I watch my two play together, hear the way they belly laugh together over their own secret unspoken joke, and I think of you. That from my earliest memories, you were always there. And I always admired you so. Those two realities shaped my existence.
This morning I looked back on pictures of us in those early shaping years. I remember always wanting to be like you. You were always confident and joyful and wild and strong. You gave me courage to try new things and taught me things that became my own, things that shaped my soul and altered my future. God and His word. Guitar. Snowboarding. Running. Reading good books.
Those early years are all bits and pieces, but you were a leader from the beginning, as any firstborn must be, and we followed you gladly. Plays and productions that we put on in Canada with cousins, in our playroom at Martindale, in the white brick-walled basement where we had meeting. Always we were roommates, Susan Ashton and Twila Paris singing us to sleep at night.
I remember the teenage years, watching you run hard and wild, making your own way in the world. I remember being afraid for you, seeing the anger in you. I remember finding out the reason for some of that anger, for the pain you were holding close and tight. I kept the secret too. And yes, these coming-of-age years are hard years on sisters, lots of fighting over clothes, rivaling one another, all the expected things that accompany two similar but different souls fighting their way to adulthood.
Then the Colorado years, and new beginnings. The loneliness of our family, the brokenness and devastation. The slow finding of our way again. The quiet healing.
I still remember that morning, you and I alone at the house on Oswego, sitting in the kitchen eating pancakes, morning sun spilling in the windows. And talking for hours, sharing hearts. And you struggling so much to protect a knowledge that you were under the weight of, and telling me there was something I didn’t know that you couldn’t share.. and that moment when I looked at you and said, I know. I already know it. And how we cried and cried and found company at last in the knowing and the pain.
Then we lost our way in the snow. Together in that white winter all around us. Huddled in the dark and in the cold. Baring hearts. Sharing whatever we might want to share, not know if these moments would be our earthly last. And how you even then, as only the oldest sibling can, took the lead and took care of me, laying down and lifting me up off the icy ground. Then screaming with delight when rescue came and screaming praise to Jesus. How I admired you then!
And then those years, our last years, though we didn’t know it, when we lived together in Breckenridge. We worked together, cooked together, worshipped together, struggled to pay bills together, climbed mountains together and snowboarded together. Shared a white subaru and the bills that it brought. That Christmas when we couldn’t afford to get home, and we opened our couple of gifts under the tree and then lay on the floor and cried because we missed everyone.
Then the time came for us to go our own ways. Off I went to college, and you to the work world, to Whistler. And we grew apart a little then. But engagements and weddings drew us home together. And you did my flowers, my decorations, my makeup, my hair. You walked the aisle by me, and a few months later, I walked with you.
It’s been years since then.. and who can know what the future holds, if we will live side by and side and share the daily’s like we once did. I will always hold out hope and look to the One who knows and who made us to long for these things.
Life presses us and crushes us and reshapes us, and we forget who we are. And sometimes your family can remember for you, can help you remember who you always were, who you still are way down beneath it all.
I treasure you. You have always been a glue of sorts in our family. Where the rest of us were awkward, you loved easy. In almost every picture you have arms stretched wide pulling everyone in close. So much love and laughter and steadfast support of us all. Always our fierce champion.
You are special, stunningly beautiful, strong, gifted in so many ways. I am thankful for it all, all the memories and the way that a relationship between two people holds secrets and treasures only the two can know.
Happy birthday, Jennie! I love you always and forever.