By Liam O’Mahony
Conventional wisdom dictates middle children often feel excluded. When you are between two sisters, some might view that as a dual quandary; yet mine are the quintessential sisters of unyielding support, congeniality and non sequitur humor.
My older sister, aka “Mom #2,” is four years my senior and my other sister is one year younger. They no longer live in Western New York, thus we get together twice a year, but we generated many memories of rivalry, revelry and chivalry – and continue to do so.
Once when my older sister was babysitting, she made me a peanut butter and chutney sandwich. She thought it was jelly and I ate half of it until my palette deciphered that it was indeed a foreign substance and not appropriate for lunchtime.
She redeemed herself that summer when we were slogging down the highway on a family vacation in the “Brady Bunch,” paneled, early-’80s station wagon. While enjoying the view of the road behind us in the “back back seat,” I had to go #1 really bad and there was no rest stop on the horizon. My parents could not, or would not, pull over – a recurring dilemma when we had the munchies. My mom offered her a quarter to hold a Dixie cup so I could relieve myself. Well, my cup runneth over and she was livid, earning hazard pay while wishing for a Solo cup.
When I was 13 and our parents were out of town, she staged pool parties and bribed me with VHS rentals like “The ’Burbs” and “The Outsiders” and Perry’s ice cream to ensure I did not drop a dime about her soiree and its shenanigans. My lips were sealed.
My younger sister and I battled over the TV remote after school. Whenever I told her to do something, she responded with the classic retort: “You’re not the boss of me!” We were on the same soccer team and learned to ice skate and play the piano. We were skating on the pond one January day when I was rambunctious and tackled her, resulting in her skate cutting the top of my head. I certainly brought it on myself.
She always had a beautiful singing voice and was active in the church choir. I was proud of her when she traveled to Italy for a concert with her high school chorus.
In 1996, I drove her to a massive Phish concert (“The Clifford Ball”) in Plattsburgh. I was bored beyond belief, but she was in her element with the free-spirited Phishheads, drum music and hacky sacks. She returned the favor when I made her go to a Beastie Boys show when we visited cousins in Dublin.
When we all dispersed for careers, we rendezvoused and celebrated milestones in Washington, D.C., Boston, New Hampshire, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco and Phoenix.
Both sisters have always been generous. My older sister kept me on pace with technology, buying me an iPhone for my birthday in 2008 and an iPad in 2012. When I bought a house in Arizona, she flew out to help decorate. My younger sister recently purchased tickets for my first U2 concert. When they visit, they treat us to dinner and give thoughtful presents.
They are excellent mothers who thrive at teaching, research, consulting, civic leadership, running and biking. While we are separated by hundreds of miles, I cherish our sibling bonds and the adventures that emerged from an upbringing that was fortunate, stable and peaceful. Our parents gave us the best education, the guidance to be considerate of others and the freedom to forge our own ambitions.