To a sister

I was raised the eldest of three girls, my two sisters about 6 and 10 years younger than me respectively. My relationship with both of my sisters has always been… complicated. This was mostly because I was always old enough to be the babysitter. Later when the two of them decided they couldn’t stand each other, I also became the  family diplomat–a role both of my parents were more than happy to let me fill. When we went out for dinner as a family, I always had to sit between them to help keep the peace. It was a pain at times, but somehow we all managed to grow up without any visible scars.

My youngest sister and I have a wonderful relationship that has flourished in the years since she decided to stop being a brat (I love you, kid, but you know you kinda were one for a while there). The only problem we’ve really had to deal with has been making that transition from babysitter and babysat to adults on equal footing.

But my middle sister… well, as I said before, it’s complicated. We’ve both grown up, gotten through school, found our chosen mates, settled down on (almost) opposite ends of the country, and walked away from the religion we were both raised in (albeit, in very different directions). We’ve both made some unique choices, but we are happy where we are and both of us should be content with that. We had some tough years there. To be frank, I think we all had some tough years with her for a while, not all of which she can or should be blamed for. I don’t want to get into details in a public forum that she doesn’t even know about. But a lot of water has gone under the bridge, some things have been let go of, and all is mended these days… mostly. I see her roughly once a year–which makes perfect sense given the cost of plane tickets these days–and communicate with her… eh… maybe once or twice a year more than that? Maybe?

When I think about my sister, the first thing that usually pops in my head is the jumble of dramatic movie scenes that are all that is left from those years where we weren’t talking ( and I mean really not talking). Or I am just  filled with this sense of weighted silence and a stifling feeling of wistfulness. But when I get past all that…

I see a little girl who loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

You heard me.

Picture a short, skinny little girl about the age of 7. Now picture her with bright red hair–that shade I was always so jealous of–cut in to a boy’s bowl cut, which made my mother a little uncertain–but to her credit she went with it. And now add in a Ninja Turtles t-shirt and stick her in the middle of a rowdy pack of small boys. This was my sister.  At this age, she was obsessed with only two things: looking and acting as much like a boy as possible and the Ninja Turtles. She loved the tv show, she watched all the movies, and she had all the action figures. For Halloween one year, she even got me and two of our family friends to dress as the Ninja Turtles and go trick or treating. If I remember correctly, she was Leonardo (the blue one) and I was Raphael (the red one).  And before you ask, no, there are no surviving pictures and if there were you couldn’t see them! I also remember one evening where  a friend of mine met her (possibly for the first time) and asked my sister her name. Being young and obtusely obstinate (as we all were at that age), the only reply she received was a growled “PizzaFace!”

Of course she had the soundtracks to the movies, which were played often in my house, let me tell you. But there was one song in particular that I came to strongly associate with the image of my 7-year-old sister: Tarzan Boy by Baltimora, released in 1986. Having little to do with turtles, ninjas, or even pizza, why the song made the soundtrack for the third movie in 1993 I may never know. But it is a catchy song and the only one from this Italian New Wave band that ever made a dent in the U.S. charts. And after all these years (and the drama and trauma and crap associated with some of them), it still makes me smile and think of my middle sister as that bratty little tomboy who sometimes called a truce with me.

Do you have a song that you associate with someone (or a version of someone) that you once knew?


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