By Lenore Fedow
My sister, Justine, sits across from me on the couch; legs crossed, the glow of her phone screen illuminating a face reminiscent of – but not quite like – my own, her thumbs moving rapidly over the keypad. I don’t know whom she’s texting. But, then again, it feels as though I don’t know much about her any more. She’s 15, in her second year of high school, and officially too cool for me. She has her own friends, her own life, and her own plans, which don’t include me.
But this year—our relatives always take turns hosting the holiday – Thanksgiving dinner is going to be at our house. My sister and I are on dessert duty, so she can’t escape me. When our mom finishes making her signature stuffing, the kitchen is ours.
As I go over the list of pies we need to make – apple, sweet potato, pumpkin – her eyes are as glazed as the carrots. Her indifference to our holiday traditions doesn’t matter to me, but I’m hurt that she’s blasé about our afternoon together. As I call out flour, sugar and baking soda, Tini, as I affectionately call her, pulls them off the pantry shelves. I don’t remember her being so tall.
We work in silence, the metal mixing bowls clanging against each other.
“So, how’s school?” I ask her, cringing as soon as the words pass my lips. It’s the most clichéd question you can ask a teenager. She humors me, telling me it’s fine.
“How’s Italian going?” She reminds me she took Spanish instead.
“And chemistry?” It’s fine.
“How’s Cheyenne?” I ask, proud of myself for remembering the name of one of her many friends. She’s doing fine, too.
“Do you guys still hang out?” Sometimes they do.
“Where do you go?” Her house, movies, wherever.
I nod silently, not knowing what to say now, focusing on the mixer, its attachment swirling pumpkin mush around the metal bowl. She throws me a lifeline, telling me about a Christmas concert coming up next month. She’ll need a red-and-green outfit. Maybe we can go shopping together. It’s not much, but I’ll take it.
I don’t know when it happened. Maybe I was sitting in class or running around at work. We’ve lost touch. So much so that I don’t know what’s going on in her life at all. I don’t know who most of her friends are, where she goes after school, what music she listens to, what her future plans are.
I feel guilty, frightened, selfish. I’ve been so focused on my own life that I’m no longer a part of hers. I fear our sisterly bond is irreparably broken.
As the first round of pies bake, I begin to prod. School really is going fine. But I figured that. She’s always been smart. She took Spanish instead of Italian because no one in the family speaks Spanish. Cheyenne is not only a friend but her best friend. She has recently moved a few blocks away from our house; loves cosplay, which involves dressing up as characters from comic books and video games; and has pink hair. Cheyenne has a cool older sister, so perhaps the honor may be bestowed upon me as well. Her music tastes vary but she’s really into Panic! At The Disco right now. Mine too.
As for her future, Tini says she hasn’t put too much thought into it. She doesn’t know yet. It’s overwhelming. I assure her that not knowing is fine. I don’t fully know yet myself.
Our ovenside conversation reminds me of all the things I’ve always known about her. She is incredibly smart, articulate, intuitive, creative.
The shrill ding of the oven timer interrupts us. My pumpkin and sweet potatoes pies have perfect golden crusts, a sharp contrast to my sister’s blackened apple pie. She shrugs, turning the pan upside-down over the garbage can and letting it drop to the bottom with a thud.
Tini exudes a calm coolness that has always eluded me, taking things day by day, going with the flow, whether it be a burnt apple pie or her uncertain future. Whereas I would have baked a new pie, she is at peace with the way things have turned out. She is beautiful just as she is. Effortless. I admire her in the way I hope she admires me. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful we are in each other’s lives.