of primer and a half a dozen coats of a more reasonable paint color to turn that room back into something livable. I'm not sure he ever forgave either one of us for that indiscretion.
Shortly after they were married, my brother decided he would do some small home improvements. One project led to another, and soon, the house was torn to shreds, from stem to stern, as he proudly nickel and dimed his way to a beautiful new old home, DIY style. My sister-in-law lived for years, YEARS I tell you, with exposed rafters, no kitchen, only one working bathroom. And if she griped about it, she sure didn't do it in front of us.
I have laughed with her and at her over the years - laughed until I cried, in fact, on more than one occasion. Funny things she's said, a night out with me and my girlfriends at a sing-a-long bar at the West End. So many times we've laughed.
And then, in March of 2000, I stood in the hallway outside the nursery at Baylor Medical Center in Grapevine, and I cried until I laughed, looking at the beautiful baby boy she and my brother had brought into this world. I looked into that tiny baby's face and could see my brother, who I loved with every cell in my body, and my sister-in-law, who I now loved just as much. It happened again when my niece joined us two years ago. Watching those two children grow up has been a highlight of my life.
Shortly after my father died two years ago, my brother and his family had their little house on the market, thinking it would be nice to upgrade and knowing that it would take some time to sell their home. Funny how life works out sometimes. Around the time my niece was born, they got an offer on the house that they just couldn't turn down.
My mom, a new widow after 42 years of marriage, opened her home to my brother and his growing family, and soon, her very empty nest included her grown son, his wife, and his two children, one only a few weeks old.
It is a testament to my sister-in-law that she holds family so near and dear. This is a woman, just one month postpartum, who packed her life up and moved. IN. WITH. HER. MOTHER-IN-LAW. God Bless Her.
As they say, shit happens, and the two month stay turned into a two year stay, or darn close to it. For lo those many months, my sister-in-law respected my mother's space, looked out for her, and was her friend. She spent time with my mother on a level that I could never have provided, and she, probably more than anyone, eased my mother's transition into the "new normal" that she's living with today.
My sister-in-law has been a part of our family now for fifteen years, and I honestly can't remember a time without her. Nor, after all this time, would I want to.
We are very different from each other. She has strange OCD tendencies that cause me some level of confusion and concern. We don't agree on politics in any form or fashion. She is a blond fashion plate, which I find alternately annoying and terrifying. I think she and my brother laugh at my minivan behind my back. And you know what? I'm ok with all of that. My sister-in-law is not perfect, but none of us are.
She is a terrific wife and a loving mother, and she has stood by my brother through thick and thin. She has his back, and he has hers. They are just a nice couple to be around, because you know they really like each other. If any of us need her, she drops what she's doing and is there for us. She loves our family and mourned the loss of my father as much as any of us. She has brought these awesome children into our world and has become a vital part of who we are as a family.
I think back often to that night 15 years ago, and I'm so thankful that she didn't call it off. We would have missed the Experience That Is Robin. I cannot imagine how different things would have been for all of us.
Happy birthday, SIL. We love you!