Ah, sisterly love: that lifelong commitment in which each feud is a life lesson, and every whispered secret is a bonding moment, for better or worse. Admittedly, it feels a bit cliché to write an ode to my older sister, Mallory, on National Siblings Day—yet another holiday to join the ranks among other arbitrary celebrations like National Pecan Day or Hula in the Coola Day (yes, that's a real thing). But another more vocal part of me feels like Sibling Day may be the exception. As adults who live on opposite ends of the country, my sister and I are finding it far more difficult to not only keep in touch but also to show each other how much we appreciate each other.
It's really horrible timing, too, now that we actually want to hang out with each other. So I've come to the conclusion that today is as good an excuse as any to take the time to think about everything sisterhood has taught me and how much more meaningful she's made my existence. Besides, considering that the odds of each of us being alive are infinitesimal, I feel so inexpressibly grateful to share half of my DNA with such a gentle, forgiving, fun-loving, and loyal soul that I'd write her a love letter any day of the year.
The six memorable moments I'm about to share with you will probably embarrass her, but I hope they teach you as much as they taught me (or at least bring back funny memories about your own siblings). Some of these stories are funny while some are heartwarming and others are bittersweet. Maybe they'll even inspire you to slip into their iMessages, voicemail box, or even show up on their doorstep with an "I love you" or a noogie.
Take One for the Team
The Tale: One fateful summer, my dad had just fixed the drain in the shower, so he told Mal and me to be extra careful because it had been an expensive endeavor (not to mention only necessary because of something we'd done). We nodded obediently but didn't take it too seriously. After a long day in the sun, Mal and I were playing in the shower when we got frustrated by the pileup of water. So we decided it'd be a great idea to remove the filter from the drain to get rid of it. Later, as Mal—or shall we call her Butter Fingers?—was lathering up her shampoo, she managed to drop the shampoo cap down the drain, which was quickly sucked away never to be seen again.
Afraid of getting in trouble, Mallory and I made a pact to never tell my parents about the shampoo bottle cap. It didn't take them long to discover the plumbing issue, which had taken a turn for the worse, reaching an all-time low. Since we'd been the last ones in the bathroom, our chances of bypassing capture and punishment were slim.
Payback Is a Dog
The Lesson: Our parents were more upset that we were lying to them about who the culprit was than the actual plumbing problem, but my loyalty to my sister and the trust she had given me were more important under these circumstances. So that lesson would have to wait. In an effort to get us to reveal the truth, our parents forbade us from using the pool until we said who dropped the cap. But a promise between sisters is stronger than pretty much anything, even if it means being stuck inside and away from the pool on a beautiful day.
It was Mal and I against the world, and if she was stuck inside, I would be, too. Taking one for the team paid off in our continued mutual trust and loyalty.
The Tale: One evening back in 1998, I discovered a little thing called payback. I was a fiery 5-year-old who had just enjoyed a meal at her favorite restaurant, Oaxoca. It was date night for our parents, so Mal and I were with our two favorite 15-year-old babysitters who appreciated a good prank almost as much as Mal did (and still does). She was in the kitchen, and I was downstairs deeply engrossed in a computer game that I was awful at called The Tortoise and the Hare when she came down to tell me to come up in a few minutes for chocolate.
Of course, nothing could pull me away from that bulky desktop computer—especially when I was mid-game—aside from the promise of dessert. So I hesitantly followed behind my big sis once the game ended (I lost, in case you were wondering).
The Lesson: I was told to close my eyes while she prepared the chocolate treat. When I opened my mouth and geared up for the big reveal, I bit down into something surprising: a toe. Mallory's, to be exact. I was unfazed and got a bite of the real dessert later on. Sorry, Mal, but the joke was on you because your prank backfired.
Always Ask Before You Borrow
The Tale: My parents had their hands full when I was a precocious 13-year-old and Mal was a boisterous 16-year-old, mostly due to fights over clothing. We had had many, many wars over clothing borrowed and lost, but none outperforms the drama that ensued after an uninvited raid of Mallory's underwear drawer. When she found out I had snagged a few pairs for myself without asking her first, I was done for. You see, Mallory was a good athlete (her upper arm strength was particularly impressive), whereas I was a shrimpy kid interested in the arts and letters.
The Lesson: I was sitting at the kitchen table doing my homework when Mallory spotted me in her favorite pair. I'll let you use your imagination to guess how the scene unfolded. Let's just say she responded to me and my sticky fingers with a fury unlike any other. But now I would never borrow anything without asking first—especially not someone else's underwear.
Reach Out When You Need Help
The Tale: I used to think Mallory and I could communicate telepathically like twins because we share a birthday, three years apart (I totally ruined her third birthday). When I was little and I couldn't sleep, I would stand over her bed as she slept in the hopes of waking her up via telecommunication. The logic of a child, clearly. When my presence didn't miraculously jolt her awake, I'd sigh really loudly. And if Mallory was having an uncharacteristically deep slumber, I'd drop the cat on her head.
These midnight visits went on for at least two years, from first until third grade. Each time, Mal would invite me to get in the bed with her so I could sleep peacefully. This meant there were a lot of sleepless nights, not only for me, but for my whole family. And even when my parents refused to let me sleep with them, my sister never lost her patience.
The Lesson: As I got older, I learned to cope with my difficulty sleeping through the night, but Mallory continues to put my fears at ease like nobody else can. Luckily I've learned to reach out directly in times of need, instead of using a cat to the face as a cry for help. This gesture showed me how to trust those who love me because the ones who do will never turn me away, no matter what time of night it is.
Don't Take Yourself Too Seriously
The Tale: Mallory was a senior in high school when I was a freshwoman. She spent the majority of her time being my guardian angel and biggest advocate, and she even helped me pick out the perfect outfit for the first day of high school; I was especially proud of my sandals. But she also used this day as an opportunity to pull a personal senior prank on her dear little sister. The morning began with an all-school meeting, which was always closed with a minute of silence. About 30 seconds in and restless as ever, I readjusted on the squeaky gym floor, sliding my foot out from under me.
It produced a noise that sounded identical to a very loud fart. The gym erupted in snickers and repressed cackles.
Naturally, I was humiliated, even though no one knew it was me and my arch nemesis of a sandal. At least not yet. But my high school used an all-school online platform with a feature known as the Bulletin Board for announcements and birthday posts. So around noon, I received emails saying, "Hahaha, you farted at the all-school meeting." Mallory had concocted a post that read "FYI: That was my little sister who farted at the all-school meeting this morning; let's all give her a warm welcome."
The Lesson: In a household like mine, you learn not to take yourself too seriously at an early age. You also learn that a good prank knows no boundaries. To this day, I understand that sometimes the only way to survive an embarrassing experience is to join in on the laughter and let go of pride because that's a lot more fun than being upset. And if anything, Mal's prank helped me make friends.
Cherish Your Unconditional Love
The Tale: Mallory and I have always been close; I can't remember a time when she wasn't there for me when I needed her. But as with any great relationship, there have been some rough patches. We went a long time without seeing each other about a year ago. It was the longest time we'd ever been away from one another, and the strangest part was that it felt self-inflicted. Though there was a distance between us built by unspoken words, natural differences, and missed milestones, all the hurt slipped away the second we saw each other and hugged.
The Lesson: No matter how different our lives may be, what mistakes we make, how many miles separate us, or what pranks we pull on each other, Mal is always going to be my constant, and I will always be hers. The petty stuff is just so not worth the ache I feel in her absence. Plus, she fills even the most monotonous and gloomy of situations with joy and fun.
The Bonus: You can always count on your sibling to understand your jokes and make you laugh when no one else does, as proven in a few of our recent conversations that you can click through below.
Swap your own childhood memories of growing up with siblings, pets, and even imaginary friends in the comments below. And don't forget to thank the loved ones who shaped you today.