I left my heart in….Vancouver??

My sister is moving to Vancouver… and my heart is in a million pieces.

Alice_In_Wonderland

My sister, let’s call her, Alice (as in, Adventures in Wonderland), is about a year and a few months younger than I am.  And given the small gap, my mom practically raised us as twins.  Side-by-side playpens, then matching outfits, and when I complained that I was an individual and did NOT want to be dressed like my doppelganger, in matching outfits but with different colours.  But for all this seeming closeness and similarities, we’re not very alike…

As the older sister, I have forever worried about my little Alice.  I felt I had to be responsible for her well-being and her happiness.  And these are all things I still do:  I still worry about her, I still feel responsible and will forever believe that it’s imperative that I keep her safe.

By contrast, Alice is a fun-loving Sagittarian struck with wanderlust that seldom dwells on any one thing (unless it’s a really, really big deal…though even then…)  She is the epitome of a strong character with a fun, fiery, free-willed spirit.  It should be noted here that she is also at least 2 inches taller than me and basically looks like a supermodel, or Gwenyth Paltrow…either way…at times it was not fun at all to be compared to her.  For example, when we were both pregnant, I looked like a very large, round beach ball…in fact, I was once told that I must be carrying twins despite the results of numerous ultrasounds and the opinions of certified medical professionals.  As for Alice, well…

she looked like a stick figure that simply had a little too much to eat during dinner.

During our childhood, Alice fueled my imagination.  Oftentimes, we would butt heads, to be expected when dressed E X A C T L Y  A L I K E, thanks mom!  Sometimes our fights would get quite physical (we were ‘tomboys’!) and during one such encounter, I recall pushing my sister who flew back about 8 or 9 feet and slammed against the wall.  The fight ended immediately and I remember looking down at my hands, thinking, I have superpower strength and could do some real damage – I MUST protect Alice.  She didn’t tell me that she had simply lost her balance – that crafty, devious sister of mine.  So for years, I didn’t lay a finger on her…and made sure no one else did either!

Continuing on in my very own imaginative world…at one time, I begged my sister to “switch ages” with me…making her the older sister, and me the younger.  In every, single, fairy tale it was the younger sister who was most beautiful, who got the prince and who was the favourite of the royal parents.  No story EVER talks about the older sibling…except as the one to hold the younger one back with rationale and reason.  And Alice, sweet Alice, humoured me and my obsession with fairy tales, magic and happily ever afters.  Until friends of ours just said that I was being crazy…so I abandoned that scheme pretty quickly as my smarts, that had taken a backseat to my imagination, returned.  But Alice never judged.

My sister and I also had some pretty wild adventures as adults…including almost getting kicked out of a 5-star hotel’s bar in a “dry town” with a curfew as we’d had one too many drinks and were chanting at the top of our voices.  Or flying on a crappy prop plane to Annapolis, unbeknownst to our parents, to attend a US Naval Academy formal and go to a Broadway showing of Les Mis!  Not to mention the many, many local adventures including teaching friends (including Mr. Niceguy who was then just a friend…or perhaps just a little bit more…) some very choice Arabic words that almost got us kicked out of a shawarma joint, singing at a downtown Korean karaoke bar, and many, many more…

But this taller, prettier, wittier, and cleverer sister of mine was also my savior.  Her favourite story, and mine, is a darker one…

At just 6 or 7 years old, my mom had dragged the both of us to an outdoor market in Saudi Arabia.  While she went from booth-to-booth looking at antiques, silks from the orient, and the latest fashion from Paris, I did what I do best…and wandered off.  I’ll pause here and fill you in on a not-so-dark but typical ME story:

Picture it.  Paris.  Early 1980s.  Me, about 9 years old, in a striped t-shirt with a bateau neck and puffy sleeves, slim, navy blue shorts, and lace up to the knee espadrilles, sporting a long, single braid, on vacation with my family.  We were roaming the streets, following my mom and dad from one shop to the next…when, Madonna’s Lucky Star started playing on a TV in one of the shop windows.  I stopped and watched, trying to commit every dance move to memory.  The next thing I knew, the video was over and I was standing on a very, busy street, in Paris, all by myself.  I started walking in the direction we had all been heading and not too long after, my parents appeared, fuming.  I fumed in return that THEY were MY parents and THEY were responsible for ME.  To this day, I know how to advocate…that’s a strength.  But wandering, daydreaming, being attracted to shiny objects like a goldfish…well, these are my weaknesses…

In any case, in that market, all those years ago, something drew me away from my mom.  Something caught my attention.  And moments later, someone caught my arm…a complete stranger.  Who started speaking to me in Arabic, compelling me to come with him, pretending to offer me goodies and candy if I just went along.  I remember not fully understanding what he wanted.  And when I started to put up a fight and say I didn’t want to go, his grip grew tighter, and his soft smile turned sinister, as he forcefully pulled me along.  It was then, that my unassuming little sister, with her 1970s Dorothy Hamill bowl cut, came to my rescue.  While I was still trying to pry away from that man’s grip, she bit his hand, hard.  She did not hesitate, not for one moment.  She was so determined that she even caused him to bleed.  The man screamed and let go.  And we ran for our lives and found my mom…whose face went ashen upon our retelling of the story.  And all I remember afterwards was the way my sister just stood there, as sweet as ever, no panic, no drama.

And now, all this time later.  I know I owe her my life.  The one for whom I was to be responsible, care for, and keep safe.  Though we may not speak every, single day (that would be a cruel sentence for such a free spirit, such as Alice), or see each other regularly, “my happiness is greatly bound by hers.”  And although my heart is in a million pieces, I know she will be happy.  So my little wanderlust bitten sister…safe and happy travels to you.  I will miss you.  But I look forward to when you return and in the meantime, to visiting…perhaps we can find another upscale bar to almost get kicked out of…

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