Carrie's Corner: Sisterhood is Lifelong Love

Carrie Stambaugh, Managing Editor

    Sisterhood is something I was born into. I am the second of my father’s six daughters and the oldest of my parent’s five.
    I didn’t get to be the “little sister” for very long, however. My older sister Christine was 11 when I was born, and by the time she was 15 she no longer lived with us. By that time I had little twin sisters of my own and another on the way. My final little sister followed three years after that.
    For nearly 20 years Christine was absent from my life and I was only a big sister. Like every big sister, I spent much of my childhood being seriously annoyed that I had all these little sisters to “set a good example for.” I yelled at them for copying me and for following me everywhere. I yelled at my parents that "it wasn't fair" that they let my siblings do things at a younger age than I was allowed to.
    But I was also always there for them and wouldn’t have traded them for anything or anyone in the world. I was the one who cleaned and bandaged scraped knees, who wiped away tears and stared down the neighborhood bullies who picked on them. I also always knew how much I was loved and needed.
    By the time I turned 18, my parents were heading for divorce and I toward college. I desperately wanted to step out in the world on my own but my role of Big Sister pulled me home. Instead of taking a scholarship at a college out west, I settled for borrowing to pay in-state tuition only 3 hours away.
    It was one of the toughest times of my life. I got many, many teary phone calls and made just as many. During one of them, one of my sisters angrily told me she felt I had abandoned them. It opened a deep wound in my heart that, although now healed, left a vivid scar. I knew then, as my sister now understands,, that there was nothing that I could have done to change the situation had I been home.
    My second year away, my sister’s best friend died in a car accident. She called me sobbing and I immediately borrowed my roommate’s car to rush home. It was the first time a younger sibling experienced a life event before I had. I mourned because I didn’t know what to say to her, or how to soothe her grief. I bear a scar from this experience too.
    Fast-forward another 20 years, and I have now not been first at many things. My sister Alison was married first (a year before me) and the first to have children. Several of them have also struggled with infertility, which I have no experience with. While others have had other challenges I haven't faced.
    We are now more equal in life experiences, and as a result our relationships have changed through the years. I have enjoyed a sort of lifting of the weight of responsibility. There are so many of us that there were always different bonds between individuals, and that has held true as we've aged.
    About 10 years ago, I realized I not only wanted but I needed my big sister in my life again. I had always felt that she had been taken from me but now that I was an adult I could decide what type of relationship I wanted with her.
    She felt the same and we began reconnecting. The process of rebuilding our relationship has been slow. Afterall, we were separated for two decades. We have also been half the country apart at different points, and have very different lives and circumstances.
    But our bond was already strong. It was just the habits of calling and seeing each other, that we had to build. On the otherhand, the bond between her and my other sisters was much weaker – or non-existant – and its been harder to establish those relationships..
    But I’m excited to report, we have planned our very first Sisters Day. For the first time ever, all six of us will spend an entire day together outside an established extended family function. There was also zero hesitation from the other girls when I suggested it.
    I’m thrilled to be able to share the joy of big sisterhood with someone else and to finally get to be a little sister again…