Happy Birthday, Mickey!
For four years and two days, I was an only child. On July 3, 1970, my life was changed in ways a child that age could never comprehend. Not only was I given a little sister, but also future cousins for my children, nieces and a nephew I adore, and another amazing man in my grown-up life in the form of a brother-in-law. At that time, all I knew was I would have to now share the attention. I guess I couldn’t have even had that awareness at age four, but family pictures and documents tell the story: I was clearly the star on our small family stage until that day. My baby book is meticulously filled in; every line (every. single. line.) documenting the latest, greatest thing Kim said or did – “she corrected Grandpa yesterday, she calls milk muk, she’s walking!!” My mom made an effort with my sister’s baby book – of course the vitals: height, weight, length… a couple really big moments: first step, first word…… but then there it is on the entry for her second birthday, a picture of me blowing out the candles on my sixth birthday cake. My sister, Michelle, and I noticed these first/second discrepancies for years. Of course as a teenager, I found these types of things hilarious, but now I understand why my sister sometimes said, Really? In Mom’s defense, we were living in Dubuque, Iowa and she was busy plotting our family’s escape back to sunny Florida where she grew up. No offense to the Hawkeyes, it is what it is as people like to profoundly observe nowadays.
The four year age difference between us in the early pre-teenage years (not “tween” years– that made up life period created in the last two decades), solidified our identities as first born/last born. Not having a middle sibling actually strengthened these roles without someone there to kind of buffer the dynamic. It wasn’t until our late teenage years that the age difference started to close. We became teenage girls trying to maneuver growing up in Daytona Beach in the 1980s. We were very different people, but it became understood that either of us could witness the other committing the most heinous crime (hypothetical), and neither would rat the other out even in the most extreme interrogations. We had each other’s backs, and we both completely comprehended on another level that having a person in your life with fierce loyalty is a good thing no matter how far apart in age.
What neither of us realized was how the age difference would completely disappear with the years. My sister has been a confidante watching life’s biggest events through the same lens. We’ve navigated family crises together and have helped each other process bewildering cultural moments like no one else could. She exemplifies that quality of being true to yourself that we are all so desperately trying to instill in our children. She is today at 48 the same person she was when she was 8 – sensitive, oh so intelligent, steadfast, curious, pensive, and mine. 🙂