Go, Frere

The past month or so, my day begins with the sound of a small hiccup of crying.

Poor Younger Girleen, it must be those molars!

About 5:30 in the morning, she abruptly and wordlessly mourns for a moment (the operative word is wordlessly, not silently: she whimpers). Then: Go Frere? Go Fair? No Fair! she grieves sorrowfully. Sleep is a river that carries her small boat along, and for a second there, we hit an eddy strong enough to wake her. Then, just like that, she subsides back into sleep.

Because I’m her mother, I, on the other hand, am up for the day. And because I’m her mother, I know exactly where she got that pronouncement (astute readers that you are, I know you know it too!)

Her elder sister. Who uses it like a teenager, and dear god, she’s only five!

Yesterday, Younger Girleen and I saddled up to run errands while Elder Girleen was at school.

Where we going, Mommy?

Shortsighted and foolish woman that I am, I tell her the way I’d tell Friend J, sitting in the passenger seat beside me:

First, we’re going to the coffee shop so Mama can run in and get a cup of Special Blend Coffee*** Then to the florist that has the show of paintings by a mom-turned-painter Mama heard about. Then to look for Grandmommy’s birthday present!

Sounds like a blast to me.

Go Frere? Go Fair? NO FAIR! Younger Girleen pronounces.

You’ll be happy to know I conceded the point and aborted the mission. After the coffee, of course; every mom’s allowed her vice.

But oh, to be a younger sibling! Always toddling to keep up. Immersed at an unsuitable age at media aimed at her sister’s generation (the options are pretty benign around here — I’m talking SuperWhy? on PBS). Where’s Sister? she says on rising. Where’s Sister? she wonders before she slips into sleep at night. She’s the mascot of her sister’s kindergarten class. (Will she ever get big? a boy in the class asks.)

Yes, they torment each other, but oh, how they love each other! Mom and Dad are constants, but Sister: she’s the pinch of salt that pulls the family dish together!

All of us with siblings, we must have been that way once.

And then we grew up.

That early bond, though: it’s not a bad thing to think about on the eve of Thanksgiving, as the season when families are at their most dysfunctional gets underway.

*** Occasionally when I order my Special Blend Coffee, the barista says oh, yes, of course you can have a LARGE SPECIAL FRIEND.

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