Then, she finally came, on October 7. I remember going to see her, staring at her through the nursery window. I was irate that she was naked and all the other babies were swaddled. Even then she was the tie-dye sheep among a flock of boring white ones.
I remember sliding her hospital bracelet off her little wrist as we rounded the corner to our house. I remember racing into the family room and sitting on the edge of the couch so I could hold her. A few months later, I remember picking her up by the head. It served as a nice handle.
Though our personalities were vastly different, when we were kids, people often mistook us for twins. It helped that our mom dressed us alike. Plus, I was short and she was tall, having surpassed me in height when I was 13 and she was 9. When we'd go on vacation, we'd giggle and say that we were actually twins when people asked. We also made up new names for ourselves. In Hawaii, she was Kali and I would be Kala. In Tahoe, she was Anastasia and I was Ashley. Sometimes we even changed our last name.
Over our three decades of life together, we've had lots of changes in our relationship. Sometimes we've been inseparable. Sometimes we've been at odds. There have been things that I've done that she thought were stupid. And there have been decisions she's made with which I haven't agreed. We've yelled, screamed and made each other cry. But even when we're disagreeing, you would not want to get in between us. It's a dangerous place to be.
I had friends before my sister was born. But there hasn't been a friend like my sister since. When I was six, we were at McDonald's with my grandpa. A little girl was picking on me. I went to Dido crying and Karianne interrupted.
"What girl? Who's picking on you? Show me!"
She was three. I pointed to a little girl with long, dark pigtails. Karianne stood up, put her thumbs in her ears, stuck out her tongue and made a face. Then she pulled at lips and eyes and made another face. And she continued to make faces until that other girl left me alone. That wasn't the last time my little sister came to my defense or made me feel better.
The last decade has brought a lot of change to my life. There were days in the hospital after Adam was born when I needed my sister to literally wash my back and help me dress. And days when I needed to be told I was beautiful. When Gracey was in the NICU, I needed someone to hold my hand. There was a whole summer when my family needed a place to stay because our house was flooded. When I broke my leg, I needed someone to color my hair. I've had a lot of days when I've just needed to cry or yell. She was there every one of those times.
Not too long ago, someone told me I'd invented friends. Karianne laughed when I told her and said imaginary friends are probably better anyway. And that's when it occurred to me. I don't need to invent friends. I have the best friend a girl could ever want. I have my sister. Ya, she marches to her own drum. She's loud. Her best friend is a German Shepherd. She drives a monster truck. She changes the dynamic of a room just by being in it. She drives me stark, raving mad. But she's my sister. And she's always got my back.
So go ahead, cruel world, hit me with your best shot. But you'd better run. Fast. Because I have a sister and I'm not afraid to use her.