I was a fairly hopeless teenager. I was geeky, I got good grades, I had no idea how to deal with tough girls, I couldn’t talk to boys without blushing and stammering, and I had all the fashion sense of your average fruit fly. Let’s not talk about makeup.
I didn’t have a lot to rebel against. My mom established some pretty reasonable rules. My step-father was a working class guy doing his best. Nobody got boozy and threw things or hit people. We always had clean clothes and hot meals and lunch money.
Let me tell you, this is absolutely no good for a 16-year-old girl who knows, in her heart of hearts, that she was born to rebel. To overthrow the chains of …middle class oppression? To break free from…dinner on the table at 5:30 every night? I needed a cause.
Cue the ominous music. That’s when my sister, 10 years my senior, got divorced. This was a small town, remember, and divorce wasn’t very common. There was a hint of exotic scandal to the whole thing, if you were a teenage observer. (I’m pretty sure my sister would tell a different story.)
Mom and stepdad immediately told my sister to come home. Which she did. Right into my bedroom. What?
The women in my family tend toward the bossy. My sister is no exception. (Neither am I.) When she moved home, after being the head of her own household for years, there was some friction. Mainly with me. Because the last thing I needed or appreciated was another adult telling me what to do. (Although she did, thank goodness, teach me how to shave my legs.)
Nancy didn’t live with us for long. She dried her tears, picked herself up and started looking for a job and a place to live. When she wasn’t job hunting, she was telling me what to do. Whether it was what classes to take, how to act around boys, or how to help her get dinner ready, she was always telling me what to do. Not suggesting. Telling.
One night, as we were getting dinner ready, she handed me a sack of potatoes and a potato peeler. “Get the potatoes ready,” she said. She bent over to pull a large pot for the potatoes out of the cupboard. The target was irresistible.
That’s how I ended up stabbing my sister with a potato peeler.
“Stab” is actually too strong a word. No skin or fabric was broken. I gave her a good poke with it, though. There was yelling involved on both sides, probably until my stepfather had to intervene and tell us both to stop.
The story is part of family history now.
My sister still tells me what to do. All the damn time, whether I ask or not.
She also tells me that she loves me. She tells me I’m a good parent. She tells me I’m smart and funny, especially when I feel like I’m neither.
She believes in me, no matter what. My idea might be harebrained, and she won’t hesitate to tell me when she thinks I’m crazy, but she’ll stand behind me and cheer me on every time.
She does the same thing for her kids. For her husband. For her in-laws. For our mom. For our cousins. For her friends. For her nieces and nephews.
If Nancy’s in your corner, she’s in there all the way. You don’t have to wonder if she’ll take your side. She will. You don’t even have to ask.
She speaks her mind. It goes hand-in-hand with the bossy thing. She says what she means and means what she says.
Although she’s my older sister, she’s probably got ten times the energy I do. She never stops. She’s always got a project. She’s always finding a way to do something better, or more creatively. She never complains about housework. EVER. Geez, that’s annoying. She’s just one of those people who sees what needs to be done and does it without waiting to be asked and without expecting to be thanked.
My sister has my back, my heart, my love and my gratitude.
She also has Grandma’s toaster, which I wanted. And bluer eyes, although our brother got the really blue eyes.
I guess N is for Nancy after all.