on this may 8th

If you listened to Episode 3 of Pithetic (which, hello?! You totally should have!) you will recall that my sister has what a certain back-of-the-bus drunk referred to as “beat-the-fuck-up” legs. What I didn’t mention in that little anecdote is that a lot of the bruises and scars that didn’t come from mosquitos or puppy scratches came from me.

I am not going to say I’m a bad sister. I am definitely getting better, but that does mean that once upon a time, I was worse. Ever since that fateful morning a few days after May 8, 1992 when my young parents brought home a tiny pink someone to be my rival, I was Not Feeling It. (The home video for this occasion is awesome: picture me in a Yakult Swallows t-shirt and covered in Raisin Bran dregs with a scowl on my puffy little face as my mother tries to insist that this barely sentient new human loves me very much). I picked on her, I wouldn’t share, I even once bit her face in multiple places in a now-legendary fit of rage. When we were older, I told her fantastic lies, concocted plans to spy on her with my friends, and picked physical fights. I would scream if she borrowed my shoes yet think nothing of stealing her mini-macramé backpack to go buy Frappuccinos with my fellow, mature 11-year-olds. In short, I sucked.

But this is not supposed to be about me. I’m just trying to set the stage for how incredible this mini-person ended up being, give a present with the only thing I can do, little-drummer-boy style, and I think the best way to do it is to tell the story of her hair.

Alice spent her earliest days telling herself stories with tiny plastic characters plugged into her fists, with giant brown eyes and a Kewpie-like spike on her head. She endured a few years of being mistaken for a boy under a home bowl cut as she learned to wriggle-swim in the smaller of two matching floral bathing suits, and eventually graduated to a long, enviably thick crop of hair that meant tear-filled mornings of detangling and wrangling into French braids. We had to switch from L’Oréal Kids to bottom-shelf Suave just to be able to afford to keep the knots out of her mane.

On the precipice of high school, she cropped it to her chin and dyed it red, à la Josie, after the first PG-13 movie we’d been allowed to see (together, even though she was 2.5 years younger and thus enjoying a patently unfair precosity). While I was half-assedly writing, having meltdowns, and going years without altering my dishwater-brown ponytail, she was drawing a storm of sketches, creating entire worlds in her computer, and spiking, faux-hawking, and tinting her head colors that would never be found in nature.

You can tell which of us is the cool sister in a single take. Even though her hair is a little bit back to normal now, she’s still massively, unfathomably productive at creating people–in drawings, in writings, even in all the addictive video games she plays. And now she’s another year older, and even though I can’t make up for all the visible and invisible scars I have laid on her, I want to present her to you independent of anything I’ve done–just as this insanely gifted, wonderful, whimsical, intelligent person. But I still can’t help bragging that I am, that I get to be related to her. She’s my friend, my playmate, my Sims-co-pilot and WoW guildie, my fellow dog-walker, the soprano voice that far outstrips her alto duet partner, my reliable confidante and occasional lifesaver, my little squish with her crazy-ass hair and her beat-the-fuck-up legs.

Happy Birthday, dear Alice. Let’s be sisters forever.

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