Incomprehensibly we fit 5 people in the rickshaw to ride to the entry gate of Monsoon Mountain. Ann sits in my lap and I wrap my arm around her waist and rest my cheek on her back. I haven’t held onto my sister this intimately since we were girls. I drink the smell of her in, she smells like Ann despite the fact that she lives in India and should smell different. With my cheek pressed against her back I feel comfortable not sure where Ann ends and I begin. The salty ocean consumes my eyes and I find myself yearning to be able to hold onto her like this forever but the ride is over and it’s time to let go.
Vaguely I have a sense of what it felt like to be the only. A sense of what it felt like to not be defined by my relationship to another, to siblings. My mom enjoys telling stories about how much I didn’t want my sister when I realized what the reality of sharing my parents looked like, demanding my mother to “put THAT baby down”. It’s true I felt the sting of being de-throned by her arrival because I was too young to understand what I was also gaining. It took a long time for me to realize how much richer my life would be because she was in it.
The day I realized she was going to be funnier than me we were all gathered in our living room on Sylvania Ave. I remember lots of laughter that night; probably my aunt Gina had brought us ring pops, nerds and candy necklaces, which meant we were hopped up on sugar. Maybe I was 6 and she might have been 4, we were both running around bare topped in nothing but underwear bottoms as we were apt to do. I don’t remember what we had been talking and laughing about but suddenly Ann was on the ground on her hands and knees shaking her head calling out to us saying “look it’s snowing” as we all rolled with laugher imagining her non existent dandruff falling on the floor like snow. I remember laughing so hard my stomach hurt not being able to stop until suddenly the thought hit me that she would forever be the funnier one. Some moments stand out distinctly in life and this was one of those moments, I was at once the proudest sibling on the earth and simultaneously devastated.
Ann’s arrival in my life felt like a long slow eclipse, I feared that there would be a day I would be totally blotted out by her orbit. After the epiphany that she was funnier I also began to assume she was smarter, prettier and generally better at everything that I could ever want to do or be. My assumption is that these are normal feelings for older sisters, that’s where sibling rivalry comes from. Worries that one of us is better than the other have plagued me since she was born. The Avett brothers put words to this fear for me “I wonder which brother is better, which one my parent’s loved the most?” I’ve long wondered what the answer to that question would be but luckily the Avett brother’s answer the question in much the same way my parent’s do (because all children ask) “I love you and I’m proud of you both in so many different ways”
In high school my friends began to realize how funny, beautiful and interesting my sister was too. I remember making a conscious choice then to not be jealous but to see Ann through their eyes. That’s when I began to see her as more than just a sister but also a friend, as someone separate from me even though I knew then as i know now that we are just different sides of the same coin. I know that wrapped tightly in her identity is her juxtaposition to me and in my identity her to me, we can’t escape it.
This visit to India was always more about Ann than it was about India. I’m emotional getting ready to leave today; uncomfortably I wear emotion on my outsides as much as I house it inside. She just trundled out of her room, with fuzzy sleep hair and a morning grin, she has the “I just woke up” look about her and she is the most adorable creature I’ve ever seen, she always has been. I’m going to try to not cry through the next 12 hours as I savor my last day with one of the best two gifts my parent’s ever gave me. Sometimes getting totally eclipsed is the best thing that could ever happen to you.