The one with the really long story that is really about wishing someone a happy birthday.

When you look at how things turned out, you have to give credit to my mom: she’s a lot sneakier than she lets on. If the plan behind rooming my sister Kim and I together since, well, since even before Kim was even out of her crib – if the point was to force us to bond, then it worked. Maybe better than she thought. (So well that it’s the reason Bee and Gracie are stacked in bunk beds rather than let them branch out into their own rooms.)

We started out in the little bedroom downstairs, me in my big girl bed and the crib against the wall, even though Kim slept most nights in the bassinet in my parents’ room. Just before baby Joey was born, we were moved into the big front room (which my parents sometimes used as their room), Kim in her crib still, and me in my brass-frame little girl’s bed. We didn’t last long in the front room – there was plenty room for toys, sure, but the noise from the main road was loud and frightened us (or so the family story goes), and so my mom moved the two of us – with Kim in a big-girl bed – into the back bedroom and my parents moved their bedroom into the front room.

Kim and I shared that downstairs bedroom for years. She slept in the bed next to the window to protect me from all the scary things I imagined crawling into it, and I slept next to the open door to…okay, no, not to protect her from the same thing, it was so I didn’t have to sleep next to the window. Ahem. It was the bedroom where I first remember dancing around the room and on our beds, listening to the radio and our first cassette tapes. It’s where we had chicken pox, confined to our beds for an entire week, and where we learned to stay quiet while we were supposed to be falling asleep so that we could hear what our parents were saying in the next room. Yeah – that there? That bit about our first baby steps as spies? Kim always fell asleep.

When our bedroom moved upstairs, our dynamic duo was broken up for a short time. I moved upstairs first on my own, and then when I wasn’t eaten by monsters during the night, my parents moved Kim into the other room upstairs. Although now that I think about it, I think perhaps they moved Kim upstairs in an attempt to calm me down. I shouldn’t be scared because Kim was right next door! After a year of that particular experiment, they went ahead and bunked Kim and I in the same bedroom upstairs. The little room we used as a playroom, and then as Joey’s room when Rhianyn was born.

That upstairs room is when Kim and I really first became the “stilly stisters” that Bee and Gracie know us as today. We fought like cats and dogs at time as we learned to negotiate boundaries – and when to both abide by them and ignore them. And as our relationship grew and changed, the layout of our bedroom did, too. We jumped from bed to bed (and broke Kim’s bed at least once), we stayed up late telling stories, I learned to fall asleep to Kim’s breathing when I woke up from a nightmare and she learned to fall asleep to my reading light when I stayed up late. We counseled each other through boy problems and friend problems and parent problems and played endless board games. Our bedroom was our shared home-base, our headquarters where we could escape from the rest of the world and regroup.

When I started my second year of high school, my mom decided it was time to let me have my own room. I deserved some privacy, she said. I moved into the little room upstairs, Joey moved down to Rhianyn’s room, and Rhi moved into my former space in the big room upstairs with Kim. And that was how Kim and I learned that we were weren’t hanging out with each other because we had to – we liked hanging out with each other. She spent countless hours in my room doing the same things we had done when it was our room. Our separate space gave us corners to retreat to when we needed it – and boy, did we need them some days! – and a new understanding of just how close we we had become.

College was different – not only did we have separate bedrooms, we were living under separate roofs for the first time. But summers reunited the dynamic duo, as we were once more back in the big room upstairs together. That took some…readjusting.

No sooner did we negotiate a new treaty on how to share our space and save our collective sanity than I did a very ridiculous thing – I moved to Texas. And then Kim was ridiculous in refusing to move with me. But even after all of these years, all of these separate bedrooms and safe spaces and hideyholes where we go to retreat from the rest of the world, my sister and I still have that connection, that sense of comrades-in-arms that can only come from gutting it out in the trenches – or sharing your childhood bedroom.

Happy Birthday, Kim. Thanks for not killing me in my sleep any of those millions of times you wanted to.

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3 Responses to “The one with the really long story that is really about wishing someone a happy birthday.”

  1. Kathy Says:

    Happy Birthday Kim!

    You are so blessed to have each other. It makes me just a touch jealous.

  2. Katie Says:

    We have so many additional “sisters” besides just me, Kim, and Rhi – you can be one of them, Kathy!

  3. Kim Says:

    Meh – wanting to kill you in your sleep would have required, you know, waking up. At night time! Thanks for the happy birthday wishes (even if I am a bit scared of the package that’s on its way…)

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