|The O'Connor Sisters in 1979|
I tortured her for years. I set her up time and again in ways that were at times mischievous, cruel or downright dangerous. A few examples include the time I painted her and the bathroom in Bain de Soleil (remember that greasy orange "gelee" that turned our fair Irish skin to a crisp?!) and then washed my hands, called my Mom and blamed her for the mess; or the time I took her out of the crib and perched her at the top of the stairs. Or the time I poured all my Bonnie Bell cologne down the sink and then started crying and blamed her for the tragedy of it all. Kind of crazy, right? I really didn't like her.
I spent much of grammar school dragging her around by her pigtails -- and then I went to junior high, left her behind and never looked back. When I left for college, she was in the throes of her Beverly Hills 90210 obsession and a true loser in my book. But then, somewhere along the way, things changed. I think it was when I went to visit during her freshmen or sophomore year at Boston College. We tailgated before a football game and all of sudden, my baby sister was no longer a baby. No longer a loser. In fact, she seemed more and more like me. In fact, she even looked more and more like me as we were both featuring the fashion of the day -- a flannel shirt complimented by the "freshman fifteen."
With the passing of years, we had more shared experiences and of course, the collective memories that only siblings can share. We offered each other advice on jobs, boys, New York nightlife and life in general. Somewhere along the way, she became more than my sister, she became my best friend. She was my maid-of-honor and several years later, I was hers. She babysat for my firstborn and my second as well. She told me she was moving to San Francisco the week I discovered I was pregnant with triplets. I was devastated. I didn't know how I'd get through the juggle of a high-risk pregnancy with two toddlers and a career without her constantly by my side. But I did. And for three years, we kept close despite the miles as I counted the days until her return to the East Coast.
She came back in September, with her husband and two year old fella by her side and a baby in her belly. This time, I got to be by her side the day Maeve was born in November. I was thrilled. My sister was back. I was an Auntie once again and we were all going to live happily ever after.
Except for one little detail. My sister wasn't happy to be back in New York; as it turns out, she left her heart in San Francisco. And as it turns out, she is there once again. This week, she and her family packed up and moved back to the place she now calls home. A place that is 3,000 miles away. A place she went once before and I believed would temporary. As it turns out, I was wrong. How is it that when this tiny little person arrived on the scene in 1976, I would have given anything to "send her back" and now she occupies such a huge part of my heart that I'd give anything to have her back. If I had to do it all over again, maybe I'd lay off the Bain de Soleil. Or better yet, I'd stick her back in that crib so I could keep her close to home forever.