My sister Norine, is three and a half years older than I am and, until I was in my 30’s, the nicest thing she ever did for me was standing up to a bully when I was in the third grade. We were never close, in fact mortal enemies would be a more apt description… Most often growing up, it was open hostility with small windows of sibling tolerance here and there. When my grandpa passed in 1998, I remember we each positioned ourselves in separate rooms of the house as people came to offer their condolences.
It was always like that; snide comments, rude overtones and open hostility… But then in 2002 my other grandpa passed and we all went to Denver for the funeral. I flew with the boys because as it happened, Rob was already in Denver for work, and my sister (along with her new boyfriend) offered to pick us up at the airport.
If you’ve never flown to Denver, the airport is out in the middle of nowhere, and I mean nowhere. It’s literally about an hour from the city so it’s no small thing when someone offers to schlep all the way out there to pick you up, especially someone you don’t really want to see. Oh and by the way, my sister HATES kids. When I was pregnant with Eli, her comment to my dad was, “Why would Shari do that to herself?” So, you can guess how excited I was about being stuck in a car with her, a total stranger and two squirmy toddlers for the better part of an hour. I hoped for tolerance but prayed for silence.
Shockingly, it went ok. I focused on the boys and we all got to my Aunt and Uncle’s house with no drama. It was the strangest thing…She was nice! She was nice to me and she was nice to my kids who, up to that point still had zero idea mommy even had a sister let alone that this person was somehow related to them. My kids are the first grandkids from my generation so I didn’t worry about them when we were around family. Everyone doted on them because they were the only little ones at that time. But, when I saw my sister carrying Dylan, who was maybe 18 months or so, and even wiping his runny nose, that was the last straw for me. Something was clearly wrong with my sister!
I grabbed the opportunity to make a liquor run with “the boyfriend” and I told him to give it to me straight. Was she dying? Cancer? AIDS? Some other awful disease and she just wasn’t ready to tell the family? WHAT?! I promised secrecy, I wouldn’t tell but, he just laughed at me and said no, she was fine. She had a new therapist and was releasing stuff. The two of them had been friends in college who had wanted to date but the timing hadn’t worked out until now and the relationship was going well. He said she was… happy. Huh?? The woman who had tortured me my whole life was “happy”!? That was it?? I was dubious for sure. I mean, what did we even know about this guy? He was a Marine Biologist living atop a mountain in a solar powered house in, wait for it… Las Vegas... Clearly, he was not to be trusted but… she was being nice, for the moment.
When I got back to LA, my dad immediately started pressing me to work on reconciling. Um, no. There wasn’t a chance in hell I was going to make the first move on that one. If she wanted to build a new relationship, she was going to have to prove it.
Rob worked in Vegas often in those days and, my best friend Jill was living there too so, it wasn’t unusual for me to head there for a weekend with the kids. We would stay in the hotels with Rob and during the day I would take the boys to the pool. While they would nap on lounge chairs I would talk to women about Mary Kay so, when Norine asked me to meet so we could talk, I said yes. But I sure wasn’t going to make it easy for her. The next time I would be out there would be to help Jill with a pampering event for the girls in the Hillel at UNLV where she worked. It was going to be a super-quick in-and-out trip and I would be staying with Jill this time, instead of in the city. I had to be back in LA by noon the next day and the only time I could meet my sister was at 5am IF she could meet near Jill’s. Norine had moved to Vegas and in with Stewart after 9/11, and his solar powered mountain top house was about 30 minutes north of the city while Jill lived about 20 minutes south. I knew she wasn’t a morning person but, as it happened, Stewart would be heading to the airport that day, at some ungodly hour and, she agreed to take him and meet me after. I was stunned and dammit, now I had to show up.
We met at some waffle place and started to talk. Incredibly, it seemed we had a lot more in common than we would ever have thought. It took well into our 30’s but finally, we had a civil conversation. We even laughed. I was still hesitant but, we did agree to continue communicating. There were certainly some bumps in the road but, I give her a lot of credit, she owned how horrible she was to me growing up and over time we built a real relationship and today she is one of my truest friends.
We invited them to come spend Christmas with us in LA. Even though we’re Jewish (Rob was raised Methodist) Christmas was always a special time in our house, especially after we moved in to our townhouse. There is a company in the San Fernando Valley that, each year, traverses the valley with an incredible, decked out 18-wheeler called The Magical Christmas Truck. (google it, I promise it’s worth it!) The staff of this company dress up in red and white Santa style outfits and parade through neighborhood after neighborhood singing carols, blowing bubbles and passing out candy canes, all while following this truck made up with different vignettes of North Pole life. It is a parade of pure joy and it came right past our house, TWICE!! Each Christmas Eve friends would join us for dinner, holiday movies and enough cookies and treats to feed a football team (what can I say, I love to bake!) while we waited for the truck to arrive. And, I must tell you, as an empath, the feeling of that much joy and love was like nothing else! I would literally stand on my front door step and cry from the overwhelming feelings of love and gratitude.
So, Norine and Stewart came to LA for Christmas and I was determined to prove I had this mom-thing wired. We had a really good time with them watching movies, wrapping and unwrapping gifts and just being together; the horrendous butter cookie incident notwithstanding. But, let’s just say that eating butter cookies with no butter in them is only slightly better than eating papier mache, and that a pound of melted butter left in the microwave overnight is best left uneaten.
My sister, who up until recently, could barely boil water (yes, I’m serious) takes great joy in reminding me of this great blunder. Although it certainly wasn’t me who got suckered by a pair of toddlers, into lacing their waffles with gummy fruit snacks “because that’s how Mommy does it.” So in the end, we were pretty even on the silliness of each of us trying to impress the other. We were finally getting to know each other and becoming real friends. I finally had a big sister and, as Christmas gifts went, that one would be hard to beat.