Sisters by Choice

by Sunshine Flint
Originally Published: 

If friends are the family you choose, then my best girlfriends and I are able to happily fill an empty space in our lives—we are all sister-less. I’m an only child, Deb, Lauren and Vicky* (*not their real names) each have a brother, and our friend Diana’s* sister suffered from many illnesses and tragically passed away a couple of years ago.

We met in college and have been a tight-knit sisterhood for more years than I really want to count—25 of them, gulp. Our hair was big, our sweaters oversized, our eyebrows positively untamed. We found each other while growing up in that gap between The Breakfast Club and Reality Bites. And we have the photo albums to prove it!

Our history is rife with all the petty annoyances and deep love that real sisters share. By junior year at our university near Boston, most of us shared a suite together—the kind where people would knock on the door at 2 a.m. with a keg in hand and ask if they could finish their party in our living room. On the rare quiet night, Vicky would call me from her bed in her room, which was right next to mine, and we’d discuss important topics, like would I give her one of my eggs if, one day far in the future, she couldn’t get pregnant. (For the record, she could and she did, and I got to keep all of my ovum.)

Senior year we shared a rambling house in town and there were frequent arguments over things like whether we were collectively responsible for buying toilet paper for the downstairs bathroom that guests used, or just the three girls, including myself, who lived on that floor. (You can guess who argued for what.) But there were also completely carefree days when we piled into someone’s car, drove to Walden Pond and walked and talked, giddy with the lack of major life responsibilities and the glorious New England spring. I like to think of us bonded together like a five-sided crystal, a pentagon of love and support and occasional bitchiness.

For the first few years after graduation, we mostly stayed in Boston and New York, and then we really scattered, as one after the other we met our spouses, had kids, moved. Now we all live in different cities across North America: New York, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale and Montreal.

I miss them, but as years have passed that feeling has become less acute, and now I feel them as a presence, always there for me. When we were young adults, it was really important that everyone show up for our trips—FOMO may not have been a hashtag then, but it was real enough for us. Now that we’re older and have experienced the inconsolable loss of family members and other close friends, gone through divorces and relationship woes, we appreciate that in this unpredictable life every meeting is a joyous occasion, whether there are just two of us for dinner or three of us on a weekend away.

Just a few weeks ago, all of five us were lucky enough to meet in Miami for a girls’ weekend and Lauren’s birthday. We’ve had years to learn the personality quirks and special tics that make us all our wonderfully individual and sometimes irritating selves. So we built in a couple of hours to indulge the shopper and give her some time in the Lincoln Road shops. I gave up my idea of going to an art museum in favor of sitting by the pool, but did get to walk around the one architectural highlight I wanted to see. The coffee lovers and the morning exerciser fit in their trips to the fancy coffee bar and the hotel gym without slowing the rest of us down.

Even if we inadvertently woke each other up too early or bickered over our schedule or used up all the towels or spent way too much money at Publix on snacks we never touched, we also kept looking at each other smugly, saying, “We’re so lucky to be here—we’re so lucky to still be friends.” Five personalities means we’re not all going to want to do the same thing at the same time—or ever—and that’s OK. In the end, all we really want to do is sit around and be with each other.

When I became a mother, it was to twin girls. One of the many, many freak-outs I had was about not being able to understand having a sibling. Growing up as an only child, I only really learned to share bathroom shelf space when I was about 25. But then I realized—I truly do have sisters. And even if I made them as a late teenager, they have taught me how to negotiate my needs and wants, how to respect different neuroses and personalities, and very importantly, how to love and be loved even after you’ve annoyed the living crap out of someone. Sisters, yeah?

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