I don’t know how you get along with your siblings, but I would say that odds are fairly decent that it’s not exactly the same at every age. I would imagine that most siblings go through periods of being best friends, worst enemies, and various other relationships in between those extremes.
My sister, Alison, and I are no exception. Had you told me as a child that I would get my sister out on a four-day, three-night, 27-mile hike (and that I would somehow convince her to carry her own food, clothing, and shelter on her back) I would have laughed in your face. Growing up, I was the one to be found in the tree, in the dirt, in the neighbor’s snowdrift. Alison would usually be inside. Playing with Barbies (yag–that’s “yawn” and “gag” put together, folks). As a child, she would not have struck me as the hiking type.
Had you told me as a high schooler that she would look forward to spending that much quality time with her little sister, I’d have sneered and rolled my eyes. I have no hard evidence, but I’m convinced that when my big sister saw me walking down the illustrious halls of Garber High School she hid behind other people, avoided eye contact at all costs, and perhaps even stuck out her leg to trip me. As a teenager, she would not have struck me as the bonding type.
Had you told me even ten years ago that we would even be speaking to each other much at this point in life, I would have been pleasantly surprised. It’s not that we so vehemently disliked one another, but that we didn’t communicate very well. At the time I thought this was her fault. (I, after all, was most certainly perfect.) But in 2003 or 2004 I realized that a very huge chunk of our rocky relationship was my fault. Solidly my fault.
I was compelled to write Alison a letter of apology. Which is what you do when you don’t communicate well, right? I have a bit of a tendency to say things I regret (or don’t even mean) when I try to work out conflict face to face out loud, so writing (and editing) is a very important process for me. In this letter I owned up to some serious miscommunication, misunderstanding, and misinformation on my part. I asked for forgiveness, and my gracious sister gave it to me.
And then we began to develop a real relationship.
Had you told me any time before my mid- to late-twenties that my sister and I would be close friends who went on hiking trips together, I would have gotten a wistful look in my eyes. Because I wouldn’t have believed it. But I would have wanted so badly for it to be true.
Today it is.
And when Alison and I took step after step after blessed step on that little section of the 4,600 mile North Country Trail, it felt like we had started down a long and happy path of true friendship that would only get stronger as we walked it.
4,573 miles to go, Alison. Are you ready?
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