THE SHAPE OF A WOMAN: HER BRANCHES

By BELLA CROTTI

 Courtesy of Bella Crotti

Courtesy of Bella Crotti

     I have yet to find a force more powerful than that of a healthy and stimulating female relationship. While these relationships can often feel few and far between, there is one that requires little effort but provides a lifetime of unwavering love and support. If you are so lucky to have this relationship you already know who I am talking about, your sister. Although I am a firm believer in a sisterhood that goes beyond the bloodline and have found many of my sisters outside of a familial bond, there is something special about that girl who knows you, all of you, in a way so specific to your upbringing and surroundings. A built-in best friend that has been there through it all, but what if she hasn’t?

     January 20, 2015, changed the meaning of sisterhood for me. I questioned how our sisterhood would ever be like those I grew up envying given our whopping age difference of sixteen, basically seventeen, years. I battled with a feeling of gratefulness for this new overwhelming love that had come into my life and a resentment for it getting here so late. All of the things that I deemed a part of the definition of sisterhood would never be had, in fact, I worried I would even feel like more of a mother to her. And at times I do. Having a mother who is eighteen years my senior and a sister who is seventeen years my junior creates an interesting dynamic. Although there were some things I did know off the bat without question, despite our different fathers I would be sure that our relationship was never burdened by the word “half,” she would always be my whole sister. I also knew from the moment she was born that this was a love like no other. One that I was ready and would always be willing to put my full self into. 

     As almost three years have passed since the moon began to light up my life, I realized all of my initial worries or resentments had gone away. I found the true value and importance of our unique sisterhood. My question of how our relationship would ever be like the ones I was jealous of was answered: it wouldn’t be. I learned that watching her grow up would end up being just as rewarding and fulfilling as growing up together. That the memories we would share, though not clouded with sister fights and the sharing of clothes, would be every bit as heartwarming to reflect on. Without fail, each year that this little girl grew so did my affection and gratitude for her curly haired bundle of spirit. I was the luckiest of all, I had the sun and the moon.* 

     And although I still find myself laden with restless nights of hoping and wishing that I will be the sister she needs me to be even if I am not around as often, I try to remind myself of that powerful force, the force of the female, and take peace in knowing that love, that power, that force, that sisterhood, will always transcend age. 

 

“It’s one of those things you feel, but can’t articulate.” 

I interviewed two women of similar age and spirit who are lucky enough to have sisterhoods that have flipped their worlds upside down in the best and most unique ways. Despite having sister relationships separated by seventeen years versus fifteen months, the similarities between their answers, as well as the love and pride they had when speaking about their sister’s, are things I wish I could bottle up and share with everyone. I believe this world would be a better place if more people appreciated and experienced sisterhood in the way so many of us are fortunate enough to. 

Would you mind sharing your age?

1: 38

2: 38

Tell me about yourself…

1: Oh gosh, the only thing I can think of about me is that I’m a stay at home mom of three.

2: I'm a mom of three, currently work part-time, and own a small business. I consider myself creative and an entrepreneur.

Tell me about your sister…

1: She just turned twenty-two and is a senior in college. She is studying speech pathology. We are seventeen years apart in age.

2: My sister is fifteen months older than me. She is a mother of five and beautiful. She is very smart and always excelled in school. She is really dedicated to her family.

Can you explain the dynamic of your relationship with her a little bit?

1: Because of the seventeen year age gap, you may wonder what can these two have in common, but actually when you’re around us you would never know there was an age gap. The things we laugh at and find funny are similar. We are just very close, I can’t put it into words. There has been so much that has happened in my life since I was twenty-two, but when we are together it doesn’t matter.

2: On the surface, we appear to be opposites. I'm more of a free spirit and she plays by the rules, but we are much more alike than people realize. Although we are very close in in age and participated in many activities together, we both had our own circle of friends and didn't really mesh those worlds together as we were growing up, especially in adolescence and high school. As we got older we became much closer - best friends. We can talk on the phone for hours, literally. We make each other laugh constantly.

What are some positive and negative impacts your closeness in age has had on your relationship?

1: There are many positive impacts especially for her because I was a mom figure that wasn’t her mom. I was able to give her advice without coming across like I was telling her what to do. When it came to certain situations in her life I was able to say “uh maybe don’t do that” without it having to come from her mom or seem like I was setting a rule. Some negatives would be that we didn’t grow up together in our home so that was a little tough.

2: I guess I feel the positives more now as we are older -- in having a true friend. You don't find that too often. It was harder growing up because there was some competitiveness among our extracurriculars, friends, appearances, and we would fight as sisters do a lot over clothes, going out, babysitting our younger sister who is 8 years my junior, etc.

Is there something unique in your relationship that wouldn’t be possible if you weren’t so close/far apart in age?

1: I guess her relationship with my kids. Although she is their aunt, she is closer in age to them. She has had a unique relationship with her niece because she is only twelve years older than my daughter. So I think that is pretty neat. She also lives three houses down from us so when she is home from school she is always over. She really is a part of our family.

2: It's hard to say, but I definitely think there is a stronger bond between us because we have been with each other in this world our entire lives.

What does sisterhood mean to you?

1: I think sisterhood means having an absolute best friend that you can completely be yourself with for the rest of your life. There is none of that I don’t know if I should do or say that to them. You can just be who you are.

2: It means always having someone there to lean on.

Is there anything you can think of that your sister has taught you?

1: I guess I got some Mommy skills from having her around when I was younger. She also teaches me to keep my youth.

2: She has taught me the importance of not letting other people’s opinions control my life or my actions. 

What is one piece of advice you would give to your sister?

1: To stay true to herself and just be a good person. It sounds kind of corny, but to do what she dreams of in life. She has a lot of dreams at this point and I don’t feel she thinks she has the strength to achieve them, but I think she could and should pursue them. 

2: I would advise her to continue to be herself and that it's okay to sometimes put herself first.

What does being a woman mean to you?

1: It’s so hard to put into words. I want to say something about strength because I think that women are naturally so strong, but it’s one of those things you feel, but can’t articulate.

2: It means inherently having an abundance of strength and love.

How has your relationship with your sister shaped the woman that you are?

1: I think there is a certain level of compassion you get when you have a sister. A sense of sharing and family bonding and love, which is important to carry on as a mother, woman, and friend.

2: I have learned a lot about myself and how to be confident in who I am through our relationship and by watching her grow up. Although she was never too far ahead of me, seeing her mature into such an intelligent woman was encouraging. I always wanted to be like my big sis.

*written especially for my sister, Posie Moon, with an always present consciousness of my brother, Sonnyboy, and his influence on my life.