I just spent the week in Townsville visiting my sister, her husband and her daughter. My sister and I have always been close in both the emotional and physical sense. We shared a room in a very small house for our entire childhood, right up until I moved out at age 18. Our relationship had all the standard hallmarks of sisterhood: petty fights over toys, clothes, parental attention and complex games only we knew the rules to, secrets whispered at night, dreams shared. Once I moved out of home we didn’t spend as much time together but still maintained our close bond. I watched her change from the little girl I poked fun of into a fully grown person. She met a man who wooed her and charmed our whole family. They fell in love and when he was posted to Townsville (being a military man) in 2012 we waved them off with both tears and joy. They came back to Adelaide for their wedding in 2013 and their daughter, Ava, was born later that year. When Ava was born I visited quite a lot, as I was lucky enough to have some disposable income, but until this latest trip I had not been back there since mid 2014. My sister visited Adelaide several times in the interim, but there was always so many family things to do and people to catch up with that we often didn’t get to spend much time together.
Last month I was on my phone, checking out the latest adorable pictures of Ava, when I felt how much I missed them like a punch in my stomach. I actually felt the wind rush out of me. I’ve always missed my sister of course but it came at me all at once. I immediately booked flights to go and see her. What are credit cards for after all? We’ve always kept in touch, chatting on Messenger almost every day and we try to FaceTime regularly so our kids can see each other, but it’s not the same as being in the same space. There’s something so comforting and wonderful about moving with each other through a day.
The last week has given me a chance to see the kind of woman my sister has become in the last 5 years: strong, self-assured, an amazing cook. My favourite things about her are still loud and clear: the way she pushes her hair back, the way her laugh turns into a snort when she is especially delighted, her sarcastic wit. The trip also made me realise just how much our relationship has changed. We’re still close but we’re also very different people since we were last living together. We’ve both got kids now, we’ve both faced challenges that have shaped who we are, and we have different dreams from the ones we whispered to each other in the dark all those years ago. As I write this sitting on the corner of her couch I’m both happy and sad. I’m sad for the times I haven’t been able to be there for my sister, and sad for the mundane moments we no longer share. The trip has made me reflect on the way our relationship had changed and evolved over time. It’s not a bad thing of course and is to be expected, but it has me feeling nostalgic for the old days when it felt like the two of us against the world. One of my earliest memories is of feeling my sister moving in my mum’s belly, and since that day she has occupied such a large space in my heart. No matter how much our lives change there is no love like our first love, and my sister will always be my first love.