Happy Birthday, little sister!

    One of the luckiest days of my life was August 27, 1966. That’s the day my baby sister was born. She was my baby sister and no one else’s baby sister.

    I cherished her, played with her, cut all her hair off. I did my best to help take care of her. She was so important to me that I had nightmares about her getting hurt or getting lost. I remember one night waking up in tears and screaming because I dreamed she’d chased a ball into the street and a car had come. My mother had to wake Michelle up and show me that she was okay to stop my crying.

    I was 4.

    She and I shared a bedroom until I was about 10. We shared lots of toys and a love of plants and animals, too. We had guinea pigs, a hamster, a cat and mice. I named my mouse Rush, after the rock band and the fact that it ran very fast, she named hers Mousie. Then there was the time she brought home a white kitten and kept it hidden in her bedroom closet. She named it White Kitty. When the kitten finally came out of the closet, we renamed it Noël, because it was white and it was almost Christmastime.

    Of the two of us, I have the flare for naming things.

    We played outside all the time during the summer, swinging on our swing set, making up games in the back yard, sneaking off to a candy store called The Strawberry Pony — which I accidentally called The Pink Horse many times — for ice cream.

    We were inseparable.

    If I could tell you all one thing about my sister it is that her disposition has always been sweet. You can see it in her lovely face in these photos — a genuine sweetness. When I had nightmares, I would crawl in bed with her and feel safer even though I was older and bigger than she was.

    In the summers, we watched re-runs on TV, and I can remember a time when we sincerely wanted to be genies as in I Dream of Jeannie. We talked about our bottles — how they looked, what was in them. We did our best to blink spells. Nothing happened.

    We both loved Star Trek, too, and together with our two brothers watched it every day, acting out the episode afterward. To this day, we are a family of Trekkies.

    Michelle had a talent for gymnastics that I as a klutzy left-handed person simply did not share. I remember watching her do walk-overs and wishing I could do them, too. I had to be content with cartwheels.

    We both had stick-straight hair as little girls. Then around the age of 10, our hair got curly. In the age of straight hair and feathered bangs, this was agonizing. Now, however, we have gotten the last laugh, as other women spend hundreds for spiral curl and we just wash, rinse, comb.

    I have no idea what this photo is from. Choir? Marching band? Concert band? We shared a love of music, as well. We still do. Rock. Classical. Celtic. We both love to sing, and when we're together we inevitably end up singing along to whatever happens to be playing.

    Sometimes one of us gets the lyrics wrong. This has been the source of much hilarity. I mean what is a “studded sharfore” anyway? If the lyric describes something that does not exist, shouldn’t that be a clue that you’ve got it wrong?

    I wasn’t around when Michelle went to prom. I was in Europe, but she soon followed me over there, living in Sweden while I was in Denmark. I think her date here is a Finn kid named Pekka. Many Finns are named Pekka.

    Michelle was a beautiful baby, and she grew up to be a beautiful woman. Her sense of humor is sharp and can be very cutting at times. Like me, she discovered her temper later in life. But even when she’s really pissed off, she makes me laugh.

    But we never spent enough time together as adults. For a while I was in Europe. During our college years, I had babies, while she had a social life. She moved to California for a while, and that was probably the time when we had the least contact.

    From there, she went back to Sweden, where she now has citizenship. I had two kids to raise and couldn’t leave the United States. (That’s ironic because I was the one who’d wanted so badly to settle in Scandinavia and live the rest of my life there. Life is not without a sense of humor.)

    She was my maid of honor at my mountain wedding (I’m in the poofy white Princess Di knock-off, and she’s standing behind me). And although the wedding should never have happened — women, just throw yourselves a fancy party with a beautiful dress, an elaborate cake and gifts, then get artificially inseminated — we had fun getting dressed up and playing with the flowers and our hair.

    We talk on Skype almost every weekend. Sometimes she calls me at work — always a welcome interruption. And she always comes home for Christmas. But I miss her every day.

    We never run out of things to talk about. There’s True Blood and Game of Thrones and Spartacus and Jack Bauer. And there are my books.

    I cannot begin to tell you the number of hours Michelle has spent with me on the phone or on Skype talking about whatever novel I’m writing, reassuring me, supporting me, letting me “talk” the story out. Without her, I don’t know whether I’d have nearly as many novels written or whether any of them would be any good.

    No one lifts my spirits when I’m down the way she does. My boys tell me that she and I are always laughing when we’re together, and that’s true. We’re both single and talk about living together again. To end my days living in a flat in Stockholm with my sister and a bunch of cats would be just fine with me because I know I’d die with a smile on my face.

    I don’t know that I’ve been as good a sister to her as she has been to me, but I have loved her every day of her life.

    Happy Birthday, Michelle!

    Sisters and friends forever.

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