I think of them all equally, but today I am thinking of two.
They are a pair of sisters, and they are alike in many ways. They both have curly brown hair and kind brown eyes. They are like their mother in similar ways, and different from her in similar ways. They are also like her in different ways, and similar to her in different ways. They are different.
But at the end of the day, they are sisters. At the end of the day, they are my cousins.
I often feel guilty that most of my admiration of the elder sister has happened from afar. I admired her when she moved out of state, even though I was sad. It grew when I watched her become the sort of mother that any kid would kill to have, when she continued to be the sort of sister I try to be (but that I usually am not). It grew when I looked back and realized that she was always this way.
It was so easy to grow closer to her the older that I grew, because it gave me the wisdom to see her for who she was, independent of who she was to me. It was the perfect flip of the switch from “I love my cousin” to “I feel incredibly lucky to know this person”.
In many ways growing up, the younger was my big sister. We had sleepovers and inside jokes and a mutual love and respect for one another. She was always eager to tell me about her plans and aspirations, to build me up with a compliment, or an observation, to include me in various parts of her life.
It was so easy to grow apart from her as I grew older, because I was too young to see that three years seniority didn’t mean much in adulthood. My big sister, who seemed invincible to me because she worked so hard to define and accomplish her goals, could struggle. She could be lost, even. She could make mistakes, ones that hurt people.
She could also love me enough to fight for our relationship, even when I didn’t understand what that meant.
She should have had, in me, a sister who understood. She didn’t, but she has a sister who understands, who has regrets, who appreciates how far they have both come.
They are both fun and engaging, generous and kind. They both have excellent taste in partners. They both shake their heads in amused exasperation when I say something silly and random. They are dependable.
But the best thing about them is not that they make me believe in them. It’s that they make me believe in me.