On the surface, we don’t have much in common. In fact, no one would peg us as sisters.
She has straight, dark hair. I have wiry, curly, blond hair.
I have fair skin that burns with a hint of sunshine while her olive skin glows like a tanning-cream commercial in summer.
Her kids thrive at public school while she maintains a successful job outside the home. I’ve prided myself in homeschooling my five children over a decade.
She’s a liberal. I’m a conservative.
She loves heels. I wear flip flops year-round.
At the end of our long list of differences is one overriding commonality: sisterhood.
Our roots of sisterhood run deeper than blood. Biology is not the only factor in our bond. Sisterhood emerges through adoption, foster care, stepparents, friendship and more. The connection takes place by choice. It’s the shedding of differences and joining of hands that make us warriors for one another.
My younger sister and I didn’t always share a close bond. At one point, our differences would dictate our relationship. In place of compassion and understanding for one another, we succumbed to the worst possible outcome: Indifference.
Our walls were erected from an early age. In elementary school, I was neglectful, holding my stuffed animals and Barbie dolls hostage so my sister couldn’t play alongside me. In middle school, I fastened a “No Sisters Allowed” sign in pink and purple ink on my bedroom door. In high school, we delved into one heated argument after another. She remembers me as a tyrant of sorts, accusing me of throwing a coffee mug at her for borrowing one of my favorite shirts without permission, although to this day my recollection of events is somewhat different.
Regardless, we weren’t friends. We tolerated one another at the dinner table. We passed each other in the hallways, our eyes glued to the carpet.
We didn’t understand the internal demons each of us battled on a daily basis. Secrets were a barrier to our relationship.
Later, when I was a junior in college, I discovered I was pregnant. A set of skinny pink lines appeared on a pregnancy test, and I wilted onto my bathroom floor. I sobbed in despair, filled with shame and shattered dreams. I broke the news of my unexpected pregnancy to my parents, never bothering to phone my sister. I suspected my parents would tell her on my behalf. They did.
My tummy grew as I agonized over my choices. I’d always dreamed of being a mom one day. Just not yet. As a college student, I had no way of providing the kind of life I felt my baby deserved. In the end, I made the heart-wrenching decision to choose adoption for my baby girl.
My sister watched from a distance as I struggled to come to terms with my decision. She stood on the sidelines, wondering how it made me feel to sacrifice my dreams so my daughter could have hers. At the hospital, my sister, then a senior in high school, tiptoed inside my room. Only a few hours remained until I’d give my daughter to her adoptive parents. I held my baby girl close and looked at my sister. Our eyes locked.
She sensed my thoughts: Come closer. Know my pain. Hear my story. I’ll let you in.
My sister drew nearer and pulled out a gift she’d purchased. It was a sapphire bracelet, my daughter’s birthstone. She carefully navigated the bracelet around the IV on my hand until it was secure. “For remembrance,” she said. The fake sapphires sparkled underneath the hospital lights, casting tiny oval shapes against the wall. It mesmerized. To me, the bracelet was priceless. “Do you want to hold her?” I asked. My sister nodded and held her niece close, before saying goodbye.
I wore the bracelet every day for years. Some of the sapphires have fallen out, it’s chain blemished, but it’s still my favorite piece of jewelry. The bracelet is a reminder of the day I’d made an adoption plan for my only daughter. It’s also a reminder of a newly formed bond between sisters. A bond we’ve chosen to solidify through conversation, understanding, and compassion for one another.
We’ve laughed. We’ve cried. We’ve reminisced. We’ve disagreed. I’ve held her hand during lonely and difficult times in her life, and she’s held mine when I’ve encountered times of heartache. We share and share some more.
Years have passed. She stood by my side as I married, gave birth to three boys, and then welcomed a fourth son after my husband and I were asked to become adoptive parents. We’ve since reunited with our birth daughter and watched a bond form between her and her brothers, even after years of living apart.
As I was washing dishes one afternoon, I overheard a conversation between my biological son and his adopted brother.
“Don’t drink out of my cup,” my son told his adopted brother. “We don’t share the same germs.”
I dropped my spoon into the sink and walked promptly to the table where the boys sat. I told them that germs or no germs, they were still brothers. They would have a choice: to dwell on their differences or value one another’s uniqueness. Instead of fighting against one another, I encouraged them to rally for one another. “Be champions for one another,” I said. “Don’t go on this journey alone.” I hoped that one day each of them would look one another in the eyes and say, Come closer. Know my pain. Hear my story. I’ll let you in.
My older son passed his cup of juice to this little brother. I smiled and returned to the dishes, glancing at my phone.
I couldn’t wait to call my sister.
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