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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Katie!

Today is my sister Katie's birthday.  

Kate and I have had our ups and downs over our lives as sisters, but it has made us stronger as individuals and has made us better sisters.

This picture is circa 1992 maybe?  It was probably one of the last times we went to Florida together - just us four girls with our grandparents.   This is a cropped version of Katie with our Papa.  Those trips to Florida, although at the time were probably pretty tense and not as much fun as they could have been - I was a tad  bossy and very intent on getting the most out of our trip to Disney World so I may have over done it a little.   I remember the four of us lying on our bellies on the floor of the hotel room at the Grand Floridian and looking at the park maps, each of us saying what we wanted to see the most (and me vetoing a lot of it I'm sure) so we could have a game plan for our brief stay at the park. 
This picture was taken by the valet at the Grand Floridian - at the time they had a beautiful vintage carriage sitting out front so we climbed inside and had the valet take our picture.  This is one of my favorite pictures of all time.  My most cherished memories of my sisters is when we were with Grammie & Papa in Florida.  They would make special arrangements for us to stay on the Concierge floor at the Grand Floridian because one time, while at some sort of seminar, my Papa stayed there and at 4:00 daily at the Grand Floridian, they had tea time on the Concierge floor.  This meant a wide variety of English tea and scones, juices, milk and the dinner plate sized chocolate chip cookies.  My Papa, who always thought about us, knew we would be "tickled" to go to Disney World and have that experience.  And we were.  I don't know if the cookies really were that delicious or if their general size and the fact that our Papa specifically took us there to show us those cookies was what made them so good, but I remember out last tea time, we tried wrapping some cookies up in napkins to take home with us to show our mom, but, as they are apt to do, the cookies crumbled and they didn't last.  
So, my grandparents did a lot of stuff like that for us girls as we were growing up.  I think all of us girls have so many special memories of the kindness and generosity they showed us.  We have all been shaped so much by them.  

I was always the prim, proper, oldest, responsible grand daughter.  I was very close to my Grammie and would go to her with all of my sibling woes.  And boy did my outgoing, spontaneous, creative and humorous sister, Katie, give me a lot of woes.  Boy did we fight a lot as kids.  I know my mom seriously thought we would never end up being friends.  But, you know what?  I grew up, went to college at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, and three years later, Katie started her Freshman year at Pitt.  Our relationship changed a lot then.  I was always a caretaker, but this time it was different.  Instead of it being me and her against each other, it was me and her against the city.  Two small town girls braving life in what we considered to be a pretty big place.  Pitt is way bigger than Duquesne, and I developed a protective relationship with Katie.  I helped her find her way a little around campus, got her and her friend from home drunk a little bit at my apartment (on wine coolers - we were hard asses!) and I even helped her with an English term paper.  What started out as a little bit of help turned into me rewriting her whole paper.  Which, I proudly will add, earned her an A on the paper - I think the comments by the instructor were something along the lines of "excellent edit - A!"  After that semester, Katie transferred to a different University and took up Interior Design.  She truly found her calling in this profession.  She now has her own design business and has even done a television spot for the local news redesigning a room on a budget!
Kate's not going to be happy about these pictures, but they are the only ones I have of her on hand.  Katie and I have a relationship that I guess you could relate to the flow of the tide.  We ebb and flow - sometimes we are super close, sometimes we are close at heart but for one reason or another we drift in our day to day contact.  There's so much I admire about Kate, but I'm not sure if I ever come right out and tell her.  Our conversations usually drift towards how our children are doing, our other sisters, extended family and life in general.  Plus, we're not really the kind of family that says outright the things we admire and love most about each other.  We'd rather throw out a sarcastic barb to try to make people laugh.  
Sometimes it is hard for me to understand Katie.  She is definitely way opposite of my personality.  She is a people pleaser - very much like my mom - and even though at first glance you would think I am a people pleaser, it turns out that I very much get my way when I want it.  I have just learned what battles are worth fighting and which ones I can afford to let go.  There are times I very much wish I was more apt to please.  Sometimes I worry that Katie is such a pleaser that it almost becomes a flaw.  I get upset for her because I think that she needs to stick up for herself - I think that she gets taken advantage of - but that is just Katie's way.  Katie also has such a gentle way with her children.  I admire that so much in her.  Not that I'm not gentle and loving, she just has a different way about her.  My kids adore their "Aunt Didi" and never pass up an opportunity to sit on her lap or steal a cuddle from her.  I guess it has to do with the fact that she is the most forgiving person I know.  She's definitely a "turn the other cheek" kind of gal.  I am the "woman scorned" kind of gal.  She's forgive and forget, I'm forgive but I never forget.  
Katie has and always will be the life of the party.  She's so funny - always has been and always will be.  She can make me laugh like no one I know.  There have been many of times that I have spit out food or drink because of something she said because it was either spit or choke.  Katie was the kid, that when we were little, would try anything.  My Uncle's would offer her a dollar to try a hot pepper, or eat raw onion, or something else gross.  And she would do it and collect the dollar.  I always sat on the sidelines, wishing I was brave enough to do things like that, but knew deep down that I never could.  Katie is famous for the impressions she did as a child.  Her most famous is probably the Incredible Hulk.  My Uncles would always ask her to do the Hulk. She was always so witty also - still is.  A memory from childhood that I recall clearly is one time at my Grammie's house, my Uncle David came in and said to Katie, "how about a hug for your favorite Uncle?" and she dead panned, "I would, but Uncle Mike isn't here!"  If I was to be honest, I would say that I have always felt a competitive jealousy with Katie - mostly because she is so well liked.  There's something about Katie that everyone likes.  She's sweeter than me, kinder than me, more open than me.  I know sisters aren't supposed to be jealous of each other - and I can guarantee you that Katie has probably never felt that way about me.  And when we were younger, I suppose out of adolescent retaliation, I did not treat Katie the way I should have, and for that I'm deeply sorry.  At the time, the three years difference in our ages just seemed too much to overcome.  I deeply regret not being better friends in our childhood and adolescent years.  
This is the most recent picture I have of Katie.  This was at the birthday party she planned for our girls.  No one else I know can come up with a theme and pull of the decorations and activities so well.  She is a gifted decorator and party planner!  She planned a little cupcake party for her little cupcake, Olivia.  

Kate had to do the bravest thing ever this August.  She had to send her firstborn, Christopher, to full day Kindergarten.  I honestly don't know how she did it!  Walker is only going half a day and it tears me apart.  

My salute today is to my sister, Katie.  It is because of her (and our younger two sisters) that I desire to give Maggie a sister.  I'm not sure if that will happen, but I cannot imagine going through my life without the beautiful relationships I have with my sisters.  I feel true sad for people without sisters!  Yes, we have our ups and downs and ins and outs, but through thick and thin, we are blood and we are there for each other.  We don't always see eye to eye, but we have learned to agree to disagree.  We shake things off now, that would have strained our friendships in the past.  We have found a new respect and love for each other based on our family history and who we've become as independent women.  And we love each other deeply.

I found this quote a while back, when my sisters and I were dealing with some issues within our family.  It really struck a chord in me because it was so true. 

To the outside world we all grow old.  But not to brothers and sisters.  We know each other as we always were.  We know each other's hearts.  We share private family jokes.  We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys.  We live outside the touch of time.  ~Clara Ortega 

It's funny, because I see myself getting older, but when I look at my sisters, I still see those little girls I bossed around as we played "Little House on the Prairie." The laughter and love that we shared and the promise of the memories we have yet to make.

Love to you, Katie, on your birthday.  I hope it was everything you wished for!

1 comment:

  1. Jen, this is absolutely beautiful! There were many points in what I read that resonated with how I feel about my relationship with my own sister. Well done!