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sister act

hannah's picture

I can't remember ever playing alone.

I'm sure I did, at one point -- in fact, I know I did, because my sister is a full two-and-a-half years younger than I -- but I don't have any vivid recollections of that time. My little sister was not there, and then she was, and then we were never apart.

At three, I was just learning to read, and so I read books aloud to her and brought her juice when she was thirsty and bossed her around without reserve. We played with stuffed animals and built elaborate towers out of wooden blocks for them to live in. We climbed trees, sang at the top of our lungs, argued, and giggled. "Playing" always meant community, always meant playing with someone, even when that play involved conflict and discussion. Our dolls had complex histories in which every single member of their family died horrifically, or they were born into the lap of luxury without any apparent adult supervision, or both. They would visit each others' houses and write books together and travel to the ends of the living room to seek their fortunes. I was both imaginative ("why don't they all be poor and forced to work at an orphanage for baby dragons?") and impractical in my imaginings ("but they all have to eat chocolate ice cream for breakfast every day"). But I never saw the peculiarities because my younger sisters understood me, and I understood them. Whenever I needed someone to play-act the baby while I walked them in the dolls' stroller, or to come and look for me if I was hidden in a dark closet, or push our stuffed animals in the swing, they were always there.

Granted, as we grew older, time and schoolwork and activities served to draw us further away from each other. We played less and struggled with the problems of middle school more. Today, though, my sisters are some of my best friends. Because they understand me, and I understand them. And because whenever I feel the childlike urge to play, I'm never alone.