I’ve been awkward and weird my entire life. I’ve mentioned this before. These days, I embrace it, and own my special brand of crazy, but it wasn’t always that easy. Whenever people seemed to have it all together, they immediately became my heroes. This included just about everyone older than me that I knew.
When I was 18, my sister got married. Not only was I a clumsy, gawky girl still, I was 4 months pregnant, and unmarried. I have always looked up to her, but this went beyond that. There I was, heathen-like, chubby, and scared, and there she was. Perfect, innocent, brilliant, and doing All The Right Things. The way you’re supposed to. Though I was immensely happy for my sister, the wedding itself was mortifying (this was not made better by me keeping a death grip on my bouquet and strangely holding it in front of my barely detectable baby bump all day long. No, but like All. Day. Long.). I desperately wanted to become friends with all of my cool older sister’s cool older pals, but I couldn’t. They weren’t sinners like me. They all had each other. There wasn’t an opening for Preggo Slut Girl (nobody called me that outside my own head, that I ever heard, anyway.)
Also at the wedding, for obvious reasons, was my new brother-in-law’s family. They, too, were from a different state than the wedding was being held, and they had a daughter about my age who also knew no one else. As the Little Sisters, we quickly bonded, and by the end of the weekend had shared quite a few laughs in our matching hideous bridesmaid dresses. I looked up to her, as well, because she was so cheerful and easygoing. And because she didn’t judge me, we just had fun.
I had envisioned us becoming lifelong friends, based on our now almost-related status, and the fact that we were both super cool, of course. However, this meant I would’ve had to go out of my way to talk to her, which was not something I did. So, I saw her when I saw her, and we exchanged polite small talk. It wasn’t as if there was any kind of problem, we lived two states apart, we didn’t run into each other often. But when we did, it was always pleasant and friendly.
When my sister and brother-in-law had their first child, we became the most ecstatic aunts there have ever been. She had the advantage of living 15 minutes away from our new niece, so she was able to shower her with many (maaaaany) gifts, but I never felt it was a competition. I secretly felt like we were tag-teaming this auntie business, and could work together (unbeknownst to her, because as mentioned previously, I’m a creep) to make sure our girl always knew she had extended family that loved her. Where she could pick her up as she wanted and babysit often, my visits would be rarer and therefore more anticipated perhaps. (I am the fancy aunt from exotic Oregon, after all.) Both of us made sure always she had at least one piece of clothing that fit, expressing how much her aunt loved her. I had it planned, even down to the part where I then used this imaginary coalition to start a conversation that would then lead to us being life long friends. Little sisters AND aunts had to be enough. Except that again, I never said this out loud. I still looked up to her, and everyone else, and was scared that she would see me as the dumb little girl I always fear I am.
Now she’s gone. I’m the only aunt. The only little sister.
Why isn’t important. But I know that her family always was, as mine is to me. If there were anything I could do to ease their pain, I would. If there were any way I could make any of this easier, I’d do it without question. But I can’t. There isn’t. It’s just… awful. So I’ll do the only thing I can think of: be there for both of our families, for whatever they need. I’d never dream of replacing her, but I’d like to think that if the situation was reversed, she’d do the same. Be a doubly supportive little sister. Be twice the loving aunt. She will be honored in many different ways, I am sure. This is just my small part.
Jen, you were beautiful, and I’m glad to have known you. You had an amazing smile, you were incredibly generous, and quite funny. I’ll do the best I can to step up my little sister and aunt game. Claire will always know she has two of us that love her very much. I’ll remember your brother’s birthday. And next time I find someone I think I could be real friends with, I’ll think of you, and have the courage to tell them.
I wish you peace.