Yesterday was my sister Amara's birthday, and all day I remembered and reminded myself to call her, call her, call her. And still ... I forgot. I'm a failure at life.
So happy (late) birthday, Ammie!
In the middle of the night, when I remembered my failure, I was thinking about Amara. She's twelve years older than I (right?), the oldest of the six kids in our family, and it's been really something to watch how those twelve years have seemed to shrink and shrink. When I was 8/9, she was in college, see, and so I didn't really get to know her well until we became grownups (whatever that means), and Amara has really taught me what it means to be a grownup. Or no, that's not it. Teaching me how to be a grownup sounds like she's boring, and she's far from boring. Really what she's taught me, what she continues to teach me, is how to be a woman (can I say that?), a woman who gracefully does what she loves and takes care of those she loves with more energy and imagination and beauty than I can fathom. It's astonishing, really, endlessly astonishing what she accomplishes.
Indulge me for just another few paragraphs. I have two specific memories of growing up as Amara's sister: I was in charge of vacuuming the downstairs, and I remember the carpet was a very dark green, and I remember having this big epiphany (I was young--7? 8? 10?): I didn't have to vacuum. In fact, no one could make me do anything, ever! Everything I did was something I had to, ultimately, choose to do! Wow, this was heady. I'm not quite smart enough to know what world philosophy this nods to (existentialism is my best guess), but for me, next to the vacuum, my toes in that dark green carpet, it was huge. And I decided to test it out then and there by flat-out refusing my task. Eventually, after shouting with my mother (I was a charming child), Amara was sent down to be the enforcer, which, well, she was effective at. I made the mistake, see, of explaining what I had realized. And as philosophically fascinating as it was to me, it wasn't so to Amara. She, dear sister, illustrated the falseness of it by physically holding my hands to the vacuum neck and steering the two of us all around that downstairs. It was an awkward dance, but that floor got clean. And I learned that sometimes, we have to do stuff. And I've long marveled at the gentle yet unmistakably firm way Amara illustrated the fallacy.
Memory two (and I'm afraid these both have the potential to appear unflattering, but they shouldn't be ...): Amara majored in Marine Biology at BYU, and one summer she came home to visit and we all went to the beach. La Jolla Cove. We were all playing in the tidepools, when Amara dared me to lick a sea anemone--you know, those creatures with all the soft pretty arms that attach to corners of pools and tighten up into a pin cushion when you touch them? I, being wise, refused the dare. But then she told me there was a club at BYU, one full of people who had licked sea anemones, and that when she got back to school she would submit my name and I'd be a member of this club. Well, that I couldn't refuse. I was already a royal nerd, and the thought of being part of a club at BYU before I even went was just thrilling. I mean,I think I literally thought this would look good on my application. And so, after a lengthy discussion over logistics and once we had scouted out a handsome anemone for a kiss, I lay down on my belly, little girl swim suit catching on the rock, and did it. And wow, it hurt. And wow, my tongue was numb for hours and hours. And, sadly, there was never any club.
One more, to balance out the potential unflatteringness: A few weeks ago, Amara called me while I was at work. She wanted to read me something out of an Ensign article she had read that morning because it had helped her and she thought it would help me. I closed the door to my office, stood behind my desk, and felt my eyes well up at what she read. It was precisely what I needed. We talked about the quote for awhile, talked about our lives, laughed and groaned and understood precisely. Because we're sisters. And sisters get it.
She was my sister. She is my sister. And one of dearest friends.
I hope you had a lovely day, Am. You deserve it.