In Going Second

August 7, 2013

I’ve had a sister all my life, which means I’ve always had a mandatory best friend and built-in chaperone.

When I describe my older sister to friends who don’t know her, I always say “Rachel is a nicer, prettier, gentler version of me.” And then everyone wants to meet her.

I know it’s a little bit indulgent to write about my sister on the blog, but if you know her or if you have a sister of your own, you know that sometimes it’s important to love on sisters loudly.

Rachel is two years older than me and was shy until the day I exploded on the scene. I was automatically so much louder than her that on the day I was born, Rachel asked my mom to “put [Bekah] back in her belly.”

My mom refused.

We have since become friends.

Rachel is the behind-the-scenes peace maker, the invisible load-bearer. She was my first and constant friend.

When I couldn’t sleep as a kid, I would climb into the bottom bunk with Rachel and she would hold my hand until I fell asleep.

When my hair began growing unnecessarily long, should put gum in it to ensure a drastic and immediate haircut.

The first books I wrote as a child were about a figure skater named Rachel who won the Olympics every single year. Yes, the Olympics occurred annually in my childhood.

I found these books a few years ago in some old boxes, books that documented adoration for an older sister that dreamed of being a figure skater  like Nancy Kerrigan. Rachel was a dancer and ice skater and book reader. I was a joke-teller and piano-pounder and havoc-wreaker, but all I really wanted to be was my sister. So I wrote about her for a lot of years.

In 2002, I rolled into high school as an 85-pound, braces-wearing, loud-but-not-yet-funny freshman at the precise moment my sister was winning homecoming queen and achieving unmatched popularity. She was nice to me anyway: driving me to school, introducing me to her friends, and never, ever treating me like I didn’t belong.

Around my first homecoming dance, Rachel secretly asked a boy to take me in case I didn’t get asked. I didn’t know him yet, but that boy was a handsome sophomore named Michael DiFelice.  She picked him before I did.

Rachel and I later married two handsome men who also happened to be best friends. We each stood at each other’s side on those wedding days. We made toasts and carried bouquets and cried like babies at the sendoff.

During the 16 months Mike was training for and then fighting a war, Rachel stayed on the phone with me every single day and often into the night. She assumed the very exhausting job of bearing witness to a difficult life in the desert heart of Yuma, Arizona.  Rachel suffered a deployment that wasn’t hers because she’s my sister and sisters share things, even heavy things.  Especially the heavy things.

And 18 months ago, Rachel did the bravest thing of all. She had a baby and taught me about big love and big sacrifice and big life.

Then when my turn arrived arrived a few weeks ago, she told me I could do it too.

And I believed her.

Because my sister hasn’t failed me yet.

And she knows things, because she does them first and does them better so I can learn how.

I’ve always needed a sister and never been without one. This is such an extravagant mercy.

Today is Rachel’s birthday. She’s not yet 30, but she’s as close as one can get.

Today I want to love on her loudly, because being loud is my job as her younger sister. It’s my birthright.

So Happy Birthday, Rach.

Thanks for going first.

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  • I love this. Every word.

  • Anonymous

    I could ready your writing every day, Bekah. You got a way with words!

  • Judi barbara

    So sweet and poetic – it made me call my sister 🙂

  • Katie Thomas

    That made me cry, I love reading your words.

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