It was the year 1993. At the age of 13, Life gave me one of the best gifts yet. A baby sister. I did not know it then but my relationship over the years with this little baby was to encompass sisterhood, motherhood and the deepest friendship of my life.
I remember that time when she was around two years old. She was swinging joyfully on the little red plastic swing that our father had hung from the ceiling in our living room. She slipped off, fell and landed on her head. The skin near her hairline broke and she bled and bled and bled. More from the sight of blood than the pain, she was howling with all her might when I walked into the house after finishing school. My mother’s thinking faculties were numbed with the fear of how bad the wound looked. As soon as the little one saw me, she came straight to me and asked to be held. My uniform was soaked through with her blood.
Maybe a year later, she was climbing on the gate of our house. She was demonstrating to her little friend that it was very safe to do so and the best view of the street was from the top of the gate. The demo didn’t go as planned. While giving the speech about how safe it was, she lost her footing and fell down. She landed on her chin which split and there was the gushing of blood again. I ran towards her to scoop her up in my arms. Needless to say, I was soaked to my skin with the amount of blood that poured forth.
A couple of more years passed by; I was in college now. I was returning home in an auto. As the auto turned into our lane, the little mink ran across the street while playing. The auto screeched to a halt. I heard her scream. I jumped out of the auto (fell flat on my face in the bargain). There had been impact. The metal edge of the auto had just missed her eye. And yes, there was the profuse bleeding again.
She needed stitches every single time. Given her fear of needles, the doctor at the ER managed to hold the skin together with some kind of fancy glue. The scars remain. I am the custodian of the stories behind each of the scars much in the same way that I was the custodian of her pain at the time that she got hurt. I think there has been enough of her blood on me over the years to bring home the point that we may not share the same DNA but we are totally and completely related by blood. More importantly, we are related by stories, a common history, by tears, laughter, memories that we have created together and love.
Often times, I have been asked, “Oh, she’s not your own sister?”. What do we mean by “own”? If it is a word used to ascertain a sense of ownership, then even my brother is not my “own”, my parents are not my “own”. It would be very arrogant of me to believe that I can own any living being. Are they my “own” because we belong to each other? Then my sister is my own as much as the rest of my family is. In fact more so; I did not have a choice with the rest of my human family but I did with her.
Many people have told me how great my parents are for having chosen to adopt a child despite having two of their “own”. To them I quote Kahlil Gibran. “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.” Yes. News Flash. Nobody is your own, not even your “own children”.
Our family began when my parents adopted each other. We each have so many relationships that are born and sustained out of love, with our friends, dogs and cats. Why then are we so hung up about being related by DNA when it comes to having children?
My sister does not look like me and she’s the better for it. Who would WANT to inherit the big nose and broad forehead that have come to me because of my genes anyway? But there are times when she cracks people up with her dry sense of humour… when she infuriates her friends with her ability to switch off completely from her surroundings… when she picks up a puppy in a precarious condition off the street and arranges for a safe home for it… when she fearlessly and confidently tries out things that stir her passion… when she pig headedly stands her ground when she believes in something… these are the times that I am told she is EXACTLY like me. Does anything else matter?