I am so very excited to share today’s HerStories essay with you. Speaking of friendship, Kate Hall, of the hilarious and impeccably written blog, Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine?, was my very first “blog friend”. She is the first person to throw me a lifeline when I felt like I was drowning in the blogosphere, and as months passed, I came to treasure our email correspondences. She is so insightful, funny, and real. You are going to love her essay, a tribute to her younger sister, Melissa. Enjoy.
My Sister, My Friend
by Kate Hall
I was seven years old, sitting in a white-walled room with brown-flecked tiles in a bright orange plastic bucket seat. An almost offensive antiseptic smell lingered in the air as Archie yelled at his son-in-law, Meathead, on the TV above me. I was waiting. Waiting with my dad for my sister to be born.
The next day I was late for school. I gave the secretary a note that said my mother was in labor. I had no idea what “labor” meant. I just knew my mom was pushing out a playmate for me.
Later that day I stood in front of a glass looking at my new baby sister, swath of jet-black hair upon her tiny, red and wrinkled head. I never understood why it was “jet” black, but that’s how my mom referred to it over and over. My parents named her Melissa.
Sometimes when Melissa was a baby, my mom let her cry herself to sleep. I hid in the bathroom and cried and cried along with her, feeling the pain of her sobs.
Me: seven, Melissa: less than one
When I was a pre-teen and Melissa was five with a personality resembling Ramona Quimby, I often had my friends over for sleepovers. She would sneak down the stairs and eavesdrop. We’d hear a giggle and I would storm after her saying, “moooOOONSTERRRRRSS!” over and over again until she got scared and scrambled back up the stairs.
One time when she was a safety patrol in grade school, I went to her street corner and berated her, called her names, and (probably) hit her in front of her friends. I made her look small. I bullied her. I was sometimes cruel.
When I was able to drive. We took the large head of an old doll and locked it between the glass and car top of my mom’s moon roof of her Ford Escort station wagon. We drove around town with the head sticking out like a giant hood ornament on top of the car. We thought we were hilarious.
Me: 19, Melissa: 12
During the summers when I was in college, I was an assistant tennis instructor at a tennis camp for grade-school kids. Melissa was in the camp. I typically dropped my maturity level down a few years whenever we were together. We took the kids on a field trip to a tennis tournament and Melissa and I sat in the back of the bus and blew fart noises on our arms and laughed and laughed.
One time, my mom and stepfather went to Colorado and left us home alone together. Aside from me throwing a party, one night Melissa and I got into a fight. I ran out of the house because she was chasing me, probably with a large object. Once I was out, she slammed the door and locked it. I had to walk up to the street to the pay phone to make a collect call to my dad so he could call her and make her let me back in.
I moved away from home to a job in Ohio after college. The day I moved, my mom and sister crawled onto the bed I left behind and cried with each other. They said it felt like I had died.
In the summer of 1998 I was living outside of Chicago in a little one-bedroom apartment. My dad and step-mom brought Melissa to stay with me for a month. After that month, she was to go back home to Virginia to start her next year of college. Instead, she got a job and lived in my dining room for six months.
I remember lying in the floor of our living room holding the video camera above our heads just talking. As fond as that memory is I hope she burned that tape because I’m sure I said something incriminating, or at the very least, extremely stupid.
We finally moved into a two-bedroom apartment and lived together until I got married in 2002.
In our twenties.
As adults we’ve been blessed to have our kids grow up together. Her daughter, Fleurette, is nine months older than my oldest, Sheehan.
One of the greatest blessings in my life is having my sister as my friend. I love having someone to reminisce with and laugh at memories with. We have so many shared experiences from childhood up through adulthood. She knows where I come from because she’s been there. I would even call our friendship therapeutic.
(I knitted that scarf.)
Melissa has been one of my greatest encouragers in my writing. I often picture her as my audience. She reads my blog regularly and later will tell me how much she laughed and how proud of me she is. For the longest time I believed I wasn’t funny except for when I was with Melissa. I felt like I could be myself with her and didn’t need to censor my thoughts and words. She helped give me the courage to write those thoughts and words so others could see them.
I’m so thankful to call my sister my friend. I love you, Melissa.
Kate Hall is a stay-at-home, home-schooling mom with one husband, Steve, and three children, all adopted from China (not the husband). When she’s not answering bizarre questions or wiping poop off the walls you can find her at her blog, where she strives to write laugh-out-loud humor infused with authenticity. www.CanIGetAnotherBottleofWhine.com.
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