Today is Pearl Harbor Day. For most of us, that’s a time to reflect upon the tragedy that threw us into World War II seventy-five years ago, and take a moment to honor those who gave their lives for ours.
For my sister and I, it has an additional meaning. It’s the day we say, “I love you” to each other.
We are a little different, my sister and I. From most of the rest of the world, and from each other. I am definitely the outwardly emotional, sensitive, somewhat flighty one. She is the sensible, no-nonsense, organized one. I’ve been divorced twice, had a kid before either of those marriages, and pepper most sentences with the fuck word. She is still married to the only guy she’s ever dated, they had a baby 11 years in, and I think I’ve heard her say “twat” once. Though I might have imagined that.
Growing up, we hated each other. We shared a room, and since I’m also quite messy and, predictably, she is not, that didn’t go well. I was the annoying little sister who played Barbies and dress-up. She was the know-it-all big sister, who read Anne of Green Gables and organized mini-golf tournaments.
It became a little better once we got our own space to be our own people. Even more so when she left home for college. I thought I would feel free when that happened. And maybe for a while I did. Then… I just missed her.
Somewhere in there, she had become my conscience. My snarky little Jiminy Cricket. I trusted her opinion more than most people’s (whether I actually followed her advice is another story, but I did at least ask for it), and more than that, I just liked hanging out with her.
Holidays were always a big time for my family. We had big dinners, and we visited most everyone we were related to. As kids, my sister, brother and I would spend the drive to these various events singing Christmas carols. Seriously, we were the cheesiest kids ever. But it was fun. So was game night after the dinners, and watching Christmas movies together. Which suddenly was done, with my older siblings away furthering their education. So one year, mid-holiday season, I text both of them to tell them I loved and missed them. My brother, being the giant teddy bear he is, text back that he loved and missed me, too. My sister replied, “What, Pearl Harbor Day got you all choked up?” And that was the beginning of our holiday.
It took a couple years to catch on. At first, I would text her, “It’s Pearl Harbor Day! I love you!” and she would respond with “You’re a freak.”
But I persisted. Because not only do I truly love her just the way she is, I know her. I know there’s not actually a mean bone in her body. I know that though she finds it easier to say things like, “You look like a hooker in that shirt” than “You’re pretty”, she is also one of the sweetest, most genuine people I have ever met. She doesn’t rely on words though, she takes action. She shows up. Always.
We have a lot in common, too. We’re both sarcastic and snarky. We hate Barry Manilow (though we sing along to quite a few of his songs), love Harry Potter, and enjoy rearranging our mom’s Christmas decorations to say sacrilegious things. Though our faces don’t look much alike, we make the same “are you freaking kidding me, moron?” expression that gives us away every time. We both have loud, infectious laughs (though she doesn’t snort or car-alarm…) and amazing smiles. Our kids are the forces that keep us striving to be better, we’re wonderful moms and hilarious aunts.
We were also both abused by someone we should have been able to trust. We dealt with it differently, and we came together to fight it. We learned that we could rely on each other, and when the people that were supposed to protect us didn’t, we stepped up. We became for each other a version of the thing we were robbed of. Sometimes I need someone I feel safe with to tell me what I need to hear, and sometimes she needs someone to tell her they care about her, and are proud of her.
Though it was an accident, born of weird timing and snark, it remains our little holiday on purpose. The two of us have been through a war together, and we came out victorious.
We even celebrate twice a year now. Today, and Flag Day (and yeah, we made tiny flags for each other this year. Because we’re super cool. Don’t be jealous.).
So while you’re thanking a Vet for their service and remembering the lives that were ended in such a devastating way, I invite you to take part in our day, too. Think of someone you have trouble opening up to, who you don’t share with often, who means a lot to you, and tell them. Even if it’s awkward, painful, and ends in, “… so yeah, ya freak, I love you and stuff.” Try it out. It’s worth it.
To my sissa, my Jiminy, my safe person… I love you more than even my endless, rambling words could ever really say.