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The Sister Effect

As the younger sister by five years, I wanted to walk in her shoes. Literally. When I was in third grade, I was particularly fond of her black winter boots with the fake fur at mid-calf. They were about as close to the popular ‘go-go boots’ style as I ever hoped to get.

Mom was still insisting that I wear little red rubber boots that fit over my shoes, despite my protests that no other girls in my grade still wore those ‘baby’ boots. Sis’s boots were getting a little tight on her feet and I wanted them — badly.

When Sis finally had enough of the tight boots, Mom reluctantly turned them over to me, even though they were still way too big for my feet. Nevertheless, I proudly clomped off to school in them, feeling quite the fashion plate.

Unfortunately, my sister and I have spent all our adult lives separated by geography. On a recent visit, she informed me that she had some never-worn shoes that didn’t fit quite right and I was welcome to have them.

Like Cinderella after the ball, the shoes were a perfect fit and I claimed them as my own. It had been decades since I received hand-me-downs, but I was thrilled. It felt like third grade all over again.

The five years that separate us no longer matter, but the geography certainly does. We never got a chance to spend long periods of quality time together as adults. As the younger sister, I don’t know if I’ve had any kind of positive effect on her. The bonds we share are largely the bonds of childhood, with precious few adulthood memories of the sisterly sort. That childhood affection from my big sis is with me still; no study necessary.


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Ann Pietrangelo

Ann Pietrangelo is the author of No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis and Catch That Look: Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. She is a freelance writer and member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo

92 comments

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10:32PM PST on Feb 2, 2014

Best gift from my sister: a tiny book saying that we had proved ourselves helpful in emergencies, and that we could enjoy good times together. We have made art together, spent weekends with each other (no husbands or kids in sight), and even made an international, volunteer trip together.

10:18PM PDT on Mar 19, 2011

Big sisters holding little sisters protectively...is not instinctual...unless it's about breed, and we need to allow for LARGE variations is what big sisters do to little sisters 'per breed'...lol...

But thank you very very much for sharing a positive experience with the lot of us.

I'm glad you have that experience to look back on. Awesomeness! :-)

Blessings,
anu

10:57AM PDT on Sep 20, 2010

jewel s- i have 2 sisters, one 2 and a half years older, one 6 years younger. we're adults now (im 32), and the two of them are best friends, and i have almost no communication with the other 2. that's also heartbreaking. we live w/in 30 miles of eachother.

my best friend sabrina is my sister. she was an only child growing up, but she's the sister i need. you can find what you need as an adult, and appreciate the family you have, for better or for worse.

4:39PM PDT on Sep 17, 2010

I have two brothers and they just could not give a darn. It is hard and I am learning to accept. It is one of the hardest things to accept. I really wish I had a sister growing up but it doesn't guarantee a close bond. I felt like I was mourning the absence of a sister while reading this.

7:49AM PDT on Aug 25, 2010

I am the oldest in my family. My sister is 7 years younger than me. When we were kids, i was just the protective big sister. Now we are best friends. I have always been there for her, and she has always been there for me

6:43PM PDT on Aug 23, 2010

What a wonderful story about sisters! I would have loved to have had a loving relationship with my only sibling, a sister nine years older. I adored her. She never reciprocated. She died near Christmas 2005 and left instructions that no one was to tell me (so I couldn't go to her memorial service)! I have an "unfinished" feeling sometimes and I think I'll talk with someone even though I have handled it pretty well all things considered. It's just that I have FMS plus I had three huge surgeries within 18 months (one was breast cancer) not too long before her end. No one came to me despite my closeness with my nieces and nephews when they were babies to young adults. One niece is nearby and is silent. I miss her (like she was when we were younger).

I hope no one ever has this kind of relationship. All I ever wanted was for her to just love me and accept me as I was. But I know it was not my fault and probably not hers. Emotional and/or mental problems wreak havoc and sometimes we just cannot bridge the canyons between us and our siblings.

3:12PM PDT on Aug 15, 2010

I'm an older sister and a younger sister :)

11:04AM PDT on Aug 15, 2010

Aw, what a nice little article! I love having sisters :)

1:34AM PDT on Aug 14, 2010

My sister got spoiled. I'm probably one of the most protective big sisters of all time.

5:42PM PDT on Aug 13, 2010

This makes me remember my 7 years old sister. She is rather naughty and often says that she doesn't love me. But it's not true. She usually holds my hand when she sleeps. And she can never sleep without me. :)

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