Chance made us sisters, and our hearts made us friends. But in the case of my sister Brigid and I, it is the gospel of my life. If our two families hadn’t merged into 12 kids back in 1972, I would have never been lucky enough to call her the angel of my life.
An angel is defined as, “a spiritual being believed to act as an attendant, agent, or messenger of God, conventionally represented in human form.” As someone who is not known for quoting scripture, I honestly can’t think of a better way to describe all that Brig has brought to my life other than as an angel from God.
We first were thrown together at 5 years old, with her being just 6 months my senior. It was my birthday party at an old Spokane joint called, Studio K. Please don’t mistake the phrase, “thrown together” as negative. Like the word, angel, it’s really the only way to describe how “The Little Girls” were formed. We were coined that name by our parents and 10 other siblings soon after our first meeting and at every family gathering to come for the next 45 years.
My birthday party was a tell-tell sign to describe our different tastes in life, you might say. All of the guests and myself ordered a hamburger for lunch that day – Brig ordered fish & chips. Although I love fish & chips, Brig says she still doesn’t like burgers! I remember thinking at the time that we were so different. Not bad different but certainly not like a typical 5-year old. Then again, either was I. Is anyone, typical, really?
Brig had lost her mama at just four years old. My parents had divorced when I was a baby. So when we all got married seven months later, Brig and I became sisters. There was never “step” mentioned whenever we would introduce the other back then or now. Confused over our different last names and looks, some kids at school would say, “Well, you’re not real sisters then.” I remember feeling at first defensive to their comment and later very sad when we’d be in bed that night.
Remember that “thrown together” comment? Brig and I became bedmates immediately. Most all of our siblings had to share a bedroom, and it was just understood that The Little Girls would bunk together. Still not a good sleeper at 50 now, most of my good ideas and wandering thoughts come the moment I hit the pillow. Even though Brig had other things in mind like sleeping, she’d always listen to me and offer her best thoughts and advice through the years.
Eventually, we ended up in our own twin beds, still in the same bedroom, and our evening chats would sometimes turn into a shoulder to literally cry on, like when our parents went to Ireland for three weeks, and I was SO homesick for Mama. She still teases me and tells her kids about those uncontrollable teary nights, to which I reply, “Yeah, I was only 9. No cell phones back then, and I just wanted to hear her voice!”
Whether it was tears overs Mama, boys being boys, being cut from a team, or just hormones, Brig always offered her support. On specially emotional nights, she’d come over and give me a back rub, or what I’d call, “Tickle, scratch, rub, please.” She’d do just that on my back until my tears subsided.
In a nutshell, Brig has always been there for me. She was as real to me as the ground beneath and the air surrounding us. I don’t remember a day when she hasn’t been my sister and oldest friend, and although we haven’t slept in the same house for almost 30 years, she remains my constant supporter and steadfast cheerleader.
Even though we were close from the get go, we remained and still are, very different from each other. Brig is an avid reader – I prefer movies. She is the quieter one, who hates walking into a room by herself. I am the publicist, and the one who can talk to anyone. She is a successful nurse and teacher. I am a writer and dream chaser, who’s constantly reinventing herself after her careers in the media and publishing evaporated. Brig has been married for 27 years. I was divorced after 17 years. She has four amazing kids, whereas I wasn’t able to have any human ones after I lost my baby. Brig has lived in the same house in Wenatchee for many years. I’ve lived in several cities and apartments in Portland, Manhattan, Spokane, and now Los Angeles, since starting over. You get the drift.
Such different lives we have led, different choices and beliefs, but at many moments, we have indeed shared the same heart and hopes.
Shortly after moving to LA, I was talking to a family member, who was questioning my move and choice to start over in California when things weren’t more settled. Oh, that word settled, which I have chased so. It spurred some deep and raw emotion in me. As my tears were flowing, I tried to explain in between gulps how much I wanted those things that make my life so different than Brig’s and so many people who are close to me – the family, the house, the more settled life. But it didn’t happen or last for me, despite many many years of fighting to keep it together and live the life I dreamt of most.
This deep emotion is one big reason behind my, “This is Me at 50” blog, as I recount the events, moments, and people who have shaped my life. And although our lives are polar opposite, Brig continues to be right by my side whenever she can, despite being so busy with her own life.
She helped move me to my first two apartments in Portland after my marriage, just as she helped me move down to LA last year. She flew out to Manhattan five days after Pup died and then helped plan his memorial at the Coast that following summer.
There are too many life events, phone calls, and moments that I could ever recite or come close to rightfully thanking my sister. So I’ll close on a recent one. After surprising me with her family in LA for my 50th, Brig chose to sleep over at my place with me and Belle, while her family was at the hotel. Just like all those nights growing up together as The Little Girls, we shared a good chat in bed.
I cried when I said goodbye to her that next day, and I’m crying now at the blessing of my sister, Brig, who remains the realist part of my life and existence.
Maya Angelou once said, “The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else's cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God - if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody.”
This is us in a poetic nutshell. Brig and I couldn’t be more different, but she is my constant angelic rainbow.