Friday, April 11, 2014

Lenten Project: Sixth Fearless Friday

My sister Mary has always been my best friend out of everybody in the world, probably because she's the person who I've been closest to the longest (by virtue of the fact that we're only 15 months apart in age).  She's been my foil, my sidekick, my confidant, my confessor, and my challenger.

From the very beginning, Mary has made me a better person, a better sister.  Even though I'm the oldest, she was always the designated "girl in charge" when our parents went out and left us kids at home.  It's because she's the most responsible kid.  And she has the gift of peacemaking, which is a good for being in charge of the rest of us rabble-rousers.  She's taught me through example how to love my sisters and respect my parents, even when I don't agree with them.  She perfectly bridges the gap between being her own person and being loyal to others.

As kids, we shared a room (along with all the the other sisters, of course), and got along the best. I frequently fought with my other younger sisters, but Mare and I rarely squabbled.  Even though I was the bad kid and she the good kid, we evened each other out.  I've been daring and liked to push the limits with our parents, and she's been safe and liked to quietly conform.  We meet in the middle to compromise and it works really well in our sisterly partnership.

One time, though, we both agreed to be bad together, and it was glorious!  Here's the whole marvelous story, in her own words:
One night Hannah and I were aching for pickles. We were only allowed ½ a pickle on grilled-cheese-sandwich nights. We longed for more. After the house was quiet and we heard dad march up to his room, we sneaked down to the kitchen. Hannah was the first to take the glass pickle jar from its gleaming pedestal in the refrigerator door.
“Quick! You’re letting the light out!” I said.
She sat down on the floor with the jar between her feet and tried to turn the lid. It was too hard for her. I had always been known as the jar opener. Even Mom sometimes came to me for help with jars of jelly that were to tight for her. I was proud of my reputation. I took the jar from Hannah and tried to open it, but it still wouldn’t open. Finally I gave in to the old knife trick. Hannah handed me a butter-knife from the silverware drawer and I banged its butt against the lid. After two or three taps the lid gave and I pulled it off.
The next minute we were indulging in the wonders of pickled cucumbers. By the time we were satisfied, the jar was empty. Hannah said that no one would suspect us if we just put the jar back into the fridge leaving the pickle water in it. So that is what we did. And she was right. No one asked us if it was us . . . specifically. Dad did ask a few days later, “Okay! Who put the pickle jar back into the fridge EMPTY!?” He hates it when we do that.

When she joined me at Bob Jones University as a freshman in 2002, she became my roommate (along with two others in that tiny room).  We went to meals together, attended Artist Series programs together, reminded one another to brush our teeth and write to Mom.  Since, after Christmas break, classes often started on or around my birthday, she'd be the person who celebrated with me, who never forgot I was a older by another year.

She was a bridesmaid in my first wedding, and I've always been the tiniest bit offended that she didn't ask me to be in hers. I did have weird hair that year, though, so maybe that's why.  She's the only sister who RSVPed 'yes' to my sacramental marriage ceremony last year, the only sister who chose to come and celebrate my new marriage and new family.  Her van broke down on the way, but, dangit, she was actually trying hard to be there, and that counts so much in my eyes, since none of my other sisters even bothered to try (I don't count my youngest sister, who was there with my parents, because she's still a part of my parents' household, and when they changed their minds and decided to come to my wedding, she, by extension, was brought along).

Even though I'm the eldest Schaefer girl, she's the one we sisters all look to for leadership, the one who makes the wise decisions we can trust.  When Dad was busy and Mom was distracted by whichever new baby we had at the time, Mary stepped up and took the reins.  She's like a mini matriarch to us.  She's always been like that.  She's our mother hen.  Mother Mary.

Of course, now, she's all grown up, and she's a real mother.  Her husband and two sons are weeks away from flying away to Togo, West Africa, to minister on the mission field.  Second generation missionaries (both of them, since her husband, Andrew, is the son of missionaries, too), serving God and loving others.

Mary is the only sister who has intentionally set out to get to know my husband right from the start, to actively be a part of my life.  She's the one who has visited my family in DC, who has called, emailed, messaged, and texted when too long has passed between communication.  She's the only one out of my whole family who has met all my kids, who rejoices with me when new milestones are achieved, who drives for hours to come to birthday parties, who listens without judging when I whine about the tough parts of parenting.  She's the one who is willing to discuss theology with me, even though we don't agree on everything anymore.  

Mary is an encourager, a vibrant model of Christ.  She is compassion personified, a reconciler.  I'm going to miss her when she's gone, far away to Togo.  But I'm confident that doesn't mean she'll be out of my life, because she's the kind of friend who will never forsake, never abandon.  Mary is the one I want to be like when I grow up.

Join the conversation
Yesterday was National Siblings Day.  (I found that out after this post was planned, coincidentally.)  Tell me about your favourite sibling and why you look up to him or her.
If you're an only child, is there any one in your life who you wish was your sibling?