long-distance sisters.

July 7, 2015
memorymaking_readingmytealeaves

We went to my parents’ house over the weekend.

On Thursday morning, the six of us—me and James and Faye along with my sister Cait and her two guys—took an early train ride. We were four sleepy parents, two very awake tinies, and a handful of reverse-commute office types. On our long weekend away we worked for a day from a makeshift office of our own making on my mom and dad’s back porch while “Grammy” got the two little guys into mischief. We opened beers before five and ate dinner past bedtimes. We went to the beach and saw old friends and new babies and worked to make sure Faye didn’t put her hands in the pasta salad. We sorted through books in my parents’ attic. We bought flowers from our favorite farmers. Faye took her first twelve steps in one glorious run. Oliver became enamored with the way the sun glints through the water spray of a hose turned skyward. We ate homemade lobster rolls. We had family and friends join us in my mom and dad’s backyard for a picnic. We got mosquito bites but avoided sunburns. We watched a fireworks display play second fiddle to the majesty of a red moon rising above the Long Island sound. We tested the staying power of the tiniest members of our crew with late nights and the resiliency of the rest of us with early mornings. Thank goodness there was coffee and bagels to fortify. We waved tiny flags at old-fashioned fire trucks and shamelessly collected parade candy that tasted like crayons, as it should.

Almost none of that is in the pictures.

I managed to post a few shots on Instagram. I lugged my heavy camera with us on the train and only snapped 12 photos over the course of roughly as many minutes. They’re more or less all the same: All blurry. All featuring Faye and a giant blue ball in my parents’ backyard. Sometimes that’s how it goes.

 

But here’s the secret: the best stuff is almost never in the photos.

//

 

My sister Cait is moving across the country in just a few short weeks.

She and her husband and our sweet O will be packing up their tiny Manhattan apartment into boxes and saying goodbye to the East Village. My brother-in-law will drive a truck across the country while my sister and her intrepid sidekick will board an Amtrak train and take the rail route across the continent to meet him in Portland, Oregon. There will be a set of grandparents and more aunts, uncles, and cousins than I can count on two hands to greet them. For my sister’s family it will be a return to something familiar and the start of something new, both at the same time.

And for us, too.

This space has never really been one where I’ve recorded the daily comings and goings of my personal life. But right now I’m gearing up for learning how to live in this place without my bosom friend just a subway ride away.

It’s not the first time that there will be a landmass or an ocean between us and I’ve got two other sisters half a country away in the southerly direction. You get used to the distance. You find new habits and rhythms and finally remember to calculate the time difference before making a 5:00 am phone call. You live with the fact that nothing replaces being able to sip an iced coffee together on your morning walk to work. You read metaphorical tea leaves trying to figure out what might come next. For you and for them. But mostly you feel lucky that you’ve got sisters worth missing at all.

I guess my point is that life is more complicated than it appears. Harder, sometimes, but also much, much more wonderful. I’ve recorded for the public record only a few of the hundred tiny things in a week that make living close to a sister so wonderful. But I’ve stored them all the same. They’ll stay in the most dependable repository of all, which is, of course, the heart.

Here’s to long-distance sisters. And here’s to booking plane tickets. The only cure for heartache is action.

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28 Comments

  • Reply carlyn greer July 7, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    My twin brother was home from Saskatchewan last week (I live in Ontario), we spent it at the cottage. There are minimal pictures to document our amazing week with friends and family but enough memories for a life time (: I feel for you as your sibling moves away!

  • Reply Carol Ann July 7, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    Well that made me weep a little, I miss my sisters too

  • Reply Melissa July 7, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    This post is wonderful. I hope the adjustment period goes relatively smoothly for both of you.

  • Reply rachael July 7, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    i think i'd heard of your blog before…but for some reason i didn't check it out until yesterday. i read pages upon pages 🙂 this past weekend sounds like it was an important and beautiful one for you. oh, how lacksidasical it sounded! i've never lived in a different city than my two sisters for long, so i can only imagine how strange that will be for you. times have got me day dreaming about giving up the struggle in my home city and moving away somewhere new, where i don't know anyone…and starting fresh. but i think i'm just stressed and scared right now. thanks for this post..it made me think and put down these words.

  • Reply Lisa July 7, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    Erin, that was so beautiful. From what I've read on your blog about your relationships with your sisters, they're the kind that make a person (me) long for one. You guys are so incredibly fortunate to have each other.

    Curious about Cait's train ride with your nephew. For the sake of adventure or easier with little one/baggage?

    xo

  • Reply Brenna Kinkaid July 7, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    This is an absolutely exquisite piece of writing. Tucked between each line, I can feel the longing.

  • Reply liv July 7, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Wow. Tears. Beautiful tribute.

  • Reply Alexa July 7, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    I haven't got a sister of my own, but you've captured so beautifully just why I so longed for one growing up and why, if I have a girl of my own someday, I'd like to have (at least) two. Sweet, sweet sisterhood.

  • Reply laura July 7, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    we too went from a subway ride away to being split between the coasts. i almost wiped a tear because i feel the loss that comes with extraordinary love.

  • Reply Cynthia July 7, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    Your sister couldn't have chosen a better place for you to visit! Oh my, the fun you will have with the food and coffee and trees and temperate climate. And then there's your parents' place for the east coast reunions. Technology and planes…you can do this.

  • Reply Sally July 7, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    "They'll stay in the most dependable repository of all, which is, of course, the heart."

    ^^^ So very true.

  • Reply Sally July 7, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    "They'll stay in the most dependable repository of all, which is, of course, the heart."

    ^^^ So very true.

  • Reply ariana July 7, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    oh, this is the most beautiful post, Erin. thank you for sharing. here's to holding the dear near.

  • Reply Helen @ Relearning Loveliness July 7, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    This was a beautiful thing to read upon waking this morning. Thank you for sharing with us, Erin.

  • Reply Norma July 7, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    Welcome to Portland Cait & Family!! We'll take good care of her, Promise!!!

  • Reply Joan July 7, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    Beautiful words Erin.
    Without question… your last three lines.

  • Reply Janna July 7, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    This was very beautiful! My sister lives in Georgia and I live in Oregon. I'm still holding out hope that they will move back home and buy the house next door 🙂

  • Reply Brady July 7, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    This post kind of kills me.

  • Reply secretfragileskies July 7, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    "the best stuff is almost never in the photos"
    – memory and imagination, why I love your work. Thank you for it.

  • Reply Katherine Stookesberry July 7, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    So beautiful, Erin

  • Reply Kim B. July 7, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    a beautiful reflection. You're kind to share it (it's so personal — but yet universal).

  • Reply Barb July 7, 2015 at 7:39 pm

    This is lovely. I'm sorry she's moving so far away.

    And now I'm sending the link to my sister. Thank you.

  • Reply Anonymous July 7, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    This one resonated deeply. As someone whose only sibling, a beautiful brother, is an entire continent away, sometimes I wonder how we manage to live without all the ones we love within arms length.

  • Reply Erin July 8, 2015 at 4:52 am

    Such a wonderful post. As someone who also has a long-distance sister (and brother!) in Portland, I agree that booking a ticket (even for a trip months in the future) takes some of the sting out of siblings being far away. Here's to many happy sister visits in PDX!

  • Reply Sol July 8, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    Oh girl, now you made me cry. Every time you made a reference to your sister in any of your posts I would think, how lucky is she, I wish my sister was so close so we could enjoy motherhood together. And now your sister is leaving. Hugs to you, and here's to a lot of plane tickets starting soon!

  • Reply Diana July 8, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    Oh, this made me cry. I live far from my family too and gosh it's hard sometimes. This was a beautiful post though.

  • Reply Kayla Poole July 8, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    Ahhh, I now have ALL of the feels. When I think about us moving away from the NY metro area (likely in the next year or two), the hardest thing I'll need to get through is leaving my sister. Hugs to you.

  • Reply Lauren July 8, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    What a beautiful post! With a sis in Mexico and one in Washington, D.C., your words rung so true to me. Thanks for sharing.

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