Choosing a Sister
There are times when I wish I had brothers and sisters – times like this weekend, when one of my sisters-in-law was visiting and four of the five Bennett kids sat around the table together. They share a lifetime of memories and a common past. Nothing in my life can duplicate that, and I sometimes find myself feeling a little envious.
The closest I can come to that experience is my best childhood friend, whom I will call Ella for the purposes of this blog. We met in the first grade at Peoria Elementary. More accurately, we probably first met on the bus that took us to school, since it turned out that she lived just a few streets away. Ella didn’t care that I was taller than everyone else. She never minded that I was bossy and bookwormish. We became fast friends, and, even after a bout with pneumonia caused her to be held back a grade the next year, we were still happiest when we were together.
That’s not to say that we haven’t had our fights. Once she told me that her mother was paying her to babysit me – we didn’t talk for months. Another time, we had a tiff right before one of my family’s annual vacations (on which Ella was almost always invited), and she was sent home instead while I spent the next two weeks angry and alone with my parents. And, finally, living together as adults came close to wrecking our friendship as well. But you don’t walk away from someone with whom you share nearly a lifetime of memories – at least, you don’t do it without more provocation than either of us has ever given the other.
Over the course of thirty-five years, our lives have diverged. She lives far away, in the northwest corner of our country. She has been married to the same man for twenty years and has two lovely children. I have stayed in the desert of our childhood and live a completely different sort of a life. Yet she is the first person I call when anything – good or bad – happens. When my grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer a few years ago, I stepped outside the hospital and called her. When I finished my first book, I called her. When her father got sick recently, she called me. And when she found out I was in the hospital last spring, she nearly flew to Phoenix – just in case I was really dying.
And every time I talk to or spend time with her, it feels like no time has passed at all. Ella is one of my best friends and the woman I choose as my sister, which is, in some ways, a stronger bond than being borne of the same womb.